CEO: Will Simmons
An original Carolinian with a true entrepreneurial spirit, Will Simmons is passionate about business and baseball. He has founded and operated multiple businesses throughout his professional career. At 26 years old, Simmons was named Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the Small Business Association. In 2007, he was inducted into the Ernst and Young Hall of Fame as Entrepreneur of the Year. In that same year, his company was ranked #77 on the “Hot 500 America’s Fastest-Growing Businesses,” according to Entrepreneur Magazine. Simmons, along with his business partners, also currently owns and operates Zero Waste Recycling, LLC. in Charlotte.
Simmons, a graduate and former baseball player of Charlotte Christian School, played under the direction of Coach Greg Simmons. He was recruited by Coach Joe Hudak to catch for the Winthrop University baseball team in 1998. During his time with the Winthrop Eagles, the team won the coveted Big South Tournament Championship and was nationally ranked in the Top 20 during that run.
Simmons currently resides in Charlotte, NC, with his wife, Hannah, and two children, Hudson and Campbell. Simmons looks forward to building upon the SBA culture and brand while providing additional resources committed to long-term growth. He says, “I am extremely grateful to be a part of an outstanding organization that has a fine reputation of producing successful and talented young athletes. The family-like atmosphere at SBA is unique and truly special. Seeing our players achieve their personal best is the most rewarding and makes this great game of baseball worthwhile.”
President: Jake Robbins
Jake Robbins is a former Major League Baseball pitcher with 6 organizations. Jake ended his career with the Chicago White Sox AAA affiliate Charlotte Knights. He appeared in major league games in 2004 for the Cleveland Indians at the age of 28. The only run he gave up was a solo home run by Jacque Jones on September 24th of that year. Since retiring before the 2008 season, Jake has continued in the game of baseball by helping young baseball players achieve their dreams of playing in college and “the show.”
Jake believes he is a better teacher of pitching than he was on the mound himself. Attributing his successes in teaching to God, he says, “God gave me the ability and opportunity to play this great game and now I want to use the knowledge that was given to me to help kids accomplish their dreams.”
Senior Hitting Instructor & Director of Player Development: Rafael Mendez
Rafael Mendez is a former catcher in Minor League Baseball who played his career in the Detroit Tigers organization.
Mendez was drafted in 2002 by the Detroit Tigers in the 17th round. Mendez played 7 years with the Tigers, earning a Gold Glove award in 2003 and 2004. He was invited to the “Big League Camp” in 2004 and 2005.
Rafael is a graduate of Notre Dame High School in Puerto Rico where he was Captain of his varsity baseball team for 4 years. He received the MVP award his Junior and Senior year.
Director of Academic Development: Mike Matkovich
Mike is a native of Glen Dale, West Virginia. Entering his 17th year in public education, Mike has served as a classroom teacher, athletic director, and school administrator while in North Carolina and South Carolina. He has earned a B.A. in Social Science, an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction and an M.S. in Educational Leadership. During this time, Mike has served on numerous committees and has overseen programs that have focused on transitioning and preparing students for post-secondary education.
During his 17 years in education, Mike has served as a head baseball, head basketball, and head golf coach as well as coaching varsity football. His baseball coaching experience include 15 years at the varsity level. While head coach at Nation Ford High School (Fort Mill, SC), Matkovich was 54-28 in three seasons where his teams made the playoffs all three years and the SC District finals in 2013 and 2014. Most recently, Mike was hired as the Head Baseball coach at Cuthbertson High School (Waxhaw, NC).
Mike is married to Christy and has two children, Peyton and Rylee. They reside in Fort Mill, SC.
As Director of Academic Development, Matkovich will be:
1. Identifying academic needs and support for 9th-12th graders and their families with colleges/universities and the NCAA
2. Creating an academic and character liaison between college coaches and SBA
3. Helping SBA players and their families identify academic scholarship opportunities
4. Identifying and recruiting highly qualified coaches
5. Coaching the 2021 Elite fall team and a yet to be determined summer team
Senior Hitting Instructor: Bob Zupcic
Bob Zupcic is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Go Steelers!) He attended Bishop Egan High School in Levittown, Pennsylvania, and played baseball for Oral Roberts University in Tulsa from 1985-1987. He was a two-time All-American at ORU, and Baseball America’s Summer Player of the Year in 1985, while he was playing for the Liberal Bee Jays.
Zupcic played professional baseball from 1987-1997. He was drafted in the 1st round (32nd overall pick) by the Boston Red Sox in 1987, and made his MLB debut on September 7, 1991. He played with the Red Sox from 1991-1994, and played one season with the Chicago White Sox in 1994. He was the Red Sox’ Rookie of the Year in 1992. He retired from professional baseball in 1997. He has been in the automotive business since his retirement from baseball, and is currently working at Bernard Motorcar Company, Inc., in Indian Land, South Carolina.
Zupcic lists his passions as “The Three B’s:” Bible (honoring the Lord Jesus Christ with how he lives his life), Becky & Family (enjoying and taking care of his family,) and, of course, Baseball (teaching hitting the way the best in the world hit).
Zupcic has been married to his wife, Rebecca, for 30 years, and together they have four children. His son Tyler attended Providence High School and played baseball for Appalachian State University, where he earned a degree in Communications. He currently works for Baseball Rebellion. Bob gives special thanks to Tyler for “showing me the way the best hit – I am smart enough to realize that just because you played in the big leagues doesn’t mean you know the answer.”
His son Drake attended Cuthbertson High School and also played baseball at Appalachian State University, where he earned a degree in Criminal Justice and is currently working on his Master’s Degree. His daughter Olivia attended Cuthbertson High School and is currently pursuing a degree in Education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His youngest son, Christian, is a 9th grader at Cuthbertson High School, where he plays football.
