Disabato: Koziol return to Brother Rice goes according to planEd Koziol, front row, watches his son, Ryan, bat for Providence at Brother Rice, Monday, April 30th, 2012 in Chicago, IL. | Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 30, 2012 10:45PM
Ironic, isn’t it?
On a day when a steady rain forced the cancellation of nearly every high school baseball game in the area, the one field that withstood Mother Nature’s wrath was Brother Rice’s.
Yes, the same Rice field Ed Koziol referred to as “by far the worst in the Catholic League.”
If Rice’s is the worst, I don’t know what that says about the rest of the league’s facilities that succumbed to Monday’s weather.
Initially, Koziol claimed Rice’s facilities were the reason his son Ryan was transferring schools for his senior season.
Granted, it took some hard work by the Rice coaching staff and players to whip the field into shape Monday. But by the time the first pitch was thrown at 5 p.m., the playing surface was stellar.
Ryan Koziol returned Monday to the field he spent three years starring as a Crusader for the first and likely last time as a high school student-athlete.
Only this time is was as a member of Providence and against a group of players he once called teammates.
Awkward? Like a reunion of the original members of Guns N Roses awkward.
The Koziols sat in the first row of the bleachers, and unless my eyes were deceiving me, a security guard/police officer stood with them before the game and sat directly behind them during the game.
If any of the hundred or so fans in attendance — or the Koziols for that matter — were expecting anything other than good baseball, they departed disappointed.
It was an exhibition in fine sportsmanship by both programs.
That’s what I’d expect from a Mark Smith-led Providence squad and a Johnny McCarthy-guided Rice team.
Smith is a class guy. McCarthy, in his first year at Rice, has shown that his priorities are in order.
Two years ago, on the very same field, a similar high-profile transfer scenario didn’t fare as well.
Ryan Gyrion transferred from St. Laurence to Brother Rice for his senior season. Like Koziol, Gyrion initially was ruled ineligible before an appeal to the IHSA granted him eligibility.
When Gyrion faced St. Laurence the first time, he had to dodge three fastballs targeted for his body. It was a blatant attempt at retaliation.
Ironically, Gyrion, who graduated in 2010, was in attendance Monday.
If there were any thoughts of similar nonsense Monday, McCarthy made sure to squelch it.
“We talked to the guys about not getting too emotional and to stay level-headed and classy,” McCarthy said. “Any time someone leaves you, there’s going to be emotion. I just told our guys to go out and play good baseball.”
For the most part, the Crusaders did. Providence, however, played better and chalked up a 5-1 victory.
Koziol, who batted second and played first base, had a part in the victory, lining a two-run single in the sixth to extend a 3-1 lead to 5-1.
Prior to that, he had struck out twice and hit into an inning-ending double play against senior lefty Sean McGrath.
Koziol, who was 4-3 with a 3.13 ERA last season for Rice, has yet to pitch for the Celtics. He reportedly has a sore arm. Watching him throw the ball from first base to shortstop after outs, it’s evident he’s unlikely to pitch any time soon.
“When I got to 0-and-2 on both strikeouts I got juiced up and threw fastballs as hard as I could,” McGrath said of the two Koziol whiffs. “But I eventually got him on curveballs. Some students asked me during school if I was going to hit him with a pitch. There’s no hatred at all from me.”
A contingent of Crusader Crazies in left-center field showered Koziol with boos his first at-bat and lobbed a few verbal jabs throughout the game. The cheers were noticeable during his outs and there weren’t many, if any, smiles between Koziol and his former teammates when they shook hands postgame.
Of course, the Crazies would have preferred a Rice victory. Providence wouldn’t oblige, mainly because of pitcher Zak Kutsulis. The Notre Dame-bound lefty was terrific.
“Zak Kutsulis is the story of the game,” McCarthy said. “I’m happy with our effort and approach.”
And I’m happy two baseball programs exhibited good sportsmanship