Mike Torres started his six-year career in the Frontier League after playing collegiately for the University of Texas. He was contacted by coach Ron Biga, who was with the Southern Illinois Miners at the time. Although initially hesitant, Torres agreed to join the league. Before he even had a chance to play a game for the Miners, he was traded to the Windy City ThunderBolts. Torres played under Frontier League Hall of Famer Morgan Burkhart and was later joined by Biga, who came over from Joliet to replace Burkhart in 2012.
“It was great learning from both of those guys,” said Torres. “I feel like I learned more fundamentally from the Frontier League then I did in college. I learned how to better make adjustments on the fly, which is really important in baseball.”
He went on to play six seasons for the ThunderBolts, rarely missing a game. He set the league record for most consecutive games played with 339 from 6/1/11 to 7/29/14 and was a fixture in the Windy City lineup for his six years there. He ended his career with a .294 batting average, 207 RBIs, and 153 stolen bases over 565 career games. He was named an All-Star as a second baseman in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015.
“I was proud of those things and the fact that I was able to keep myself healthy,” said Torres.
Torres best remembers the guys that he met in the Frontier League, many of whom he still keeps in touch with today. He also recalls his team’s 20-game home winning streak in his first season.
“I remember a teammate telling us to treat our time in the Frontier League like it was the big leagues, and I think that really influenced us as a team.”
Since his playing days in the Frontier League, Torres has focused on coaching and has since opened a baseball academy for young players in Southern California. Some have even gone on to sign professional contracts.
“I am able to use a lot of the lessons that I learned playing in the Frontier League to teach players in my academy today.”
“Some guys in independent ball get embarrassed when people ask them ‘Who are you playing for?’, but you have to remind yourself that you still get to do what you love, so you just have to enjoy it and make the most of it.”
When asked what he thought of the honor of being named a Frontier League Hall of Famer, Torres said:
“Initially, I wasn’t sure what to think of it. After getting a call from Bill Lee, it sunk in a bit more and I realized how big of a deal it was. As a player, your ultimate goal is to reach the Major Leagues, but to say that you were able to reach the highest level of distinction in the league that you played in is really cool too.”
Torres’ induction ceremony will take place in Crestwood, Illinois on August 28.