Montini Catholic congratulates senior Max Kasallis for hiscommitment to join the University of Wisconsin - Parkside's baseball program in the fall of 2021. Max, who has been a member of the Bronco team since his freshman year, and has been playing the sport since he was four years old, is very excited about becoming a Ranger. He formally committed on National Sports Signing Day, last Wednesday, February 3rd. "I have had a passion for baseball for a very long time," says Max. "The way the program here at Montini has developed over the past two years has truly been something special and has really helped to grow my enthusiasm for the game." He credits his teammates for making his experience as a Bronco team member both enjoyable and memorable.
Max joined the Broncos as a freshman with realistic expectations. "I did not want to get way ahead of myself as a freshman, so I played up with the sophomore team - being a key contributor and an everyday player for them," he explained. It was during his sophomore year where he moved up to varsity level, stepping into a key role as pitcher. "I logged a lot of innings for us down the stretch in late April and May. I was lucky enough to get the privilege to take the mound in some beautiful venues such as the brand new Impact Field in Rosemont as well as the Kane County Cougars Stadium." Kasallis admits that it was a great challenge to be a younger member of the varsity team, which meant being 'on the big stage' with all eyes on him. "The crowning achievement for all of my time at Montini came during that season when we won the state Championship against Saint Laurence. That wasn’t only the top movement of my time at Montini so far, but one of the best of my life!"
Max is looking very forward to the next chapter of his baseball career at Parkside. "I had a lot of Division 3 schools and a couple Junior colleges reached out to me. Concordia of Wisconsin was my second choice. Loras College in Dubuque had been in play as I took a visit there. I visited Elmhurst College as well. Then, I had a lot of others reach out including Lawrence University, Culver-Stockton, Knox College, Bethel University, University of Pittsburgh Bradford and Pittsburgh at Greensburg and William Penn University." The process wasn't an easy one as Kasallis also entertained two junior colleges, Kaskaskia in Southern Illinois and Allegany College of Maryland, before his final decision on Parkside.
"Parkside, believe it or not, wasn’t really an option or a thought for me until just a couple days before Christmas," he explained. "My coach for travel, Jim Aducci, reached out to me and gave me a little bit of information about Parkside and their coach. He put me in contact with the coach and the next day I talked to him on the phone and set up a visit. In just those 20 minutes on the phone I couldn’t wait to make my visit. without Coach Aducci, I don’t think I would have ever become a Ranger. He has all the contacts in the world from the biggest Division 1 schools like perennial powerhouse Louisville - to any small midwest school you could imagine."
Max is thrilled to be joining two other athletes from his travel program who have also committed to Parkside. "Halfway through my visit there, I knew this was going to be the one. After talking with both coaches, we then discussed the financial side of things and that’s when my scholarship had been offered. I was so eager to finally accept it after I got it on Friday!" Max wanted to call first thing Saturday morning to accept the offer, but on his father's advice, he decided to wait until Monday. "Everything during my visit that day just felt right and I knew it was a fantastic fit for me." His parents, Joseph and Kimberly (Kellogg ) Kasallis '85, are very proud of his decision. "My parents are very happy and love my decision. I am not too far away from them but not too close either. Parkside is only about an hour and ten minutes from home. They will be able to watch most of my games and they know it isn’t going to be a huge trip to come see me!" Max will be majoring in Business at Parkside, with his decision greatly influenced by his own father's success as a business owner.
Currently, however, he is focusing on his last season as a Bronco. "I am just glad that we will be having a season as that wasn’t a sure thing a couple weeks ago," he says. "I want to enjoy it and not have a single regret. I am very hopeful that we can travel and do an annual spring trip. If we have a state playoff, I think we have the key players needed to make it back to Joliet and make another run to defend our title!"
It's very clear that Montini's historic state championship (Kasallis pictured far right after the big win) in 2019 will remain among Max's favorite memories as a Bronco. "It was something out of a movie in my opinion. You couldn’t write a script any better than how it happened. I’ll never forget after our state semi-final game against Dixon, we were walking up the steps at Route 66 Stadium. The Chicago Catholic League powerhouse team, Saint Rita, was walking down the steps, next to us, ready to play their game. Two of their players said 'Ha! good luck against Laurence,' as if we had no chance at all. I didn’t say anything back to them, but just continued to walk. We knew Laurence had two super stud players. One was ranked as the top player in the state of Illinois, and one was selected in the Major League Baseball draft just four days before this game." Despite the challenges, however, Max and his Broncos beat the Vikings (6-3) to secure the Class 3A championship and make Montini Catholic history as the first baseball team to win a state championship. "You couldn’t think of a more picture perfect ending to that game. Celebrating on the field afterward, watching the fireworks go off and diving on top of each other, it’s something you dream of as a kid. I remember just yelling and screaming on the bus ride back to Montini from Joliet. I was so wound up I was running back and forth filled with pure joy. The escort from Roosevelt back to Montini by the fire department was very special." Despite his elation, however, Max never lost perspective on the role his parents played in getting him to his magical moment. "I gave my mom and dad a huge hug and jumped into them as if I was a five year old kid all over again! Being a graduate of Montini, herself, made watching the game a whole lot more special for my mom (Kimberly Kellogg Kasallis '85). My dad and I have been to some spectacular sporting events in our lifetime, from Stanley Cup games to seeing the most famous athletes play some memorable games. I asked him the day after our win where it ranked among his all time favorites, and he said 'Number 1!' I think it would be very hard to top this with anything else."
Being a Bronco for four years has also made a huge impact on Max's life. "Montini is doing a good job of preparing me for college. They are showing me what college will be like and what to expect." He is also grateful for the people he credits with helping to propel him to this exciting stage in his life. "I would like to thank my teachers for pushing me and helping me become a better student. Thank you to all my teammates for making me a better player and for making the game of baseball more enjoyable. I love being around them. To my parents, I want to say, 'thank you for giving me the opportunity to attend Montini' - something not every kid is able to do. I also want to thank all of the coaching staff at Montini, Coach Eric Scott, Tyler Wells, Rick Dudzinski and Wally Weisenburger. I especially want to thank Coach Janor. I will never forget the one Friday night when I was in 8th grade attending a Montini football game with my friend. I had my travel team apparel on and Coach Janor had known me from previous camps. He said 'hello' to me as I walked in the stadium. He asked me how I was doing and how things were - just basic questions. Then I went to sit down, and I’ll never forget this, he came and invited me to the Stadium Club to watch the game (with other aspiring grade school athletes). From that night on I knew my time at Montini with him was going to be very special, and, in fact, it has been."
"We are so proud of Max," said Athletic Director, Tom Lentine. "He has been a great asset to Bronco athletics as well as our school community! We wish him the best next year - and can't wait to follow his baseball and academic careers. I have no doubt he will represent Montini well!"