Goss: Tom McGrath’s kids never forget St. Ray’s
By Dick Goss email@example.com December 31, 2012 7:42PM
Joliet Catholic's Alex Voitik (3) attempts to tag Lemont's Cody Caballero (26). | File photo
Updated: February 2, 2013 6:03AM
Joliet Catholic baseball coach Jared Voss said something during the November National Letter of Intent signing day that struck a chord.
“Alex coaches St. Ray’s in the fall, too.”
Hilltoppers senior catcher Alex Voitik, who signed that day to continue his baseball life at Holy Cross, played ball for 15-year coach Tom McGrath at St. Raymond Grade School. They have become close friends, even though Voitik is a teenager and McGrath is 78 years old.
“My sixth-grade year, I made the team,” Voitik said. “That was great for me, and Tom McGrath did nothing but help me.
“After eighth-grade year, Tom and I got closer, and I started coming to every practice. He lets me do a lot.”
“The only time Alex misses is when he’s playing baseball,” McGrath said.
What I also learned, though, is that Voitik is not the Lone Ranger.
McGrath said the practice of former St. Ray’s players coming back to help with the fall season during their high school years began with Chris Vidano and Mark Wallace in 1999 and has included Dan Miller, John Kiernan, Kevin Campbell, Zach Meditz, Mike Dow, Eric Hibler, the late Andrew Giaudrone, Jake Batusich, Dan Hibler, Matt Waznis, Andrew Cecchi, John Gerl, Cal Placher, current Joliet West ace pitcher Jake Herron and the Chignoli brothers, Anthony, John, Joe and Matt.
Many of them achieved success in high school and beyond, but they don’t forget their roots.
“The reason they do it is to help me out, and because they are proud of their school and love baseball,” McGrath said. “It makes me feel good that they must have had fun playing for us and enjoyed their school.
“And at my age, I welcome the help.”
Voitik suggested “the grade-school kids are more comfortable with kids like us helping coach them than they might be with other adults. I enjoyed having the high school kids at our practices when I was in grade school.”
St. Ray’s won IESA state titles under McGrath in 2000 and ’04, was second three times and reached the quarterfinals three other times. That sort of success is regularly reported.
However, these are kids who become much more than wins and losses can measure.