Jake Boone of the famous Boone family finds a groove with the Windy City ThunderBolts.  "I have never felt any pressure because of my last name."

Yes, Windy City ThunderBolts infielder Jake Boone is one of those Boones.

The 23-year-old is part of a big league family.

His father, Bret, played 14 seasons and was a three-time All-Star. His uncle, Aaron, is the manager of the New York Yankees after playing 12 seasons in the Major Leagues and being part of an All-Star team. His grandfather, Bob, and his great-grandfather, Ray, were also All-Stars.

The Boones are the first family to have three generations of players make it to the major leagues. And while Jake would definitely like it to be four, he hasn’t let himself be weighed down by overwhelming expectations.

“I can honestly say I’ve never felt any pressure because of my last name,” Jake said. “I know within my family, they always support me, but it’s never been, ‘You have to try to be a professional baseball player.’

“I have done all this by making my own decisions. I know if I didn’t want to be a baseball player, that would never have been a problem with my family.”

In his second minor league season and first with the T-Bolts, Jake Boone has been a consistent producer. He is hitting .280 with 32 runs, nine stolen bases, four home runs and 29 RBIs in 60 games.

Perhaps most importantly, according to Windy City Manager Brian SmithJake has led by example. He doesn’t expect special treatment because of the Boone name from him.

“He’s a normal guy in the clubhouse,” Smith said. “He respects us and we respect him. He doesn’t act like he’s any different. He’s just another one of the poor, rudimentary guys on the team trying to make a living playing professional baseball with broken cleats and batting gloves.”

Throughout his life, Boone has been involved in baseball.

“Growing up, I still remember my dad’s time in Seattle when he went to every home game,” he said. “If they won the game, the kids were allowed into the clubhouse. I remember running with the kids of all the other players having the time of our lives.

“It was amazing to have those experiences and grow in the game.”

Although baseball was a constant part of his world and a constant source of conversation, Boone never felt compelled to participate in the sport.

“I was able to fall in love with the game for myself,” he said. “There was a hands-off approach from my family. I was playing ball in the backyard with my friends when I fell in love.

“It is a beautiful game. I don’t know how you couldn’t fall in love with him.”

Bret and Bob Boone have made a few trips to Crestwood to watch Jake play.

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“Talk hitting with my grandfather, talk business with everyone in my family, it’s always been great,” Jake said. “It’s always amazing that they come and visit and talk about the game with them.”

Boone hasn’t been given short cuts in minor league baseball.

After three seasons at Princeton, he went undrafted and signed as a free agent with the Washington Nationals.

He hit .229 last season with Class A Fredericksburg, but was released in May. Now, he’s in the Frontier League, trying to forge his own path to the majors.

“What drives me is my love for the game,” said Jake Boone. “Every level I’ve gone to, there’s always been an adjustment going from high school to college, from college to professional ball. I love feeling better and learning more about the game.

“When you make those adjustments, there’s something really gratifying about knowing you’ve gotten a little better. That is what keeps me in pursuit of this dream.”

Steve Millar is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.

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