The Carolina Thunder, the area's Southern Collegiate Baseball League team, is back this summer, but the group has undergone a bit of a makeover.
The yellow jacket in the logo has dropped the lightening bolt, as the team name has been changed to the Carolina Stingers, and the players will be competing at the Fort Mill High School field this year, rather than Winthrop University's stadium."Fort Mill is a perfect fit for us," said general manager Lawrence Tremitiere. "The field is great - it can hold about 1,000 people."The Stingers are one of seven teams in the SCBL, which spans the Carolinas and Tennessee and although they have been through a few name changes, they are an original league team, entering their 15th season, Tremitiere said.Many of the players on the team, he said, are college baseball players from schools across the east coast with serious talent looking to make it to the big leagues."Over the years, we have played single-A minor league teams and broken even with them," Tremitiere said. "We can play at that level."More than 17 players have made it into the minor league system after playing for the Stingers program, Tremitiere said, including former Fort Mill standout Tommy Baldridge.Baldridge was drafted by the New York Yankees last summer after playing college baseball at Coastal Carolina and currently plays for the Yankees' A affiliate, the Tampa Yankees.The Stingers will play a 44-game schedule during the next two months, and according to Head Coach Cliff Allred, a primary purpose of the team is to help players understand what professional baseball is all about."That's what this league is for - for kids who want to make it to the next level," Allred said.This is one of the best collegiate leagues on the east coast, Allred said, and the team's goal, like any competitive group, is to make the playoffs and win the league championship.Allred, a former catcher who played on the SCBL, is an assistant coach at Pfeiffer University.The Stingers' roster is made up of 32 college students from as far away as Arizona and includes one local student, Indian Land native Shawn Thomas, who is a pitcher at USC-Lancaster."I was happy to join this team. I still consider Fort Mill home," Thomas, a sophomore, said.The pitcher said he is focusing on his change-up this summer. He and his Lancers teammate, Christian Dickson, are playing on the Stingers together.Right fielder Neil Hardon is a bit farther from home. A Phoenix, Ariz., native and student at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Fla., Hardon said playing in a competitive summer league was the next step for him in a lifetime of playing baseball.The team opens the season this week hosting the Lake Norman Copperheads Saturday, June 6, at Fort Mill High School.
Carolina Stingers catcher Jason Borjas takes some pitches during one of the team's opening week practices Friday at Fort Mill High School.