Even as a lifelong baseball player, Justin Kovalsky is still recording career firsts on the diamond.
This summer is his first time playing in a collegiate summer league. The Bolingbrook High School graduate who is getting set to start his junior year at Benedictine University is playing with the Joliet Admirals of the Midwest Collegiate League.
"This is my first year doing it, and it's just been a learning experience, getting used to new people," Kovalsky said. "It's been a great experience. It's been fun."
Kovalsky, who started his high school career at Joliet Catholic before transferring to Bolingbrook, plays catcher, one of the most demanding positions on the field. He is taking advantage of his ample playing time this summer to further enhance his skills.
"I'm just trying to work on making sure I keep everything in front of me and get any guy I can, second, third, first, wherever," he said. "Everything is just learning. Baseball is a craft and you just have to learn and have fun."
Once the summer hits, collegiate players scatter around the country playing in various summer leagues. The Cape Cod League in Massachusetts and the Northwoods League in the upper Midwest are two of the more well-known collegiate summer leagues, but the MCL features its fair share of talent from NCAA Division I programs.
One of those D-I players is Kovalsky's Admirals teammate Steve Waldrop, who played with Kovalsky at Bolingbrook before continuing on at Morehead State in Kentucky. This summer has proven to be a reunion of sorts for the former teammates.
"I love Steve," Kovalsky said. "We both went to Bolingbrook together. I've always loved him. He's always been a great pitcher and a great guy."
Waldrop was on the roster at Morehead State as a freshman this spring, but took a redshirt year and did not see any action. Conversely, Kovalsky was one of the Eagles' leading hitters, batting .306 with 15 runs scored and 12 RBIs in 24 games played as he shared catching duties.
Sean Osborne, an assistant coach at Benedictine and head coach of the DuPage County Hounds of the MCL, helped Kovalsky land a roster spot with the Admirals. Playing in the league has worked out pretty well so far – Kovalsky played in the MCL All-Star game on July 9. As of July 14, Kovalsky was second on the team with a .313 average and was thoroughly enjoying his summer experience.
"I've been starting lot more lately since I made the all-star team, so it's been a great time," Kovalsky said. "I love playing baseball so I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world."