Janor a baseball man to his core

  • Montini Catholic's Maximus Kasallis douses coach Rich Janor with the water bucket after won the Class 3A baseball championship game against St. Laurence 6-3 in Joliet last spring.

      Montini Catholic's Maximus Kasallis douses coach Rich Janor with the water bucket after won the Class 3A baseball championship game against St. Laurence 6-3 in Joliet last spring. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Updated 1/29/2020 9:12 PM

At a young age Montini baseball coach Rich Janor's future seemed clear.

He grew up on Harlem and Foster avenues in Chicago, "just a straight shot to Wrigley Field," he said.


With his father, Ed, Janor attended his first Cubs game when he was 5 or 6. He doesn't specifically recall how old he was, but he does remember that the Cubs played the Mets. Back then Cubs fans despised the Mets, maybe more than the Cardinals. Or White Sox.

Last Sunday Janor again was in the company of big leaguers, as an honoree at the Pitch & Hit Club of Chicago's sold-out 74th annual awards banquet at the Tinley Park Convention Center.

Having led Montini to the Class 3A baseball title last spring, Janor was named the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association Class 3A Coach of the Year. That makes perfect sense.

He also received the Pitch & Hit Club's Chicago Cubs State of Illinois High School Coach Award. Adam Unes, part of the Chicago Cubs' scouting department, presented the award.

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"One of the things I've always tried to do in high school baseball is to create a culture where individual accomplishments are secondary to team accomplishments," said Janor, of Naperville.

"I've been around long enough to know these sorts of awards are bestowed upon people based on the accomplishments of the team or the program."

Appropriately enough, he's written a book, "We Not Me -- In Sports, Business and Life," set for release this year. He's also a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association and in 2016 was appointed regional director for USA Baseball.

Even in his day job he's all baseball, with spring training events in Arizona and Florida among more than 150 annual outings he presents as founder and president of Game Day USA.


Before coming to Montini Janor led St. Francis to a 2013 Class 3A runner-up finish and a supersectional bid in 2011. At Montini beginning in 2015, his Broncos have won regional titles every year since.

During the Cubs' 2016 run to the World Series championship Janor drew local and even some national exposure dressed up, superhero-style, as "W Man." His support of the Cubs found its way into his Pitch & Hit Club acceptance speech.

"I definitely did share with the group that I grew up on the North Side and am a lifelong Cubs fan," he said. "I resisted the temptation to take any jab at the White Sox. I was up there between Ron Kittle and Harold Baines, so I figured that may not be the best idea with those guys sitting there."

Broncos unite

As well, retired Montini baseball coach Bill Leeberg was honored by his college alma mater, Lewis University, on Saturday. He was entered into the second class of Lewis' Academy of Coaches.

A student in Montini's first graduating class in 1970, after playing ball for legendary Gordie Gillespie at Lewis and graduating in 1974 Leeberg returned to Montini, taking over the baseball program in 1978. Over 33 seasons his teams went 732-288 with 12 conference titles, 11 regionals and two state trophies.

In 1995, more than a decade before his retirement, Leeberg was inducted into the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Fans collided

Glenbard East's Saturday four-game boys basketball exhibition, the When Sides Collide Shootout, drew the most people Rams athletic director D'Wayne Bates had ever seen fill the gym.

By the second game, Evanston against Bloom, more than 1,500 fans filled the first-level stands and spilled into the second-level bleachers. For the next game, Rolling Meadows-Fenwick, the bleachers were full as well.

Bates said the crowd, estimated at more than 2,200 people, stayed well into the Simeon-Notre Dame nightcap.

Concessions sold out of hot dogs, pizza, popcorn, pop and water, Bates said, "which normally only happens at a football game."



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