One strike and they were out

Remember 1994?
It was the year of O.J. Simpson’s infamous leading of police on a slow-speed chase on one of southern California’s freeways, the bizarre act of a supposedly innocent man who went on to beat a double-murder rap before committing the truly heinous crime of memorabilia theft. The latter, of course, did what Marsha Clark and Christopher Darden couldn’t: put Simpson behind bars.
1994 was also the year Nelson Mandela was elected president of South Africa and Michael Jordan discovered that hitting a curveball was more difficult than defying the laws of gravity on a basketball court. Jordan eventually returned to the NBA, in part because baseball abandoned him first.
Twenty years have passed since baseball’s most crippling work stoppage, one so sweeping that even the 1994 World Series got wiped out. Not coincidentally that was also the moment when an awful lot of fans finally decided to abandon the sport, at least the major league version of it, for keeps.
There were no sides to take in the squabble between millionaire athletes and billionaire owners because there were no good guys involved in the fight. Both groups were greedy, but the owners didn’t stop there — they also had stupidity on their resume.

Rago named SXU cross country, track coach

New boss arrives from Olivet Nazarene after successful 6-year stint

SXU-XCTY-PHOTO----KYLE-RAGOSubmitted photo: Kyle Rago, a former assistant cross country and track coach at Olivet Nazarene University, is the new head coach of St. Xavier's men's teams in both of those sports.To find its next men’s cross country coach, St. Xavier University turned to one of its Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference rivals.
  Kyle Rago, who spent the past six seasons at Olivet Nazarene as a recruiting coordinator for both cross country and track, officially succeeded Ed McAllister as Cougars boss in each sport this past Monday. While in Bourbonnais Rago helped the Tigers’ overall roster numbers grow from 60 to more than 140.
  He also served as the strength and conditioning coordinator for all distance athletes. With Rago playing a pivotal role in their development Olivet runners produced several strong seasons.
  The Tigers’ women’s cross country squad finished among the top six in NAIA each of the last three years, the men’s team wound up sixth last fall, and between them the two programs have claimed seven CCAC titles since 2008. Track and field successes include five conference championships apiece for the men’s and women’s teams since 2009.
  During Rago’s tenure Olivet has had 32 NAIA All-Americans and 121 Daktronics-NAIA Scholar Athletes.
  Being a proven commodity with a highly respected program was what made Rago an intriguing coaching candidate to SXU athletics director Bob Hallberg.

Let the practices begin

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Area football teams preparing for 2014 campaign

  Practice for Illinois high school football teams began this past Monday and the 10 schools covered by this paper hit their respective fields with more questions than answers.
  But even for squads that struggled the previous year the first week of practice in a new season brings with it a fresh batch of high hopes and optimism.
  Some of the storylines that fans will keep an eye on throughout 2014 include the following:
  • Richards’ quest for a state championship. The Bulldogs return a fair amount of talent from a team that finished second in Class 6A in 2013. Richards is the last area team to win a state title in football, having done so in 1989. Last year’s runner-up finish was the Bulldogs’ second since 2001.
  • Evergreen Park’s bid for a fourth straight playoff appearance. The Mustangs qualified for the postseason from 1992-95 under coach Brett Nelson and hope to tie that school record after going 8-4, 9-4 and 10-1 in Dan Hartman’s three coaching seasons. Hartman left to coach at Hinsdale Central and Ray Mankowski, Evergreen’s boys’ track coach and a former assistant at Mt. Carmel, has taken over the program.

Community sports news

Orland man records hole-in-one
  Eight was Mike Clemons’ lucky number on July 16.

  During a round of golf at Silver Lake Country Club’s Rolling Hills Course, the Orland Park man registered an ace on the 118-yard eighth hole. Appropriately, Clemons used an 8-iron to sink his shot, a feat witnessed by playing partner Cary Clemons, also of Orland.

  “I hit an 8-iron soft [that landed] in the middle of the green and rolled in for the hole-in-one,” Mike Clemons said. “I jumped with joy. I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life.”

St. Laurence seeking JV hockey coach
  St. Laurence is seeking an individual to serve as its junior-varsity hockey coach.
  Interested candidates must have previous high school coaching experience or an equivalent and must meet all AHAI and Archdiocesan requirements to be considered. St. Laurence does not presently have a varsity team, so the JV coach will head up the entire hockey program. The goal is to begin varsity play in a few years, with the JV coach being an integral part of the process.
  Applicants should send a resume and letter of interest to athletic director Tim Chandler at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Major attraction

  • Written by Ken Karrson

Former pro Sefcik takes over at Marist

  Teaching pros are commonplace at golf courses.

  They’re a little more foreign on high school baseball fields.
  Homewood-Flossmoor once had ex-major leaguer Steve Stanicek as its diamond boss. Now Marist has entrusted its varsity baseball program to another former pro.
  Kevin Sefcik, a 1993 St. Xavier University graduate who prepped at Andrew, spent part of seven seasons in Major League Baseball, most of those with the Philadelphia Phillies. His background shouldn’t hurt Marist when it comes to enrolling a greater number of male student-athletes.
  “It’s kind of cool,” Sefcik said, referring to his rare status as a major leaguer-turned-prep coach. “I hope that it gets kids interested in coming here.”
  Marist athletic director Bob Lim thinks Sefcik will be a definite asset.
  “The thing I like about Kevin is the fact that his major league career was made from him hustling and working hard and coming to work every day,” Lim said. “I think because of that he can relate more to these kids.”