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Two ThunderBolt Legends Retire

The Windy City ThunderBolts will have a decidedly different look on the field in 2014 after two of the best players in the franchise’s history have announced their retirement. Both Zach Aakhus and Chad Cregar have decided to hang up their spikes after five and three years respectively with the ballclub. Between the two of them, they hold more than a dozen franchise records.

 

Aakhus, 29, spent his entire five-year career with the ThunderBolts and appeared in more games in a ThunderBolt uniform – 393 – than anyone else. After he was selected in the second round of the 2009 Frontier League draft out of Northwest Nazarene University, he quickly endeared himself to Windy City fans, winning the starting catcher’s job and earning a trip to his first all-star game as a rookie. He would one-up himself the following year when he had his best statistical season as a pro, leading the league in hitting at .330 while guiding the team to a division title. He was also selected to his second all-star game. While battling injuries in 2011, Aakhus was forced out of his usual catching position, but proved his versatility, playing 16 games at first base, 19 at third and 22 in the outfield.

 

Aakhus finished his career with a .291 batting average, .382 on-base percentage, 20 home runs, 191 RBI and 47 stolen bases. He is the team’s all-time leader in doubles (75), RBI, walks (177) and all-star appearances (four).

 

Cregar, 27, put together one of the best offensive seasons in Frontier League history in 2012, when he set club records with 31 home runs and 93 RBI. He began his career with the Marlins before joining Windy City in 2011 and quickly becoming a fixture in the middle of the lineup. He appeared in every game in 2012 and also set a franchise record with a .599 slugging percentage, amassing a .291 batting average, 20 of his 44 career ThunderBolts doubles and his second career triple. He also stole six bases in eight attempts.

 

Though injuries plagued parts of his ThunderBolt career, he nearly doubled the team’s all-time home run record, finishing with 48. He had a slash line of .263/.341/.493 in his three years in the Frontier League and drove in 165 runs, second on the Bolts’ all-time list behind only Aakhus.

 

Both men will be tough to replace in this year’s lineup after strong finishes to their 2013 seasons. Aakhus hit .379 in August, helping to lead the team’s strong finish and Cregar contributed ten of his 11 home runs during the season’s final month.



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