Sliding into a new era

  • Written by Declan Harty

Hickory Hills and Palos Hills leagues get over

bumps to bring communities together

From uniforms to fields’ names, many elements around the baseball diamonds of Hickory Hills and Palos Hills have a different feel.
Though the daunting painting of Palos HillsPage-1-3-col-slide-2Chris Santoyo of the Nationals slides and beats the tag of the Indians Eric Kostiuk in a Pony League Friday in a Hills Baseball and Softball Association contest at the North Complex in Hickory Hills. Photo by Jeff Vorva. Baseball lies on the side of the South Complex concession stand still alluding to the days of two former leagues, these two long-established organizations merged and a new league has emerged as the 200-plus member Hills Baseball and Softball Association (HBSA).
Now halfway through its first season, the HBSA continues to provide the stability and foundations that were established for many years by the Hickory Hills Youth Baseball and Palos Hills Baseball Association.
“I would say considering everything, it was a very smooth transition,” said Peter Donahue, vice president of HBSA. “I think it has gone really well, we look forward to growing into the future and providing quality baseball and softball for kids so they can play at an affordable rate with their friends.”
Donahue, who is also a parent of two children currently playing in HBSA, said that despite a few minor difficulties the organizers faced in creating the new league, the transition went very well, especially with the support of the majority of the families.
Donahue and Mike Leach, a liaison between the executive boards of Palos Hills Youth Baseball and Hickory Hills Youth Baseball during the merger, said there were a few minor bumps in the road to creating a new league.
“As with any merger there were subtle differences, but it never affected baseball at all, it didn’t affect baseball or softball,” Leach said. “Most of the problems (are ones) we run into year after year in recreational baseball.”
Some of the bumps included different fees, fundraising methods and field care. Another complication that pag-4-2-coll-pitcherAlexis Baxter chose baseball over softball in the HBSA league and fires a pitch Friday in a Pony League game. Photo by Jeff Vorva.the trustees and board members of the HBSA needed to discuss was the facilities.
The HBSA now has two sets of fields. The former Hickory Hills Youth Baseball fields located along 76th Ave. in Hickory Hills have been renamed the North Complex and the Palos Hills Baseball Association fields, which were located at 78th Avenue and 103rd Street in Palos Hills, are now named the South Complex.
Both complexes have several fields and now the league must find volunteers on a regular basis for their two concession stands at each complex. Donahue also said the location of games rotates based on the number of games that

Upon further review…

  • Written by Ken Karrson


McAllister out, Mankowski in as EP football coach

Ray Mankowski, you’re up next.
Originally passed over in favor of Troy McAllister as Dan Hartman’s successor two weeks ago, Mankowski, who heads up Evergreen Park High School’s boys’ track program, figured his opportunity to also become the Mustangs’ varsity football coach was gone. However, an unexpected turn of events gave Mankowski a second chance.
He was notified last Friday that McAllister was out and he was in as the new gridiron boss.
“I felt I earned and deserved it [earlier], but I accepted the fact that they wanted to go in a different direction,” Mankowski said. “I don’t know what happened [with McAllister], but I’m happy to have it and I’m excited to bring the program into the future.”
School superintendent Beth Hart said McAllister’s sudden departure was not rooted in some heretofore unknown problem that was discovered. It was simply a matter of his particular teaching credentials not being what Evergreen required at the moment.
“He was only certified for 9th-grade PE — we don’t have enough sections for [just] that,” Hart said. “Our teaching job was for 9th through 12th grades. We’re a small school and it’s almost like everybody’s got to do everything.
“We could have hired him to be an aide and coach football, but that would have cut his salary substantially. He was a little irritated about what happened, and I can understand that, but [hirings] are not just about sports.
“He’s a great guy. He didn’t do anything wrong and we didn’t do anything wrong.”
In Mankowski, Evergreen has someone with seven years already invested at the school. Besides being the track coach since his arrival in the fall of 2007, Mankowski has been a member of the Mustangs’ football staff under three different head coaches.