About joining SBA and continuing with baseball, Zupcic says, “I am very grateful to Baseball Rebellion and SBA for giving me the opportunity to continue my passion using tools I never had before.”
To book a lesson with Bob, click on the Events tab above, and then click “Lessons.”
VP Baseball Operations & Team Development: Tomas Cruz
Tomas Cruz is a native of Amarillo, Texas, where he graduated from Amarillo High School in 2006. From there, Tomas began his college career at Seward County Community College in Liberal, Kansas. During Tomas’ sophomore year, he anchored the Seward Saints’ pitching staff with an 11-3 record and a 2.22 ERA in 81 innings pitched. He struck out a record high 85 batters and walked only 11 in 14 appearances. Cruz tossed seven complete games and two shutouts while becoming the first Saints pitcher to win 11 games since 2004. While there, he was named the Jayhawk West Most Valuable Player, First Team All-Conference, First Team All-Region VI, and named to the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I Baseball 2nd Team All-American.
After Seward, Cruz continued his college career by signing his National Letter of Intent to pitch at Clemson University. At Clemson, Cruz served as a bullpen pitcher for the Tigers. During his two years at Clemson, Cruz helped lead the Tigers to two Super Regional Appearances and one College World Series appearance. In his final appearance as a Tiger, at the College World Series, Cruz pitched three scoreless innings in relief.
Following the CWS, Cruz went back to the west to pitch for the Liberal Bee-Jays. He posted a 2-0 record with four saves and a 0.56 ERA during the regular season as a closer. In the NBS World Series, he appeared in 5 out of 8 games, picking up two wins and a save. Cruz led the Bee-Jays to a NBS World Series win, with 3 ½ innings of work allowing no hits, no runs and 5 strikeouts.
Following the 2010 season, Cruz stayed at Clemson as a student assistant pitching coach and a student assistant strength and conditioning coach. In 2011, Cruz served as the Graduate Assistant for Wingate University. There he was the pitching coach, a recruiter, and the strength and conditioning coach.
Coach & Hitting Instructor: Zach Remillard
Zach Remillard played third base at Coastal Carolina University for four years before being drafted into the Chicago White Sox organization, where he is currently playing now. He was a part of the 2016 College World Series National Champion team with CCU.
As a junior, he was named to the Big South All Tournament team. During the summer of 2015 he represented the East Squad at the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League All Star game. He hit .341 as a senior, with 99 hits, 72 RBIs, and led the team in homeruns, with 19.
Coach & Hitting Instructor: Collin Thacker
Collin Thacker is an SBA alum (2011-2013) from Wilmington, NC. He graduated from Gardner Webb University in 2013 with a BS in Healthcare Management. He currently holds the record of the highest batting average in GWU Division 1 history with a .345 average. During his time at GWU, Thacker posted 218 hits, 122 RBIs, 16 homeruns, and a slugging percentage of .499. He also boasts 49 doubles during his time at GWU, 28 of those doubles occurring during the 2016 season, which led the NCAA Division 1.
In addition to the stats, Thacker was named to the Louisville Slugger Second Team All American in 2016, First Team All Big South 2016 and 2017, Preseason All American in 2017, and Big South Preseason Player of the Year. Prior to joining the staff at SBA, he played independent baseball with the Utica Unicors of the USPL. SBA is excited to have Collin join our team! You can book lesson with Collin on our website, under the Events tab.
Coach: Chris Ahearn
Chris Ahearn is a graduate of Providence High School in Charlotte, NC, where he was a multi-sport athlete competing in football, baseball, basketball, and track. He was a four year starter in football between Carroll Senior High School in Southlake, TX, & Providence High School in Charlotte, NC, earning three-time All-Conference honors in the Southwestern 4A division. He was part of a 4×100 relay team in track that posted the third fastest time in NC history leading to a state championship. He was a two-time All-Conference baseball player, also earning All-Area and All-Mecklenburg honors.
After high school, Chris attended Western Carolina University, earning Male Scholar Athlete of the Year honors in 2006 before transferring to Catawba College earning a degree in Sport Management where he was an ESPN the Magazine First Team Academic All-American, as well as a two-time First Team All-Conference baseball player in the South Atlantic Conference. He was a member of two South Atlantic Conference Baseball Championship teams while at Catawba College. During the summer while in college he was a member of the Fairbanks Fire of the Alaskan Baseball League, and a member of the Asheboro Copperheads of the Coastal Plains League.
Following college he was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 39th round and later signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Braves as a shortstop where he played in their minor league system before voluntary retirement due to injury. Chris has worked with many former and current MLB coaches, NCAA coaches, MLB players and scouts and still maintains strong relationships throughout the country.
Chris has experience as a voluntary assistant coach at Catawba College and at Providence High School and has coached at various levels within the SBA organization- most recently the 18U level. He also has a very extensive background in college recruiting, sports performance training, and sports nutrition. Chris’s younger brother Zach Ahearn is a former SBA Canes middle infielder committed to Furman University this fall. Chris is married to Arika Ahearn and they have two sons Logan (12) and Brooklyn (4) and currently reside in Waxhaw, NC.
Office Administrator: Haley Carpenter
Haley Carpenter is a Florida native who joined SBA full time in the fall of 2017 after spending the previous summer interning for SBA’s former collegiate team, the Bones. Haley is a former competitive softball and volleyball player who comes from a baseball family. Her younger brother, Kerry, is an outfielder at Virginia Tech. Haley’s lifelong background in baseball has given her a love for the game, and she is living out her dream working in baseball.
She is currently studying for her degree in Public Relations through the University of Florida as she continues with SBA.