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In Remembrance

 

Coach Tony Morsvillo

A GOODBYE TO TONY MORSOVILLO
By Mike Nieto Times Columnist
Posted: Thursday, January 6, 2011 10:00 pm

Mount Carmel baseball coach Brian Hurry could not have put it any better. "Our world lost a great man," Hurry said. "There is no other way to describe Tony Morsovillo." Tony Morsovillo died Dec. 30, losing his battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, commonly referred to as ALS but better known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. The Mount Carmel assistant baseball coach was 45 years old and left behind a wife, Joanne, and three children, Rebecca, John and Tony, who is a senior at Mount Carmel.
If you ever met Tony, you knew he was about the kids. Whether it was an assistant baseball coach at Mount Carmel, or East Side Little League or football at Annunciata Grammar School, Morsovillo was about working with the kids and trying to make them better.

"Joanne says Tony was her 'go-to guy,' well I think Tony was that for a lot of people, myself included," Hurry said. "Whatever you needed, if Tony could do it, especially if it was to help another kid, he would do it -- no questions asked."

Tony Morsovillo is what things used to be like. A neighborhood guy who Hurry said lived in Roseland when he was younger, then his family moved to the East Side.

"Tony was a great husband, father, friend and coach," Hurry said. "No matter how your day was going, Tony could put you in a good mood."

Even though things were not so good with him. He never let on, though he knew he would eventually lose his battle.

When I talked to him last spring, Morsovillo talked about having good days and bad days, but he was more concerned about the Caravan baseball team. He loved the game and he loved talking sports. He also loved asking people how they were doing. Tony was interested in you as a person and he always could come up with a good line.

"I could always count on him, whether it was batting practice before a game or just making sure everything was in order," Hurry said. "Sometimes, it was just advice that I asked for. Tony cared about people."

It showed as the lines at Elwood Chapel were down 112th Street and Ewing Avenue. It looked like a shift change in another era at Republic Steel or United States Steel's South Works. All those people whose lives he touched came to pay their respects to a man who exemplified the East Side. Hard work and family values.

That may sound like a simple description of Tony, but he was not a complicated man. He loved his family and the simple things in life.

"I never saw a line so long," Hurry said. "They all had tears and that had stories to tell about what a great person he was."

I think everyone will agree that knowing Tony Morsovillo made their lives a little bit better.
This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at mike.nieto@nwi.com.

Read more: http://www.nwitimes.com/sports/columnists/mike-nieto/article_b306efec-bd99-51a2-b2a0-0b734bee76c5.html#ixzz1oMzu2NGd

STEVEN BAJENSKI '10

Steven Michael Bajenski was born on May 8th, 1992, a birthday he would share with his mother Karen. He came into this world, surrounded with friends and family filled with excitement and joy. The buzz he generated would set the tone as to how he would lead his life. Steven was destined to make a difference to all he encountered and leave a lasting impact wherever he went.
However, few knew at that point how truly of a special gift the only son of Mark and Karen Bajenski would turn out to be. From day one and every single day for the next 17 + years, Steven Bajenski was a fighter. He was born w/an abnormal aortic valve, which required open heart surgery at 10 weeks old. He fought hard & came out of that surgery like a champ and never looked back. Even as an infant he had that “it” factor inside him. Nothing could ever stand in his way.

Steven spent his childhood growing up in Mokena, attending all of the local public grade schools, Mokena Elementary/Intermediate/Jr High. It was during these years that his love for athletics began. Stevie stayed active in baseball, basketball & football. Despite being smaller in physical stature and being born with a heart defect, he never let this deter him from playing sports. In fact, his passion was growing stronger then most young men his age because he had to be more determined and work harder to achieve what came easier to others. It was in 7th grade, Stevie’s character would be tested once again. He was diagnosed with narrowing of the valve and told he had to give up participating in basketball and football. While this latest set back saddened him to certain degree, he took advantage of the situation and saw this an his opportunity to get better in the game he truly loved, baseball. He now would come to realize what his family had seen in him since the age of 4 years old when we would beg his mom to throw pitch after pitch to him, because his dad was @ work & his older sister threw (as Steve said)…stupid. The family knew Steve was destined to be a ballplayer.