Dogs gone

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Worth Township neighbors charged with killing dogs in separate incidents

Last week wasn’t very good for some dogs in Worth Township.
Two men from unincorporated Worth Township who live in the same blockPage-2-or-3-1-col-Andrew-Plecki2Andrew Plecki have been charged with aggravated animal cruelty after allegedly killing dogs in separate incidents, according to the Cook County Sheriff’s Police.
Andrew Plecki, 48, of the 11700 block of Ridgeland Avenue, allegedly shot his girlfriend’s 12-year-old chocolate Labrador in the head with an air rifle on May 26 for unknown reasons, according to a sheriff’s spokesman.
The dog, which was sick, was taken to Crestwood Animal Clinic, 5443 W. 135th St., where it was put down, according to the sheriff’s spokesman.
Plecki appeared in court the following day where bond was set at $40,000. He remains in jail and is expected to appear at Bridgeview Court on June 17.
Meanwhile, Christopher Krentkowski, 35, also of the 11700 block of Ridgeland Avenue, was charged with two counts of aggravated domestic battery and Christopher-KrentkowskiChristopher Krentkowskione count of aggravated animal cruelty after allegedly injuring his mother and killing her dog,
Krentkowski allegedly dragged his mother’s 15-year-old dog out of a bedroom at 8:30 p.m. Saturday and began to kick it.
When his 53-year-old mother told him to stop, he tried to strangle her and struck her head with a bookcase, injuring her, according to the sheriff’s investigation. Krentkowski continued to physically assault the dog, causing its death, police said.
Krentkowski was arrested on Sunday and received a $125,000 bond during a court appearance on Monday at the Bridgeview Courthouse. He is scheduled to appear in court on June 26 at the Bridgeview Courthouse.


Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: A good Bette – prediction on Townsend was an ace


Jeffs Col ImpressionsThanks for the tip, Bette.
It’s not often that the Palos community and Regional Publishing can brag about being way ahead of the curve in the world of professional tennis, but it’s time to stretch out our long arms and give ourselves, as Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin would say, a “public pat on the back.’’
Last week, 18-year-old Chicago native Taylor Townsend rocked the tennis world when she became the youngest player to reach the third round of the French Open since 2003.
Earlier this week, Sports Illustrated profiled her on its website and quoted male tennis star Andy Murray as saying “I love the way she plays. This is a player who has a lot of talent. A talent rarely seen, either in men or in women.’’
The world has discovered Taylor Townsend, who now hails from Atlanta.
But a couple of Decembers ago, Regional readers discovered her courtesy of Palos Heights’ Bette Sacks.
We were doing a profile on Sacks who, at the time, was 72 and still competing in the sport. Sacks touched on a variety of topics including breaking JV Column-Taylor-TownsendThis photo of Sheila Townsend photographing her daughter, Taylor, with family friend Bette Sacks of Palos Heights appeared on the front page of the Dec. 6, 2012 Regional. At the time, Sacks predicted great things for Townsend and last week, Townsend drew international attention by making it to the third round of the French Open at age 18. Submitted photo.some African-American and gender barriers in the sport back in the day, dining with Richard Williams, the father of Venus and Serena Williams and working at Lake Katherine.
Sacks also talked about being friends with Townsend and coached her a little a few years ago.
“Years later, she is one of the best players in the world,” Sacks said. “It’s amazing.’’
Sacks was gracious enough to send us a photo of Townsend’s mother, Sheila, taking a photo of Taylor and Sacks. Regional editor Jack Murray loved the photo and ran it on Page 1 of the Dec. 6, 2012 edition of the paper. I loved the photo because if Sacks was right and this girl was the real deal, it would be cool to say we had a picture of the phenom way back when.
Sacks was right.
And it’s cool to say we had a picture of the phenom way back when.
I can’t say for a fact that we were the first Chicago area newspaper to put Taylor Townsend on the front page. But I remember researching Townsend back then and there was scant information about her on the local level.
Wimbledon is just around the corner, so it’s going to be a lot of fun seeing if Townsend-mania around the world will continue.
I’m not sure if we will ever have another next-great-player on the front page of one of our papers, but you can bet that if Bette tells us about someone, we will listen.

