Cook County Cheetahs
- Location: Midlothian, IL 1998; Crestwood, IL 1999-2003
- League: Heartland League 1998; Frontier League 1999-2003
- Affiliation: Independent
- Ballpark: Hawkinson Ford Field
In 1998, the Will County Cheetahs of the Heartland League moved to Midlothian, IL, where they became the Cook County Cheetahs. Managed by Brian Dayett, they were 23-11 in the first half, a half-game behind the top Tennessee Tomahawks. They were last in the second half at 14-18 but stunned the Tomahawks in back-to-back games in the playoffs for the title. The Cheetahs were last in attendance (10,552) among the clubs that survived the season, the last for the league. All-Stars were 2B Neil Bradshaw (.264) and P Derek Santiago (8-3 with a league-leading 2.17 ERA).
The team moved to the Frontier League in 1999 and had a 41-43 record to finish two games out of first and two up on last in a tight western division. They drew 86,248 fans, third in the league, thanks to a new stadium located in Crestwood, IL. Chico Walker was the manager. The only All-Star was P Tom Becker (9-4, 4 Sv, 2.54 107 K in 96 G), the league leader in ERA.
In 2000, the Cheetahs were 38-46 to finish third in the five-team West for the second straight year. Ron LeFlore and Steve Maddock took turns at the helm while attendance remained third (76,445). Chris Oxspring (1-0, Sv, 3.10) would go on to the majors while 2B Mike Davis hit .299 and exemplified the team's name by leading the league with 46 steals.
The 2001 Cheetahs were running in their tracks, finishing last in the west at 28-53 under Chad Epperson's reign. They drew 65,627 fans, 4th in the league, which now contained 12 teams. The 2002 season saw more fans turn out (66,214), but attendance fell to 8th in the league. Dana Forsberg managed the team to a 40-44 finish. They had an All-Star for the first time in three years with batting champion Pichi Balet (.405) at third base.
Again lacking an All-Star in 2003, Cook County was 42-48 with Mike Moore managing. They remained 8th in attendance (60,481). The famous name was SS Paul Molitor (no relation to the Brewers great), who was only 2 for 23. After the season, the team was renamed the Windy City ThunderBolts.
Sources: 1999-2005 Baseball Almanacs
|1998||37-29||Brian Dayett||League Champs|
|2000||38-46||7th (t)||Ron LeFlore (18-20) / Carlos Lee (1-1) / Steve Maddock (19-25)|
|2002||40-44||7th||Chad Epperson (3-2) / Dana Forsberg (37-42)|