Rising senior baseball player Dan Bolt is living up to his last name.
His legs have allowed him to steal seven bases this season and make plays in left field. More importantly for the Braves, his bat puts a jolt into every ball he hits.
Bolt is one of nine Bradley baseball players who grew up within an hour and a half drive of Dozer Park, home of the Single-A Peoria Chiefs and Bradley baseball team. The park was nothing new to Bolt his freshman year, having played there in high school with the Morton Potters.
Head coach Elvis Dominguez said throughout his time at the helm of the baseball program his staff targets local players in recruiting like Bolt and believes the program is in a better place because of them.
“My goal has been to try to keep the best local talent here,” Dominguez said. “Whether they choose to come here or not is up to them, but we are going to go hard after them. Dan was one of the better guys in the area. We are very fortunate that he’s here.”
Bradley has always had Bolt’s rooting interests. As a child he went to basketball games but wasn’t connected to the university otherwise. He did, however, keep his mind open to the possibility of playing for Dominguez.
“Growing up, Bradley was always around and I’d cheer for them,” Bolt said. “There’s a bunch of local guys [on the team] who I played with before which is good for chemistry.”
The outfielder took the Braves up on their scholarship offer and joined the team for the 2017 season. As a freshman, Bolt only received 14 at-bats.
Dominguez said Bolt was recruited for his hitting ability, but his outfield defense needed significant attention. Bolt just wasn’t ready for the rigors of Division I baseball.
Bolt agreed he was behind the curve his freshman year and needed to learn the college game. He credits hitting coach Kyle Trewyn and a stint playing with the summer league Springfield Sliders following the 2017 season for his maturation.
“Danny came in and we obviously always liked his bat and thought he was going to hit, but from his freshman year he has worked so much on his weaknesses defensively,” Dominguez said. “He has become a very, very good outfielder. He took it upon himself and took ownership of it.”
This season, Bolt hit at a .327 clip, led the team in slugging and on-base percentages and only committed one error in left field. He played in all 50 games, starting in all but one.
“This year is a lot different,” Bolt said. “I think I’m smarter from an IQ standpoint. I understand the game better and understand what I need to do to be better.”
Bolt bats fourth in the Braves lineup and knows his role on the team is to drive in runs. He has the third most team RBIs and has 11 homers to his name this season.
Bolt said it’s the most he’s hit in a season. The most he’s hit in a week for Bradley came April 14-20 when he homered four times on the road at Big-10 opponent Illinois and MVC-powerhouse Dallas Baptist.
He was recognized among 16 players by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper as a National Player-of-the-Week and a Missouri Valley Conference Player-of-the-Week the following Monday.
Bolt said his home run total increasing by six from the year before is partially because of his confidence at the plate and preparation.
“I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the strongest guy on the team but knowing what pitches I can hit home runs with and what pitches I need to drive is really key [to my success],” Bolt said. “My main focus is just to put a barrel on the ball every time. Sometimes I get lucky and it ends up going over the fence.”
Bolt said when his coaches and fellow players have confidence in his ability it pushes him further.
“[By batting fourth] it shows that the coaches have confidence in me,” Bolt said. “It says a lot especially with Coach [Dominguez] being around for a long time. When a guy like that has confidence in you, it means a lot.”
Bolt is the first member of his family to play collegiate sports and said his success is a credit to his parents and grandparents funding his baseball career since first grade.
They also taught him the importance of an education. As he graduates next spring, Bolt doesn’t like to think much about playing professional baseball. He plans to use his finance degree to build a career in wealth management after he hangs up his cleats.
“If the opportunity [to play professional baseball] comes about, that’d be awesome and I would for sure look into it,” Bolt said. “[With finance] I don’t like a ton of math, but I enjoy numbers. I like seeing those things, breaking them down and analyzing businesses.”
Until then, Bolt will continue to break down opposing pitchers and drive in runs for Bradley.