Thrillbillies announce 2023 coaching staff members

The Thrillbillies announced Bart Zeller as bench coach, Lane Dickerson as pitching coach and...
The Thrillbillies announced Bart Zeller as bench coach, Lane Dickerson as pitching coach and Travis Hope as assistant pitching coach.(Rent One Park)
Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 3:52 PM CDT
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MARION, Ill. (KFVS) - The Thrillbillies announced several coaches for its inaugural Prospect League season.

According to a release from the team, the following coaches will work under first-year manager Ralph Santana:

  • Bart Zeller - bench coach
  • Lane Dickerson - pitching coach
  • Travis Hope - assistant pitching coach

The Thrillbillies continue to build their coaching staff and are in final discussions to fill the hitting coach and outfield/assistant hitting coach vacancies.

They said they expect to make those announcements over the next few weeks.

More about the coaches

Bart Zeller

An Illinois-native, he was signed by the Cardinals in 1963 and spent four years in the Cardinals’ farm system.

After missing the 1967 season, he spent 1968 and 1969 with the Lewiston Broncs and Arkansas Travelers, respectively.

Zeller played in his only major league game on May 21, 1970, against the Philadelphia Phillies. Zeller was released as an active player by the Cardinals on June 8, but stayed on as a coach for the balance of the 1970 season. He played in the minors for the Milwaukee Brewers and New York Yankees.

He returns to Marion after a 13-year hiatus from Rent One Park when he last wore a uniform as a member of the Miners coaching staff in their inaugural 2007 season, staying on through 2010.

In 2011, Zellers was hired by the Joliet Slammers with the Frontier League as a manager. He remained there through the 2012 season. He was then hired as bench coach of the Washington Wild Things in 2013 and promoted to manager mid-season after Chris Bando resigned.

Zellers resigned as manager during the 2014 season, citing health reasons.

In 2018, he served as bench coach of the Martinez Clippers before returning to the Frontier League to serve as pitching coach for the Milwaukee Milkmen in their inaugural season.

“Bart brings with him nearly 60 years of baseball knowledge that will play an important role not only in our success on the field but more importantly, as a guiding force helping to mentor and shape the lives of the young men playing for us,” Thrillbillies Field Manager Ralph Santana said in a release. “This reunion is going to be fun as we both pair up again for our second inaugural season of baseball at Rent One Park, it’s an honor to be working with him again.”

Lane Dickerson

Alabama native and current Herod, Ill. resident, Dickerson, earned First-Team All-State, First-Team All-Tennessee Baseball Team and Times Daily Pitcher of the Year honors while playing for his alma mater Colbert County Indians in Leighton, Ala.

After a successful high school career, he attended Marion Military Institution where he pitched for three seasons before transferring to Murray State for his senior year.

Dickerson, in his second stint coaching at John A. Logan, is currently in his third season as an assistant coach for Volunteer’s baseball under Head Coach Kyle Surprenant.

After his first season at John A. Logan, Lane left the Volunteer’s to work as the pitching coach at Frontier Community College, but a head coaching change with the Bobcats led Dickerson back to southern Illinois to rejoin the coaching staff at JAL.

The Thrillbillies inaugural season will be Lane’s second coaching journey in the Prospect League, as he previously coached for the Springfield Lucky Horseshoes in 2022.

“Lane was actually our first hire when we began building our coaching staff late last year,” Thrillbillies General Manager Dave Kost said. “While he doesn’t have a ton of coaching miles on his resume, after talking with him for two hours his passion for the game as well as, for helping young men achieve their goals on and off the field, just came pouring out of him.”

“Passion to teach and be successful aren’t tools you can teach, they’re inherent. We have full confidence that our pitching staff is in the right hands under Lane’s leadership,” Kost added.

Travis Hope

Former Miners’ pitcher Travis Hope will be in the dugout helping develop the Thrillbillies’ pitchers as assistant pitching coach.

Born and raised in Marion, Ill., he signed with the New York Mets as an undrafted free agent in 2004.

Hope spent three seasons in the organization pitching 132.1 innings with a record of 11-5, striking out 75 hitters while posting a 3.74 ERA.

Following his 2006 season in Port St. Lucie of the Florida State League, Hope was released by the Mets before signing with the Southern Illinois Miners in 2007.

He spent the 2007 and 2008 seasons as a member of the Miners’ pitching corps working out of the bullpen as a closer.

In his two independent league seasons on the mound, he pitched 52 innings in relief facing 213 batters giving up 47 hits surrendering only 13 runs with 10 earned leading the way to a career 5-4 record, while posting a 1.73 earned run average against.

Before his pro career, Hope attended Berry College in Mount Berry, located just outside Rome, Georgia where he pitched four years for the Vikings under Head Coach David Beasley, who is currently in his 24th season at the helm.

Just like Thrillbillies skipper Ralph Santana, Hope was in uniform for the inaugural season of professional baseball in Marion some 17 years ago and he’s excited to be back to the place he calls home.

“When I signed to play here in 2007, I knew immediately I was in the right place, I was home,” said Hope. “I’ve played in a lot of stadiums over my career but there’s just something so special about the confines of Rent One Park, I can’t explain it. Growing up in Marion going away to college, playing in the Mets organization then returning home to continue my playing career, you just can’t write a better story, I’ve been blessed no doubt.”