Fenwick student-athletes to thaw out their fingers (and toes) next week on warmer ball diamonds down south.
By Mark Vruno
Last week a group of Fenwick “snowbird” alumni gathered in the Arizona desert on March 15 to watch the Chicago Cubs defeat the White Sox under partly sunny skies and 71-degree temperatures. The school’s baseball and softball teams have caught the warmer-weather bug, too, as the annual spring athlete migration is set to begin.
The evening before the crosstown-classic rivalry at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, AZ, a handful of faithful fans braved howling winds and biting, 43-degree temps to watch the Friar boys’ baseball team demolish Ridgewood’s Rebels from Norridge/Harwood Heights by a score of 15-2. It was 2019 opening night under the lights at Triton College.
The highlight was senior Lucas Kolovitz (above, in Florida last year), a D1 recruit committed to Purdue University – Fort Wayne, blasting a towering homerun that, with Mother Nature’s assistance, traveled nearly 400 feet into the angry, River Grove sky. (Junior Will Hendricks also smashed a triple, while fellow junior Greyson Cone’s cannon-like arm was on display at third base.) The windy win marked number 817 for Varsity Baseball Coach Dave Hogan, who is entering his 39th season as the Friars’ skipper. Coach Hogan has tallied the second most baseball victories at one school in Illinois, dating back to 1980.
“We have eight games scheduled in Florida, three of them in the Atlanta Braves’ spring training big-league stadium,” reports Assistant Varsity Coach and baseball alumnus Kyle Kmiecik ’00. On Monday, March 25, the top end of a double-header features the cousins Groom on the mound: Fenwick senior pitcher Jimmy Groom will try to match heat with his younger, flame-throwing cousin Tommy: a right-handed junior who hurls 90-mph fastballs for Bishop Moore out of Orlando. (Tommy’s father, Chris, taught Spanish at Fenwick in 1994-96, Principal Groom says of his brother. “He also coached sophomore baseball,” reports Mr. Groom.)
The projected high temperature for game day is a balmy 82 degrees at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The nightcap pits the Friars against the Lions of Orange High School from Pepper Pike, Ohio, near Cleveland.
The following evening Fenwick faces the Quakers of Sidwell Friends, a selective, private school in the Washington, D.C.- Bethesda, Maryland area. Next up on Wednesday is another Quaker team from Philadelphia: the William Penn Charter School; on Thursday it’s the “Fords” from the all-boys Haveford School, also in Pennsylvania (near Philadelphia).
Our Chicago-area boys close out their trip in the sun with a mid-day double-header on Friday, March 29: Game 1 (10:30 a.m.) brings competition from the Patriots of Germantown Academy (Washington, PA), originally called the Union School and dating back to 1759. Game 2 (first pitch at 1 p.m.) is against the Bears of Landon School, a 90-year-old, college-prep school situated in Bethesda, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C.
“Other than the dates, the teams we play and our games in the stadium, our trip each year is so well planned and organized that we have the same routine each year,” adds Mr. Kmiecik, who also is a Study Management Skills Instructor at Fenwick. “Coach Hogan has done a great job organizing this as well as building lasting relationships and friendships with Disney. This is a testament to Coach Hogan and his passion for coaching as well as his ability to organize, plan and lead. Our overall trip, the experiences and all the memories we will have from this are because of Coach Hogan.” After their warm up, the boys return home on Saturday, March 30. They face the Mount Carmel Caravan away on April 1, no fooling, and the next day have a home game scheduled at the Priory against the Marmion Academy Cadets. (View 2019 game schedule.)
Read what baseball alumni Gino Cavalieri ’14 and Casey O’Laughlin ’17 had to say about their spring-trip experiences.
The ‘Last Bus to Clarksville?’
Meanwhile, new Varsity Softball Head Coach Sarah James (a Concordia U. and Riverside-Brookfield ’09 alumna) and her girls’ team leave on March 28 for Tennessee, where temperatures are expected to be in the high 60s. The 480-mile trip straight south is about an eight-hour drive, not including stops, of course. (Who remembers that Monkees’ song, “Last Train to Clarksville?”)
Their final destination is Clarksville’s 51-acre RichEllen Park, which features eight premier softball fields. Competing in the 2019 Queen City Classic are a total of 48 teams from Kentucky, Tennessee and Illinois. Other local teams making the trek are Aurora Central Catholic, Bartlett High School, Guerin Prep, Kenwood Academy and Sycamore. The Friars will play several games before returning on Sunday, March 31.