Wauconda grad signs deal with Los Angeles Dodgers
Kevin Malisheski has to make one final trip back to Illinois State University, and then the journey of a lifetime starts for the recent Wauconda graduate.
"I got half my stuff there," said Malisheski, who on Sunday signed a professional baseball contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers selected the athletic right-handed pitcher in the 38th round of last month's amateur draft.
Malisheski, who is expected to head to instructional ball in Arizona this week, verbally committed to ISU last summer and signed a letter of intent to play for the Redbirds during his senior year. Figuring he would not sign with the Dodgers, he had been getting a head start on college life by taking two classes at ISU. Since early June, he had been driving down to Bloomington early in the week, living in a dorm and coming home on weekends.
"I'm actually like a week short of 3 credit hours," Malisheski said. "I really like it down there. I've met all the recruits and my future teammates. It was tough leaving."
The Dodgers' aggressive pursuit of him made his decision difficult. Since high school ended, Malisheski had been pitching for the Bloomington Bobcats college team and, locally, the Athletic Barn.
"Ever since I pitched against St. Viator (in the sectional semifinals), (the Dodgers) have been at every game," Malisheski said. "Last week (for a game at Hersey), it was two of the higher-up (scouts). I had never seen or met them before."
After one final visit by a Dodgers scout to Malisheski's home last Friday, the ball was in the pitcher's hand. Malisheski said he decided Saturday night to accept the Dodgers' offer. He signed for $265,000, which does not include $120,000 set aside for college.
"It was tough to pass up," Malisheski said. "I kept going back and forth."
Before he signed, he called his Illinois State coaches.
"I really didn't want to let my ISU coaches down," Malisheski said. "They were behind me 100 percent. Which was nice. I made a bunch of friends down there already. I didn't want to leave them. But I got to do what's best for me sometimes."
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Malisheski might have dropped off some major league teams' radar after he tore his ACL and meniscus in the Wauconda football team's playoff loss to Montini last fall. He missed the first half of the baseball season but got back on the mound by early May -- just shy of six months from his reconstructive knee surgery -- and pitched effectively down the stretch.
Few teams contacted him, however. He said he filled out questionnaires for the Dodgers, White Sox, Royals, Rays, Reds and Blue Jays.
"I knew I was going to be taken. (The Dodgers) were hinting at it," Malisheski said. "I knew it was going to be late. They kept saying, 'No one knows about you, so we're going to take you later on in the draft and try to get some good players before you, too, so we can stock up.' It all worked out. Some people didn't sign. They had a bunch of money and wanted to offer some of it to me."
Malisheski played three varsity sports -- football, basketball and baseball -- as a sophomore. He was the varsity football team's starting quarterback the last three years. As the ace of the baseball team his junior year, he led the Bulldogs to a sectional championship. Despite the late start to his senior season, he pitched the Bulldogs to the North Suburban Conference championship.
"When I was recovering from my ACL," Malisheski said, "I was like, 'Wow, I'm throwing harder this year. I'm locating better.' "
So now the strong-armed kid, who once dreamed of playing in the NFL, has a new focus.
"I was mad I never got the opportunity to play college football," Malisheski said. "I didn't really get any interest. But once I got interest from baseball schools, I knew that was the right path to take."
On Sunday, Mike Malisheski searched the suburbs looking for a store to buy a Dodgers cap for his son. Mike and his wife Patti are from Cleveland, and that's where their youngest son has his sports loyalties.
"Big Cleveland (Indians) and Ohio State fan," Kevin Malisheski said. "It'll be tough (joking): I got to be a Dodgers fan now."