From the editor
On occasion, Tim Kalita will receive an autograph request sent via snail mail to his home in Chicago. He finds it particularly odd, considering he’s not really anyone famous. He’s not a well-known actor or musician. His job isn’t very fascinating – he trades agricultural commodity futures at the Chicago Board of Trade. He doesn’t live a glamour-filled life – he’s married to his high school sweetheart with a child on the way in February. But it’s something that the former Oak Parker accomplished in his past that sets him apart from others.
Kalita once played professional baseball, as did his younger brother, Ryan, who had a two-season stint in the Cubs organization.
Most kids only have the daydream of playing baseball at the highest level, with and against the best. For Kalita, the dream came true in 1999 when he was drafted by the Detroit Tigers. The left-handed pitcher spent six seasons in the minor leagues, hitting his peak in 2001 where he won 15 games and had an ERA of 3.83 in Double-A ball. Kalita made it as far as Triple-A before his numbers went south, and it was time to find other means of employment.
I recently caught up with the former Huskie who played under OPRF’s legendary coach Jack Kaiser from 1992-96 before heading to Notre Dame and then to the Tigers organization. He’s now 31 years old and married to River Forest native Valerie Simone, also a former athlete at OPRF. The couple attended the junior prom together.
What do you think you gained from the experience of playing pro ball?
“I would say my best moment was being placed on the [Detroit Tigers’] 40-man roster. As far as what I gained, I thought the opportunity to see so much of the country and meet people from all over was pretty important, but I am very aware of the appreciation for my friends and family that I gained as I spent so much time away from them. Though it is certainly possible, the transient nature of professional baseball is not terribly conducive to forming deep and lasting friendships.”
Who do you think was your greatest influence while playing ball in Oak Park?
“Well, when I was 12 and in my second year of Bronco, my coach Mr. McNally – I’m unsure of his first name. John? – taught me a curveball that, with some evolution through the years, I basically used for my career. I also identify that year as a point in time where I began to pitch instead of throw. But all of my coaches in the Oak Park Youth Baseball program brought a sense of urgency to the practices and games that I feel is really important.
“Even back when I was young, I could see the lack of organization and seriousness in other teams. Obviously we had fun, but the program overall was very good about instilling a work ethic and teaching us how to compete. It reminds me of people who dress up when they work from home to ensure that they maintain a certain focus. In the same vein, even when we were practicing, we hustled at all times.”
Even though you’ve been out of baseball for seven years, do you oblige those autograph seekers?