JOLIET – As one of the last of the individuals who have been participating in the Joliet Park District’s City Softball Tournament since the 1970s, Dave Catalani understands all too well that the times definitely have changed for the once very popular competition.
The number of teams in the Open Division was a far cry from how many squads used to participate, and even the overall divisions are down to just three, with two recreational divisions joining the Open Division. In 2017, there was no open tournament.
But he’s proud that one of the constants throughout the years still is going strong, and that’s the team he’s been fortunate to be with and to serve as a coach, which was long referred to as Ken’s Beverage, but now going by the company’s initials, KBI.
The local family-owned-and-operated business provides sales, service and installation of beverage equipment. It began locally and since has expanded nationwide. Catalani appreciates the support that Ken Reimer, the owner of Ken’s Beverage Inc., has provided by sponsoring the team. This was the 16th time that Ken’s Beverage, or KBI, won the Open Division title.
“Ken’s been sponsoring me in the Joliet Park District tournament for 28 years, which has got to be one of the longest streaks running,” said Catalani, who played for about 20 years and has served primarily as a full-time coach since the early 1990s. “The size of the tournament has nothing to do with the Park District, it’s just got to do with the way that these kids are and that they have other things to do.
“Back in the day, there were so many competitive teams and I’d carry 13 players the whole year, and I’ll bet that I had 12 of those at every game. Now you have to have 20 to make sure that you get 10. I love the game, but it’s kind of wearing on me and I don’t know how longer I can do it. But don’t get me wrong, there’s a handful of committed people that are still left.”
KBI picked up 12-10 and 22-10 victories in its first two games to assure itself a spot in the open finals against Jolly Yetis. After falling, 31-23, in the first matchup against that squad, KBI captured a 23-19 victory in the final game to pick up another title.
Some of KBI’s leaders in the tournament were James “Tank” Kersten, still playing at 47 and who batted .642. Chuck Peters led the squad with a .722 average and Brian McNair did most of the pitching and had a .700 average.
Other top KBI hitters were Anthony Gonzalez, who hit .666, and Doug Gassman and Eddie West, who both had .643 averages.
Two other champions also were crowned in the City Tournament. They were KD/ATWL in the Rec E Division and The Crowd in the Red D Division.