Future Kenosha Softball Hall of Famer? : Adam Kavalauskas
A Modern Age Star With A Golden Age Personality
**Note to all…Adam obviously created the bells and whistles of this post and it looks pretty amazing. DO NOT expect this every time because I am a technological toddler compared to him. As I told him, don’t matter how high Usain Bolt sets the bar when you got John Goodman running the race. Thanks Adam for making this one look snazzy!!
The first questions is, what the hell are you going to do with yourself now that there is no City Softball Tournament the 2nd weekend in August?
First off, thank you for having me on Kenosha Sports Extra. Truly an honor. What will I do? Well, the first thing is wipe away the tears of yesteryear. We all hung on to what was seemingly dwindling down to nothing, but we’ve finally hit the skinniest point of Kenosha softball. Thankfully, the leaders of WTP/Shenanigans have already arranged to play in a 1-day State Tournament in Fon Du Lac on Aug 10th; the Class B GSL Super State tourney, so our schedule isn’t skipping a beat! And since it’s a 1-day tourney, I have the pleasure of attending the Holy Rosary festival on Sunday! Woo!
Biased opinion, YES. Unbiased opinion, YES AGAIN. Take a look at the early period when James “Big Stein” Zych began managing the WTP team. Several high placings in the Rotary, City, and plenty of outside tournament wins. That was certainly the start of the makings of a dynasty. When Greg “Czar” Czarnecki joined the team, the “dynasty” feel was even closer to becoming a reality, and as you know, you have to make it happen. Every game, tourney, and batting practice is an opportunity to get better. Shortly after Czar arrived, the arrival of myself and Kyle Franzen gave the original WTP core some youth and speed (back then!). Those high placings turned into a City Title and multiple Rotary Titles. The core prior to our arrival, guys like Greg Hill, Chuckie Sauer, and Eric Povich laid grounds for David Beronich, Jesse Bogard, Russ Schaibly, Brett Hill, and a slew of others. I had the pleasure to play with the majority of those guys, and win a heck of a lot with the latter. 1 National World Series Tilte (2012), 4 Rotary Titles (2014-2017), 5 Rotary Runner Ups, 1 City Title (2008), several City Runner Ups, and countless outside tournament victories and runner ups, and that’s just during my tenure! So I would say yes, WTP/Shenanigans is a dynasty from roughly 2008 to the death Kenosha softball (present day).
What kind of nickname is “Gratzi”?
A throwaway really… It’s the only Italian word outside of food items that my friends knew back when I was 12 or 13 years old. I wasn’t going to be called “Spaghetti”! The spelling of it evolved into Gratzi after several friends of friends would say “grazzzy” or “grassy” due to the true Italian spelling “G-R-A-Z-I-E”. We Americanized the spelling to be “G-R-A-T-Z-I”, put it on the back of my jersey, and thus the proper pronunciation was solidified.
Your pops was part of the Golden Age running with the guys from TnC SWAT and Club Bene’s, what, if anything, do you remember about the Golden Age of Kenosha Softball?
So many memories… so awesome. I remember Finney’s West (Hwy 31 and Hwy E) being the Taj Mahal while Lincoln Park was the Mecca. I even have very faint memories of my dad playing at Anderson Field, and giving him a big ol’ cooler of water! I have some fond memories at Finney’s, where I would play in the dirt and roll softballs back and forth with John Tracy’s daughter Ashley and Dan Ausloos’s daughter Ali. (I was such a lady’s man at age 4… haha) Watching the games, I specifically remember Pat Wendler, my Godfather, hitting and circling the bases. It always seemed like he’d hit a double or triple! I can also hear and remember the announcing voice of Paul “Puddles” Vagnoni calling out the lineups and plays!
The atmosphere at Lincoln, even as a kid, was electric. Crowds of people would be lined up and down the 3rd base and 1st base lines to watch the finals of the City or Rotary while us kids played pickle between trees or home run derby in the tennis courts. You know how it was, just magnify your memory by 10x, because as a youngster it seemed even bigger! And if the finals were too late at night, it was Jones Intercable time for me!
Towards the end of the Golden Age, as I got into my Little League days, my dad (John Kavalauskas) was done playing softball due to back issues but I remember him and I going to watch close family-friend John McQuestion on his Budweiser team during the Rotaries of the 90s. I specifically remember giving him and my dad crap that they played SOFTBALL, and it was not as cool as BASEBALL. They smirked and said, “You’ll be playing softball too someday……”
Are you a better softball player or bags shooter?
