When Kyle Hans started Thundercat Academy nine years ago, his goal was to create a solid baseball and softball program for local athletes.
The organization’s mission statement to, “provide young athletes the opportunity to develop as baseball and softball players by working within a structured teaching system, learning from qualified coaches and exposing them to the highest level of competition” seems to be the driving factor behind the two new owners.
When former owner Brooks Graff found he had other obligations to attend to, and could not give the academy the attention he thought it deserved, he turned to a pair of young coaches working with the teams served by the organization.
Despite being barely a year out of college, former Lakeside Lutheran athlete Colin McBride and his college teammate and California native Charles “Chase” Davis III are winding their way through their first year at the helm of the academy.
McBride was a frequent team member at Thundercat throughout his childhood and high school years, and came back during summer break while in college to coach at the facility. The duo met on the baseball team at Northwestern College in Iowa.
“To make a long story short, I met him in college,” Davis said of McBride. “A couple months before graduation, he asked if I wanted to come up here and work for Thundercat because he used to work here summers coaching. They needed a pitching guy, and I was a pitcher in college.”
Davis played with the Bakersfield Train Robbers in California last summer before coming to Lake Mills. He said Graff sat him and McBride down in December and told them he could tell they cared about the academy, asked if they would like to be the new owners.
The duo admits the role of owner has stymied the two of them at times.
“Neither of us went to business school,” McBride, who graduated with a degree in exercise science, said.
Davis, on the other hand, finished his time at Northwestern College with a degree in sports management and a minor in business administration.
Right now, the two are working to get ahead of the facility, team, and organization after being caught somewhat off-guard by how quickly the season approached.
Thundercat fields eight baseball teams ranging from U10 to a showcase/17-year-old team, and three softball teams. Some of the early items needing attention were things like team uniforms, newer equipment, and handling business and legal transactions the two had never encountered.
“It helps a lot that we’ve had a lot of parents of the organization help out a lot, especially with the legal side of things, taxes, and how to do all the ‘adulting’ stuff,” Davis laughed.
McBride said his biggest challenge so far has been moving from his usual spontaneity to a more regimented, scheduled lifestyle.
The two are still looking at the Thundercat mission statement as a reminder of why the academy exists.
“We’re trying to give them skills they wouldn’t otherwise get at a young age,” Davis said.
The owners work with older players to prepare for college recruiting, and continue to bolster and build skills. McBride indicated he enjoys helping athletes go through the recruiting process, and watching a student athlete who might not have the chance to attend college use his or her athletic skills to not only get into school, but earn a scholarship.
When asked what the two have found most rewarding about their new roles as co-owners, though, Davis quick to respond.
“We actually care about the kids, and want the best for them, which is cool because I think – especially with our older kids – we have a good relationship with them,” he said. “I think it’s cool that they like coming here, they like showing up here even though they’re from all sorts of places. They always love coming down, eating McDonald’s in our office after practice, and watching stuff on the TV.”
McBride echoed Davis, saying he liked seeing how comfortable the kids are around him and Davis, saying the feeling of community is helpful in making the business grow.
“You can do all the advertising you want, but as long as you put effort into things, the quality will show,” he finished.