Winnetka, Sports

The Big Time: New Trier downs Montini on home field of Chicago White Sox

Guaranteed Rate Field is where Rick Hahn goes to work every day as the White Sox general manager.

But he knows it’s also the field of dreams for so many young ballplayers, like his son Charlie.

“I’ve been working in (baseball) for over two decades,” Rick Hahn said Monday night, April 24, after New Trier beat Montini 3-1 at Guaranteed Rate Field. “So it’s really easy for me to get sort of jaded and take things for granted.

“I happened to be out here when the New Trier team arrived … and just seeing the looks on some of the kids’ faces as they walked onto a big-league field for the first time, it sort of helped me recapture some of that joy and innocence and what this game is supposed to be all about.”

Trevs senior Brenden Stressler settles under a fly ball for the game-clinching out in the seventh inning.

It was a magic night for Charlie Hahn and his teammates too.

Charlie, a senior, was one of six pitchers used by the Trevians and the only one to work more than one inning. He pitched the second and third, retiring six of the seven batters he faced, striking out three and walking one.

“I always love coming out here,” Charlie said. “It’s just really awesome to play with my friends out here for just one time. It was really something special I’ll always remember.”

The game has been in the works since last September when Rick Hahn pitched the idea. Longtime Trevians coach Mike Napoleon was just glad his team hadn’t filled the date on its schedule yet.

New Trier coach Mike Napoleon (center) is all smiles in the post-game huddle for the victorious Trevians.

The opening gave Napoleon the chance to do something new in a 41-year coaching career: lead a team at the Sox ballpark.

“The fun part was batting practice before the game, infield practice before the game,” Napoleon said. “There’s a lot of logistics stuff I had to do, but it was well worth it. … It was great for the kids, I mean this is an experience I’ll never forget. They’ll tell their kids someday and I think that’s the coolest part of it.”

Probably the coolest part for junior shortstop James Novakovic was driving a ball to the gap in left-center in the bottom of the fifth. His RBI double broke a scoreless tie.

That just made a great night even better for Novakovic.

“It’s absolutely incredible,” he said of the chance to play on a big-league field. “It’s like a dream come true.”

Junior James Novakovic rounds third base to score the eventual game-winning run for New Trier.

Not to say there weren’t some nerves associated with the opportunity.

“No doubt,” Novakovic said. “When you first walk out, run out to the field to take your position, you’re taking ground balls (thinking), ‘Oh God, everyone’s watching me. I gotta make a play.’ But once you settled in it was unbelievable.”

Novakovic later scored on an RBI single by senior DH Dylan Mayer. Sophomore first baseman Trey Meyers drove in the third run of the inning with a single, and New Trier’s pitchers did the rest.

Junior Justin Wood started and worked one scoreless inning. Charlie Hahn’s work in the second and third was followed by one inning each from Thomas Hartman, Aidan Nicholson, Luke Richker and Trevor Byrnes.

Montini scored its run in the seventh on three singles.

John Hatsis follows through after delivering a hit for New Trier.

Napoleon made a point of playing everyone who was available.

“Every position player played in the game,” he said, “The only guys that didn’t play were the guys who couldn’t pitch (because of IHSA pitch-count rules).”

But all the Trevians had a night to remember.

“It’s been on everyone’s radar since the season started,” Novakovic said. “‘Guaranteed Rate’s coming up in a week, in a month.’ It was something to look forward to all season. Now we’re here and it’s unbelievable.”

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Mike Clark

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