Playing with a purpose is the teams foundation
From Pioneer Press – July 17, 2008
By DINO MACRO [email protected]
Championship teams are often a mixture of talented players combined with great chemistry.
Illinois Express/Team Rory has it — and much more.
This collection of 16-under baseball players has captured 5 consecutive tournament titles after going 5-0 in Rockford last weekend. This club (32-2 overall) has outstanding pitching, strong hitting — and a purpose.
Prior to the season, the team connected with the Rory David Deutsch Foundation. Rory Deutsch died 10 years ago at the age of 7 due to brain stem glioma, a type of pediatric brain tumor.
“Last year, we were just the Illinois Express,” noted head coach Dan Petrich. “Mitch Ruchim (father of player Kyle Ruchim) is good friends with Ross Deutsch (Rory’s father). Mitch asked me if we were willing to get involved with the foundation.”
Without hesitation, Illinois Express added Team Rory to its name. The club has garnered sponsors that contribute money based on total victories. To date, the club has raised close to $30,000.
“We have some of the best kids from different areas,” Petrich noted. “They all concentrate on baseball only. And rumor has it that Rory has something to do with it (15-game winning streak).”
When the club claimed a championship at Oakton Community College, Ross Deutsch was in the stands.
“I was handed the trophy, and my initial response was, ‘this is a kids’ trophy,'” Ross Deutsch said. “But all the kids were insistent that I hold it.”
Ross Deutsch, a Highland Park resident, has been touched by the club’s involvement in the Rory Deutsch Foundation.
“The fact they’ve accomplished this with Rory’s name on their jersey is great,” said Ross Deutsch, an assistant boys varsity basketball coach at Highland Park High School. “It’s teaching these kids there’s a purpose of something higher than themselves.”
On the field, the club has been blessed with superb pitching. The leaders of the group include Sean McGonagill (Riverside-Brookfield High School), Michael Donovan (Stevenson), Greg Kingery (Stevenson), Kyle Ruchim (Stevenson), Travis VanderWall (Lakes), Don Duschinsky (Elk Grove), Aaron Wright (Conant) and Kory Cutler (Stevenson).
VanderWall is arguably the club’s top hitter. The other hitting stars include Ruchim, Duschinsky, Brian Kaufman (Stevenson), Corey Lasky (Stevenson), Nolan Drake (Conant), Jeff Ferstein (Stevenson), Josh Lipnick (Highland Park), Josh Nevers (Deerfield), Brad Tivin (Stevenson), Chris Ripple (Maine East), Zach Rose (Stevenson) and Pat Wilson (Stevenson).
“These kids are just hitters,” Petrich said. “Nine of our 18 guys bat left-handed. We have the luxury of having two top players at every position.”
Next up for Illinois Express/Team Rory is the CABA World Series in Marietta, Ga., July 27-31.