Thursday, February 29, 2024

Three Chicago baseball players continue friendship, competition at MSU

April 19, 2018
Sophomore pinch runner Danny Gleaves (1) celebrates with his team after scoring the go ahead run on a passed ball during the game against Nebraska on April 8, 2018. The Spartans defeated the Cornhuskers, 5-3. (C.J. Weiss | The State News)
Sophomore pinch runner Danny Gleaves (1) celebrates with his team after scoring the go ahead run on a passed ball during the game against Nebraska on April 8, 2018. The Spartans defeated the Cornhuskers, 5-3. (C.J. Weiss | The State News) —

Junior third baseman Marty Bechina, sophomore center fielder Danny Gleaves and freshman shortstop Ryan King joined each other on the Spartan baseball team after facing each other during their high school careers.

Gleaves said Bechina is one of the primary reasons why he chose to come to MSU to continue his baseball career. 

During Bechina’s last season at St. Rita in the Southside Catholic high school league, Gleaves always gave a saying before every game — which still continues into college. 

“It’s a dream come true,” Gleaves said. “Our playoffs his senior year before every game, we told each other that it wasn’t going to be our last game together, and then we ended up having a last game together in high school. And then I told him I was coming here and I guess it became true.” 

Gleaves and Bechina played together for three years for the St. Rita Mustangs on the football and baseball teams. 

Their last game before their Spartan career ended at a loss to Mount Carmel High School in the Class 4A Sectional Final.

Bechina had no idea his fellow Mustang signed as a Spartan.

“It was awesome hearing that he was coming here,” Bechina said. “I actually had no idea. I heard it from someone else at first, so hearing him come here was cool because we were pretty close there and played football and baseball together.”

King played against both his current teammates during his freshman and sophomore years as a Brother Rice Crusader. 

He chose MSU after his dad brought him to a baseball camp, which he had to wake up at six in the morning for, which he admitted he was not too happy about. 

The Munster, Illinois, native drove more than 30 minutes to Chicago Catholic High School to play on its baseball team because of the competitiveness between the leagues and surprises around every corner. 

“All those teams in the Catholic league are kind of equal,” King said. “Anyone can win at any time, so that’s another reason why I went to Rice, because the competition is so good and I came here and it really prepared me for it.” 

A St. Rita and Chicago Brother Rice rivalry is nothing compared to the Yankees vs. Red Sox, but it is strong when it comes to the surrounding area.

One word comes to mind when Gleaves defines the rivalry.

“One-sided,” Gleaves said with a smile. “We’re better than them.” 

King argued the Crusaders are better, but still gave credit to the Mustangs on being a strong team to beat in their recent Summer State victory last season. 

The last time Gleaves and King faced off against each other, Brother Rice came out with a 4-3 win in the 4A Class Semifinal.

“At our regional, it probably rained for two days straight, and they put probably every single bag of turf that you could possibly buy on that field and we played that game,” King said. “It was a blast and we won, so sorry, Danny.”

The current sophomore recalls King as a tough player to play against in high school who always made it on base and made it in between the gap. 

While the rivalry is still strong, Bechina said it stayed on the field and once the game was over the players admitted their competition had strong players and moved forward.

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“We hate those guys,” Bechina said. “I know a ton of kids that go there. We hate them, but at the end of the day, you respect them. They’re good players over there. They do the right thing.” 

King was more surprised than Bechina about Gleaves signing with MSU. He always had fun playing against him during their high school careers and thought he was a quiet kid, but now is comfortable with the team and enjoys competing with him.

King said he's grateful for the two former Mustangs who helped him become comfortable with the team after they once played against each other. Now, they can call each other teammates.

“It’s a blast,” King said. “They welcomed me in, and I’m having so much fun. I can’t thank these two enough because at first I was nervous, I’m not going to lie, but they brought me in like I was part of their family and I just can’t thank them enough.”

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