Keeping these ‘harty’ boys on the go, go, go
There are a couple of new names popping up you may or may not have noticed here at Regional Publishing.
Frank Gogola and Declan Harty join the veteran Tony Pinto as interns on our roster of superstars. Like Pinto, both grew up in the area and attended Stagg High School.
Gogola hails from Palos Hills and we’ve had him off and running with sports features on Mt. Assisi’s final sporting event and a look at four coaches who are hanging up their whistles who have had magnificent careers.
He’s done work for school newspapers at Moraine Valley and Northern Illinois University as well as spending a summer with an online site called
Oh, and he has some coaching chops as well as he was a head soccer and assistant hoops coach at St. Patricia School.
Harty is from Palos Park and attends the University of Illinois. His specialty is features and has turned in some terrific work at the Champaign school’s newspaper, including a day in the life of Urbana firemen.
We threw him into the fire right away with pieces on the closing of St. Bernedette and Mt. Assisi and he stopped by Saturday in Oak Lawn to listen to gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner insult current governor Pat Quinn at the opening of Rauner’s new headquarters.
Harty played a year of football at Illinois Wesleyan University, so he knows his way around sports as well.
His work will appear in both the Reporter and Regional.
I’m looking forward to seeing these guys progress as the summer gets hotter.


‘Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich’ group Warrant to rock RidgeFest

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  The hard rock band Warrant is the main event for RidgeFest.

  The band, which achieved enormous success in the late 1980s and early 1990s, will take the stage on Thursday, July 24, and is expected to be major draw for the annual fest, said Mayor Chuck Tokar.
  Warrant is expected to take the stage at 8:30 p.m. Suburban Cowboys will open for the band at 6:30 p.m. The country cover band plays both current hits and classic tunes.
  Warrant, which hailed from Hollywood, Calif., had five albums reach international sales over 10 million. The band first came into the national spotlight with its double platinum debut album “Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich,” and one of its singles, “Heaven,” reached No. 1 in Rolling Stone and No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
  The band continued its success in the early 1990s with the double platinum album “Cherry Pie,” which provided the hit album title song and music video.
  RidgeFest, which will serve as a celebration of the village’s 100th anniversary, will run from July 24-27 at Freedom Park, Birmingham and Oak avenues.
  Fest hours are 5:30-10:30 p.m. Thursday, 5:30-11:30 p.m. Friday, 3-11:30 p.m. Saturday and 2-10:30 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $5 on Thursday and Sunday, $10 on Friday and $12 on Saturday. Residents with an ID will be admitted free on Sunday.
  The fest also will feature games, acts and local food vendors. Sunday is designated as children’s day with numerous activities and acts scheduled.
  While Warrant was added to the entertainment lineup for fans of hard rock, the fest will offer live music for every taste.
  Your Villian My Hero will hit the stage on Friday, July 25. The band combines Top 40 pop, club and dance music. The set list includes hits by Lady Ga Ga, Black Eyed Peas, Pink and Outkast. Yacht Rock Review also will play.
  The final day of the fest will feature popular Beatles cover band American English and the Chicago 6, a variety band featuring former Chicago Bears Dan Hampton, Otis Wilson and Steve McMichael.
  Saturday is dedicated to country music as Emerson Drive and Blackberry Smoke take the stage. Emerson Drive is a Canadian band well-known on the country circuit for hits such as “I Should Be Sleeping,” “Fall Into Me,” “Last One Standing” and their chart-topping ballad, “Moments.”
  Blackberry Smoke, meanwhile, has toured with The Marshall Tucker Band, ZZ Top Lynyrd Skynyrd and George Jones. They’ve toured Europe and have had their songs featured in video games and films as well. The band is known for mixing elements of gospel, bluegrass, arena rock, soul and more than a touch of outlaw country.