ThunderBolts have good pair on the air

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Photo by Jeff Vorva

Mike Rankin, left, and Terry Bonadonna have been calling the action for the Windy City ThunderBolts this year. 


Another year, another partner.

Windy City ThunderBolts radio announcer Terry Bonadonna is in his eighth season behind the microphone and has had seven interns working with him.

His seventh partner has given him a different dynamic this season.

Michael Rankin, a Palos Hills resident and Stagg graduate who is about to enter his final semester at St. Xavier University, played baseball in high school and Trinity Christian College and that is something that is uncommon on minor league and independent league broadcasts.

“He played baseball, which is rare,” Bonadonna said. “Usually what you get is somebody who is a nerd like I am who is trying to work on becoming a broadcaster. You usually have two guys who are trained in play-by-play and both have the same strengths and same weaknesses. You don’t usually complement each other that way.

“Mike actually played the game and studied play-by-play, too, so he can handle that aspect of it. When he is doing color, which is two-thirds of the game, he can break down the game in a way that another announcer can’t.  That allows us to complement each other.’’

Some broadcasts can be heard on the St. Xavier radio station WXAV (88.3 FM) while others are on the Internet.

Rankin realized that he probably wasn’t going to be talented enough to play at Wrigley Field so he started thinking of other options to stay around the game for as long as he can.

“Growing up, baseball was my life,” he said. “I played up until my junior year in college. But I knew I wanted to get into the journalism field my senior year in high school, so I started writing a blog and got into podcasting on my own. That evolved into the overall aspect of broadcasting at St. Xavier. It worked out perfectly.’’

Rankin was on the broadcast team that called a majority of SXU women’s basketball games as the Cougars finished second in the nation in NAIA Division II play.

“I loved every minute of it,” Rankin said of the postseason. “Even though they lost in the championship, it was a great experience.’’

He is working on his own broadcasting style for baseball, but he will pull a few elements from some of the established announcers.

 “I take notes on a lot of different styles,” he said. “I grew up watching a lot of baseball on television. It’s much different than on radio, so I’ve been listening to a lot of different guys. No one could be another (Cubs announcer) Pat Hughes, but I feel out the style that he is doing. I listen to (Ed) Farmer of the White Sox. I mix and match and add my own sort of style. I’m still my own person.’’

Rankin is scheduled to graduate in December and is getting his resume and tapes ready to send to potential bosses.

“At this point, this is where I want to be,” he said. “I’m going to continue working and getting better. I know it’s a tough field to break into. But I have confidence in myself and I’m going to put myself out there and hopefully someone will take a bite.’’

He said he likes learning from Bonadonna, who was named the Frontier League Broadcaster of the Year in 2016.

“I really appreciate the way he allows me to work,” Rankin said. “He has the confidence in me to let me take care of what I need to take care of. We talk about things I need to work on but he lets me go and I’m starting to learn a lot on my own.

“It’s great working with him because he knows the Frontier League like the back of his hand. He’s on top of a lot of things. He calls me out on trivia questions. He’s brilliant.’’

Bonadonna is from Berwyn and graduated from Fenwick High School and SXU. He said that working with a new partner each year has its challenges.

“I would like to say we’re best buddies and have great chemistry from the start and all the way throughout,” Bonadonna said. “But the fact is that sometimes we may not get to where you want to get to. It’s difficult trying to learn the broadcasting style of a different guy ever year. I try to stay as steady as possible. I try to work them in and tell them how I am going to say something so I can work them into the broadcast. It’s not always easy.’’

While Rankin primarily does home games, Bonadonna calls all the games at home and on the road. That day-by-day grind, coupled with bus travel across the Midwest, is something he actually enjoys.

“I don’t like off days,’’ he said. “We had a two-day stretch where we didn’t have games in July and I didn’t know what to do with myself.

“The bus rides can be a hassle but I love being in a new city every week. I like to walk around the towns and explore different areas. It’s fun to go to different ballparks and seeing the ins and outs of other operations. I love it all.’’