Stevie’s Mokena baseball career was spent playing for his Dad in the Mokena Little league for the Mokena Thunder and travel for the Lincolnway Blue Demons. Here, he learned that when you’re small in stature, you need to be big in brains. Stevie was a student of the game. He was easy to coach & eager to learn. When they crossed the white lines onto the field they were player and coach. Off the field they were not only father and son, but best friends as well. Their bond was strong and it grew because of the game of baseball. They shared wins & losses. But, most importantly, they shared time together creating memories that will never be forgotten. It was also around this time when Stevie became known as Budgie. Always undersized, Stevie knew that if he was going to be successful and play at the next level, he would need to be fundamentally sound, do the little things well & outwork everyone (get better everyday). He loved this game and figured the only way to get better is to play against the best competition.
In the Spring of 2006, Stevie made the long trek from Mokena to Mount Carmel High School. Many questioned his decision to travel such a long distance to go to school when he was surrounded with many great options much closer to home. The baseball program (Team concept), academics & history all played a significant role in his decision process. He became a 3rd generation Bajenski to attend Mt. Carmel (Grandfather Lenny ’57 grad and his Dad Mark ’79). Stevie loved every minute of his time there. The family atmosphere, the diversity, the academic challenges presented to him, and the overall experience of molding himself into a man of great character made it the right choice for him. Through his hard work and dedication Stevie was a standout in the classroom. Going into his senior year, he was ranked #4 in his graduating class with a 4.7 GPA on a 4.0 scale and had just scored a 29 on his ACT. With a resume such as this, Stevie made a name for himself in the classroom, but it would be on the baseball field where he his legend would be made. During his high school years baseball was divided into two areas. The Mount Carmel Caravan and The Illinois Sparks would both be proud to call him theirs.
 
In the summer of 2007, he joined the Illinois Sparks. He loved everything about being a Spark. The team provided him with a haven worthy enough to serve the biggest baseball enthusiast and give a player with a dream a chance to realize it. It was a perfect match. He loved the facility/dome. Where else would he get the opportunity to put in hours and hours of baseball work each week surrounded by teammates with the same passion as his. What proved to be most valuable was the atmosphere and the friends it afforded him the opportunity to meet. These guys shared his love of the game and his goal to always get better. The fact that all the players were good, drove him to put out his best effort everyday. It provided him with the next challenge he needed. It allowed him to face adversity like he always did…with a smile on his face. He had a dream and he wasn’t going to let anyone or anything stand in his way of achieving it. Stevie loved everything about his Sparks experience, especially the coaches. These were guys that were all baseball people and that he knew would make him better. Like Carmel, the Sparks were a perfect fit. He even loved the schedule, because he always looked forward playing the best teams in the country. Stevie knew that to be the best, you have to beat the best.

While Stevie played for the Sparks in the summer, the spring time was all about the Caravan. During his freshman and sophomore years he became a leader to his teammates and received the admiration of his coaches because as Sophomore Coach Bob Kujawa said, “He was the only player that played the game the right way every time out and was all about the team.” Each of his first two years the name Bajenski was penciled into the lineup card next to 2B day in and day out. Not because he was given preferential treatment, but because any time another player worked at his game enough to get into a position to compete for the spot, Stevie would simply just out work him and get farther ahead. He believed that it was his spot to lose and you were not going to get it. He was chasing his dream and had no intention of being denied.

According to Varsity Head Coach Brian Hurry, “He was an extremely hard working kid, who earned everything he got both academically in the classroom & athletically on the baseball field”. He was smart enough to understand that when you’re small in stature, you need to be big on brains. Stevie always was a student of the game, learning the ins and outs of the game of baseball. Always undersized, he knew if he was going to be successful and play at the next level, he would need to be fundamentally sound, do all the little things well and outwork everyone (get better everyday). While he was battling each and everyday on the field, throughout high school he continued to battle

off the field as well. After a successful freshman year he was diagnosed with more blockage in the valve. Stevie underwent a successful Aortic Valve Ballooning and in 3 weeks he was back to baseball, better than ever. Yet again in January 2009 more challenges presented themselves. Steve was notified that his Aortic Valve was narrowing & another Ballooning procedure would need to take place. He had the procedure done, but unfortunately it didn’t work as well as the doctor’s had hoped. The doctor’s told the Bajenski family that surgery was required and would need to happen relatively quickly. Stevie had asked if it could be put the surgery off until after his Junior year of high school season and his summer Sparks season because he was on a mission. He had a job to do and a dream to chase. The surgeon agreed and Stevie went back to work to make sure that he would be the starting 2B for his Caravan baseball team. His unrelenting work ethic paid off and for the third time in three years, when his Caravan team took the field he got the starting nod.

The 2009 Caravan and Sparks seasons were a success, but in Steve’s mind it wasn’t enough. There was only one way to reach his goals and he wouldn’t stop until he got there. Decisions were made and he was to undergo open-heart surgery once again in late July. Now, they say everything happens for a reason and while we may never truly understand why God called Stevie to start at second base for his team, all who knew Stevie are left to be far better people for having known him and called him a friend, a brother, a son, a grandson, a teammate, a player, an inspiration, an idol, a hero, or a role model. Steven was a man of integrity and character that could light up the room with his smile. He was an impact player in the game of life. He lived a lifetime in his 17 short years and had a true passion for life, which centered around his love for family, friends, MC and baseball. Although his time with us wasn’t long enough, he touched thousands of lives. Stevie taught us that each day is a gift. Be happy, be thankful, & live each day to the fullest. Only worry about what you can control, not what you cannot. Play the cards dealt to you without complaint. Do it the right way & you’ll never have any regrets. View adversity as merely another challenge to overcome. Don’t ever back down. Always follow the golden rule. Be a team player. Make a difference everyday!