Oh man.. you said these would be easy questions! At this point in time, I feel I am/was better at softball than I am at cornhole. Let’s get technical for a moment… If I play cornhole at 27 feet hole to hole, I think I’m pretty darn solid. At 27 feet front to front, I’ve just recently learned to throw with some rotation, as I have always thrown a knuckle-bag in the past. The rotation is definitely the better way to pitch a bag when playing 27 front to front, and I’ll continue to use that. So my short answer: softball player, but bags shooter in the future!
Your company “The Gratzi” built this very website, how did you get into the website/SEO game?
It all started with a passion to track stats and a need for better communication. At my parents’ house growing up, my friends and I created the “32nd Avenue Billiards League” in which they would come over and shoot pool all night. (Yes, pool is a secret talent of mine!) From there, we kept stats, as any competitive group would, on a poster on the wall. The problem was that it was in the basement and nobody could remember their stats! I frequently received phone calls (no texts back then!) from friends asking what their record was, and where they are in the standings, because let’s face it, if you couldn’t come over one night, someone else could possibly move up in the standings! From there, I saw the need for a website. This is roughly 1996-ish mind you. I created a Geocities website (RIP), which then sparked my interest in HTML. I rented a book from the library literally titled “HTML” and began teaching myself so I could build more than what Geocities offered. From there, I created a few recreational websites and then took my development skills to the UW-Whitewater athletic website. As a part-time college gig, I helped bring the highlight video of the women’s national volleyball championship of 2005 to the UWW website. The athletic director handed me a VHS tape and said, “Can you do this?” I said, “I’ll make it happen one way or another.” And I did. The stats and views of that video (all basically pre-YouTube days) were fantastic for the site. The UWW website started rising in the Google rankings and my eyes were wide open! More and more stories like that occurred as I began my time with Larry Jouett at Happy Turf in 2009, which led to the creation of The Gratzi, Inc. in 2012.
Does it surprise you the relatively decent success this site has had in the first year of existence?
Yes! The Gratzi hears so many ideas every year, heck every DAY about how someone wants to build a website that does “this” or does “that”. Some of the ideas have the legs, but people get scared, nervous, or simply just don’t do a damn thing. An idea will get you no where, action will get you everywhere. It’s nice to see a few people actually go the distance and make a reality out of an idea. Content MAKES a site. The development is what it is, but the content is what drives the views and the success. The content on this site has been so engaging for people all over the country (I watch the analytics and stats!), but obviously even more so in Kenosha. From the profiles to the opinions and even to the fantasy football feed, it’s all gold. Usually, a site like this in its first year sees a few good articles, which lead to decent traffic. The KSE articles have not only been good, but TIMELY. Timing is just as much responsible for success as quality, and KSE’s timing and frequency of articles has been great! So yes, I am pleasantly surprised!
Who is the best overall softball player in Kenosha from your era?
Logical answer would be Travis Clark. The time, commitment, competitiveness, and passion that he’s had toward softball has grown him to be one of the best in the nation. Way back when I was lifting before my shoulder surgery in 2009, I’d always see him at the RecPlex lifting and pumping up. The dedication he has to softball is second to none. Love him or hate him, you have to give him that!
You are the first softball player actually near his prime, and not a retired Hall of Famer, to grace the Profile Page…that make you feel special?
Well fancy that! Heck yes it does! It means I’m doing something right and I’ll try to keep it up!
What is your favorite Kenosha softball memory?
Oh man… The first Rotary victory in 2014 would be a popular choice, or the 2015 Rotary victory with my parents watching as I received the tournament MVP honors. But I think my favorite softball memory has to go back to 2008, when we double dipped the aforementioned best player of our era and his (at that time) complete team of studs from DLB/Tirabassi. It wasn’t just your every day double dipping, it was a tromping. In the first inning of the second championship game that we forced, we put up nearly 20 runs, and added several more after. It was out of hand, and fast. To be the best, you have to beat the best, and that year, we did. Living in the past a bit… sure, but I’ll take it!
One last question, having a whole house full of sons, are you planning on still being on the softball diamond when their time comes?
My goal is to play as long as I can, competitively, then ease into recreation as The Gratzi continues to grow. I provide for them and my wife Amy through The Gratzi, so that is more of my focus nowadays. Given good health, a prosperous business, and a comfortable life for those boys and my bride, yes, I’ll be playing when their time comes! In Kenosha…? That’s the question….