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Sullivan High School Baseball Team Gives New Meaning to Raw Talent

By Justin Breen | June 4, 2013 7:20am | Updated on June 4, 2013 8:40pm
 The Sullivan High School baseball team finds interesting ways to field a team each season. Many of its players have never played the game before. Some of them didn't even know baseball existed.
Sullivan Baseball Team
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ROGERS PARK — Subash Darjee is 17 years old and had never thrown a baseball before last week.

"My arm hurt afterward," Darjee said.

But the Sullivan High School sophomore might be a starter on the Tigers' varsity baseball team next season.

Darjee, whose family moved to Chicago's North Side from Nepal in 2010, is a good example of how Sullivan fields a team every season. The Tigers somehow find players with little or no experience and put a respectable team on the field.

"If we need you, you'll play," said junior catcher Devante Taylor, who has started on varsity since his freshman year despite never playing before high school. "I couldn't catch a ball the first day I ever played, and all of a sudden I was the varsity catcher."

Taylor said he has learned a great deal over the last three seasons. This past campaign, which ended May 23, he helped Sullivan finish with an 8-12 record.

The eight wins were more than seventh-year Tigers coach Greg Zagorski compiled in his first six seasons combined.

"If I go back to my first year as head coach, I'd be happy if we scored or if we held a team to under 10 runs," said Zagorski, 33, a DePaul University graduate and Rogers Park resident. "This year, that type of mindset wasn't good enough, and these kids listen and they learn."

Even though Sullivan's season was officially over last week, Zagorski, Taylor and a few other players were introducing the game to Darjee and three other prospects Wednesday.

The quartet of newcomers included sophomores Sanjay Pradhan and Megh Gajmer — both natives of Nepal — and sophomore Gay Moo, who's from Thailand. Zagorski said the Nepali players found their way to him through Sullivan math and English Language Learner teacher Anil Rimal, who's also from the Himalayan country.

"A lot of those kids are brand new to the country," Zagorski said. "They want to do things like play baseball, but they don’t even know how to go about asking."

Like Darjee, the three other foreign students had never played baseball before, although all four had backgrounds in cricket.

On Wednesday, "I tried to hit the ball a lot but only hit it one or two times," said Moo, who even had trouble hitting off a tee.

But Taylor and junior second baseman Tobi Akinsanya said the four players showed a great deal of "potential." Akinsanya said Darjee already has a stronger arm than some of the current varsity Tigers.

"It was more than I expected," said Akinsanya, who's originally from Nigeria. "My goal for them is I hope they learn more and they become better than I am."

The Tigers likely will need some of the potential players to decide to compete next season.

Zagorski said six of the 12 team members from 2013 are graduating.

Gajmer doesn't know if he'll follow through and suit up for the Tigers in 2014.

But he said Wednesday was a nice start to a possible baseball career.

"Everyone helped me, and I did my best," he said.