Do it Stevie’s Way.

Kevin Kennelly '12

A Friend To Many. From an early age, Kennelly was an active and outgoing child. His mother recalled how he learned to ride a bicycle by the age of two, still in diapers and enjoying a cherished pacifier. As he grew older, he developed an eclectic taste in music and played the fiddle for nine years and loved playing alongside his father.
“He had so much self-confidence. He was so comfortable in his own skin,” Jean said.
He enjoyed fishing and parading his friends through local golf courses, and he told his family and friends that his career ambition was to work with his hands.
“He was the fix-it guy. He just knew everything,” said his close friend and neighbor Brandon Haggerty.

Kennelly loved cars. After Mass every Sunday, the family dined at Bialy’s Café, the former Hamburger Hotline, on the corner of 95th Street and California Avenue in Evergreen Park. Kevin always ordered a Coke, chili and the “No. 2” breakfast. He’d usually break out a car magazine and fascinate his mother by identifying and describing passing vehicles on the street.
“I would say, ‘How do you know all this? You don’t even read the cereal box,” his mother said.
Kevin’s real passion was baseball. His parents put him through camp after camp and were thrilled when he made the Mt. Carmel varsity.

“We could have sent him to college with the money we spent on pitching lessons,” Jean said.
He was a member of the Mt. Carmel baseball team that recently finished fourth in the Class 4A state tournament. He also played soccer for the Caravan.

Kennelly’s death is the third tragedy to hit the Mt. Carmel baseball program in the last two years. Steven Bajenski died from complications of heart surgery in August of 2009, and assistant Coach Tony Morsovillo passed away from Lou Gehrig’s disease last December.
“Kevin would do anything for any of his teammates or friends,” said Mt. Carmel baseball Coach Brian Hurry. “He certainly wasn’t a kid who would look for a fight. This is just absurd. We are all devastated.”

Mount Carmel Assistant Coach Mike Himes called Kevin the nicest kid on the team, one who would do anything the coaching staff asked of him. Hurry echoed those sentiments.
“Kevin was the ultimate team player. He had a great personality,” said Hurry. “Kevin was a great kid from a great family who was one of the most popular players on the team. It was all about the team for Kevin. It was obvious that he had a ball being out there, and he truly loved baseball. Baseball is supposed to be fun, and it was for Kevin. It was refreshing to be around a kid like that.”

Kennelly was a crafty pitcher who was anticipating a big role on the team in his senior year, and he had recently developed a nifty slider.

“His friends said he didn’t throw that hard, but he threw a lot of junk that most people found hard to hit,” said his uncle, Joe Kennelly.

There’s a long line of devoted Mount Carmel men in the Kennelly Family. Kevin’s father and grandfather graduated from Mount Carmel. Kevin Sr. coaches the Mount Carmel rugby team, but he said his son was never pushed to join the Caravan.

“All of his friends from St. Barnabas went there. That class must have had a dozen of them, and they were all his pals,” Kevin Sr. said.

While at St. Barnabas, his son pleaded to not have to attend a high school fair. His mind, according to his mother, was already set on a certain school.

“He came down from his shower wearing his Mount Carmel hat, his brown Mt. Carmel sweatshirt and Mount Carmel sweatpants and said ‘OK, Dad, let’s go talk to [St. Ignatius College Prep].’”
Kevin was also passionate about his friends, McCullagh said.

“That’s what he lived for. Jean sometimes wanted to spend more time with him; but he wanted to spend time with his friends, and that’s the way it should be even though he was an only child. Jean always says you can never give a child too much love, and she couldn’t give him enough. And he gave it back.”

Kevin’s close friend Kristen Meyer, who attended preschool, kindergarten and elementary school with him, reflected on how he could let bygones be and would gladly turn a new page.
“He wouldn’t hold a grudge about anyone,” Meyer said. “Not too long ago, we got into a little argument. It was only a few hours later when he was saying, ‘Hey, you want to meet up and get something to eat?’”

Like any teen, Kevin had his quirks. According to his friends Brandon Haggerty and Jack O’Connell, he could be picky about who used his air hockey table or get perturbed if someone stole a drink off his pop—but that was part of his lovable character.

Kevin’s friends are now left with memories of him and a terrible Fourth of July.
Support the Kevin Kennelly Scholarship Fund

Order your Mount Carmel baseball t-shirts in memory of Kevin Kennelly and support the scholarship fund in his name.

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