Mount Carmel carries memories to stateMount Carmel Caravan Vs Lincoln Way East Boys Baseball 3A Supersectional Standard Bank Stadium, Crestwood, illinois June 6, 2011 Mount Carmel starting pitcher No.30 Tyler Laurisch (right) and teammates celebrate the after winning the game.I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 9, 2011 6:00PM
Tony Morsovillo had a calming influence on Mount Carmel baseball coach Brian Hurry.
Morsovillo, an assistant coach for the Caravan prior to his death in December, wasn’t physically present in the Standard Bank Stadium dugout with Hurry as Monday’s Class 4A Supersectional against Lincoln-Way East intensified. But Hurry still heard his reassuring words.
“I was thinking about Tony the last two innings (of the Caravan’s 9-7 win),” Hurry said. “When things got tight, he’d always tell me ‘It’ll be all right, coach.’ Then he’d give me a little shrug. I had that in my mind (Monday night). I kept hearing him say ‘It’ll be all right’ over and over.”
Morsovillo died December 30, losing a battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He was 45.
Morsovillo’s initials, “TM”, have adorned Caravan baseball jerseys all season.
With the losses of Morsovillo and former Mount Carmel baseball player Stevie Bajenski, who died on August 9, 2009 from complications of heart surgery before his senior season, it’s been a tough 22 months for the Caravan baseball team.
Thus, advancing to the state final four — where Mount Carmel will meet Lyons in a Class 4A semifinal at 5 p.m. Friday at Joliet’s Silver Cross Field — was an even more emotional moment than normal Monday night.
“We did this for both of them,” said senior Jeff Boehm, Monday’s hero with a game-winning, two-run home run. “It means so much more to us because of them. We never stop thinking about them.”
Boehm then spotted Bajenski’s father, Mark, celebrating with the team.
“Mr. Bajenski is always here,” Boehm said. “We have Stevie’s jersey hanging up, we have his number (two) on the back of our hats. We’re always thinking about him and missing him.
“We have an empty seat in the dugout for coach (Morsovillo). People always wonder why it’s there when no one ever sits there. That’s his seat and we know he’s there.”
Boehm, who said he’s “trying to be a leader” for the Caravan, stepped up big-time in Monday’s win.
In addition to the two-run sixth-inning blast that gave his team the 9-7 edge it held on to, the left fielder had two singles and three runs and added a highlight-reel catch down the left field line in the second inning.
He said he had some extra supporters cheering him on.
“I think they both were here, definitely,” he said of Morsovillo and Bajenski. “Stevie and coach are always looking after us.”
Hurry has guided his team to the state finals for the third time in his career, adding to appearances in 2003 and 2005. This trip means a bit more.
“Our program has had to deal with some tough stuff,” he said. “You better believe Tony and Stevie are in our hearts every day, whether we’re playing a game or not.”
Though the players say the memories of Morsovillo and Bajenski have motivated them this season, Hurry said he’s never used it to fire them up.
“There haven’t been any ‘win one for Tony’ or ‘win one for Stevie’ type of speeches,” Hurry said. “That’d be unfair to put that burden on them. We’re just trying to do the best we can to honor them with our play and never forget either of them at the same time.”
So as the Caravan attempts to win its first state baseball title this weekend, there won’t be any emotional speeches about the duo that inspires the team every day.
There will, however, be a number on the back of hats, initials on the back of jerseys and one empty chair in the dugout.