Headed to spring training

Shepard alum gets second chance in pro ball

By Jeff Vorva

When Mike Recchia was given the bad news that he was no longer a member of the New York Yankees on Dec. 12, 2011 he was devastated.

The former Shepard High School star who lives in Worth was feeling pretty worthless.

But that didn't last long.

The right-handed pitcher had a brief pity party and then went back to work trying to get back into a major league organization. After a stellar season of playing independent ball with the Crestwood-based Windy City Thunderbolts in 2012 he got his wish. One year and six days after the Yankee call, he was picked up by the Baltimore Orioles organization.

The 23-year-old will report to minor league camp in Sarasota, Fla., on March 2. He is hoping to pitch well enough to make the Double-A squad but is bracing for a likely spot on one of the Class A squads.

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound hurler is heading to Florida full of optimism and enthusiasm for his second chance.

But a couple of Decembers ago, he had just gotten off the phone with a Yankees executive who whacked him after Recchia spent two years in their organization and came off a campaign for two Class A teams in which he was 6-3 with a sparkling 2.49 ERA in 32 relief appearances.

"I'm not going to lie, it was one of the most difficult moments of my career," he said. "I'm a man but I'm not ashamed to admit that after that call, I broke down. I mean, here it was around Christmas and I was getting ready to get married on New Year's Eve. All my friends are telling me that I'm with the Yankees and getting married and that I had the good life.

"Toward the end of the season by numbers were great and everything was clicking. My last five innings, I gave up just one hit. I couldn't ask for a better ending. And then I got the call on Dec. 12."

His sadness after the call didn't last long, though.

Later that afternoon, he headed to Shepard for a workout with a new attitude.

"It made me look at life differently," Recchia said. "I had always lived on success and worked hard. I always worked hard. But then I knew I had to work even harder. I knew I was still young and could still play the game. I focused on having fun. There are people across the world fighting in the war and I'm playing baseball."

With Windy City he was mainly a starter and was 11-3 with a 2.51 ERA with 177 strikeouts in 150 1/3 innings. He was the first player in team history to win the Brian Tollberg Award for being the best pitcher in the Frontier League.

Recchia credits several people for getting this opportunity.

He said his wife, Ashley, had been supportive when he was cut by the Yankees. Ashley, whose maiden name is Davis, is a Palos Heights native. The two knew each other since high school.

"She gave me the biggest hug and told me that things happen for a reason and that my career is not over yet," he said. "She wasn't mad. She knew that this is what I do."

The couple is expecting twins in May.

Another person who helped get him through the bad times is Shepard coach Frank DiFoggio. Recchia has an open invitation to work out at the Palos Heights school and the two huddle up frequently to talk about baseball and life.

"When he played for me, I saw incredible potential," DiFoggio said. "I never anticipated that I would coach someone who would make it to the professional level but in terms in being successful in whatever he was going to do, I definitely thought he would do well because he has a lot of drive and ambition."

The coach wasn't totally surprised Recchia was let go by the Yankees.

"If you look at the Yankees, they usually don't hold onto their prospects," he said. "Look at their roster. There aren't many guys that came up through the ranks. There aren't many Derek Jeters that are drafted by them and still play with them. I think Mike's going to be fine. He's got good stuff and he has a good work ethic. You could be talented but if you don't have the work ethic and the drive, you're not going to go far. He's got both."

Recchia also credits the coaching staff of the Thunderbolts and some of the coaches of other Frontier League teams for putting the word out to major league scouts about him.

When Recchia played in the Yankees farm system he got to be friends with prospects including Mason Williams, who is ranked at the team's No. 1 prospect by Baseball American. He is also friends with Gary Sanchez (No. 3 prospect), Tyler Austin (No. 4) and Mark Montgomery (No. 11).

While Recchia is on the lower end of the food chain in minor league baseball, all he wants is another shot in pro ball and he's getting it in March.

"With my intensity and the way I work, I have something to show them this spring," he said. "I'm going to go out and have fun and pitch."

Cunningham named to Firearms Working Group

State Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18, Chicago) is one of 15 members of the General Assembly who will comprise Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon's Firearms Working Group.

"I look forward to working with members across the aisle to address the gun control issues we face in Illinois," Cunningham stated in a press release. "By talking to gun owners and people impacted by gun violence, I hope to learn more about what needs to be done to address the important issue of gun control in our state. My hope is that as a group we can reach a consensus and do what is best for the residents of Illinois."

The group consists of newly elected members in both the state House and Senate. The members represent urban, suburban and rural districts. The group plans to talk to gun owners, hunters, families impacted by gun violence, domestic violence prevention advocates, mental health experts, law enforcement officials, among others.

Last December, a federal appeals court struck down Illinois' ban on carrying concealed weapons and gave the state 180 days to pass legislation allowing for concealed carry.

Community Briefs

Evergreen Park

Fire calls up, cost of damage down

Evergreen Park firefighters responded to more calls last year than they did in 2011, but the monetary loss for residents who endured fires was nearly cut in half in 2012.

The total amount of property damage residents endured in 2012 was $55,600, compared to $174,900 in damages in 2011.

Evergreen Park Fire Chief Ronald Kleinhaus said there were 2,696 calls for the department last year, 768 for fires and 1,928 for emergency medical services. In 2011 there were 2,504 calls, 673 for fires and 1,831 for emergency medical services.

Mayor James Sexton noted the fire department has a large number of full-time firefighters, given the village's population.

"There aren't too many towns of 20,000 where you have 62 full-time, professional firefighters on staff," Sexton said.

The department responded to four structure fires, one gas pump fire and five garage fires in Evergreen Park in 2012, while assisting with 19 structure fires outside the village, Kleinhaus said.

-Laura Bollin

Ridge may ban BYOB

By Kelly White

The Chicago Ridge Village Board is considering adopting a proposed ordinance that would prohibit businesses without liquor licenses from allowing customers to bring their own alcohol.

The board at its meeting Feb. 5 discussed so-called "bring your own beer" (BYOB) establishments - those that do not carry liquor licenses. Outgoing Mayor Eugene Siegel, who will not seek re-election in April, said the village does not want "any form of BYOB taking place in the village."

Chicago Ridge has no ordinance prohibiting BYOB.

"Some towns allow for hookah bars and institutions similar to have BYOB licenses because they do not serve liquor at the place of business for the customers, but they still want the customers to have the option of being able to have liquor, if they so choose to," Trustee Brad Grove said.

As a home rule community, Chicago Ridge has the latitude to adopt a BYOB ban. Village attorney George Witous plans to present a draft of such an ordinance at the board's next meeting scheduled for Feb. 19.

What do you say?

Will you miss the mail being delivered on Saturdays?

(Asked at Saturday's Orland Township Town Hall meeting with Dan Lipinski)

Chris Mercouris,
Orland Park

"Definitely. We shouldn't be in a situation like this if the Postal Service watched its finances."

Kathleen Kessel,
Orland Park

"It doesn't matter to me. If they are suffering, that's not a bad solution.''

Richard Steelman,
formerly known as Paul Cervenka, Orland Park

"Probably not. When you weigh it, good and bad, it's probably necessary what they are doing."

George Dvorak,
Indian Head Park

"Not at all. There's not that much mail on Saturday. When I worked in Chicago, we had two deliveries on weekdays and one on Saturdays and it didn't make a difference to our business."

Billye Dvorak,
Indian Head Park

"No because I think we need to save a little money somewhere. This is a good way to do it, I think."