Baseball: Niles West’s Colletta collecting offers from colleges
St. Patrick's Jose Centeno (15) dives into second base to avoid the tag of Niles West's Kyle Colletta (2) on Thursday, March 29, 2012 in Skokie. | Jon Durr~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 8, 2012 6:22PM
Niles West head baseball coach Garry Gustafson wonders what’s in the water on Keeler Avenue in Lincolnwood.
Junior star Kyle Colletta, a three-year varsity starter, lives on Keeler, right across the street from the Kontos family, whose sons George and Chris both starred at Niles West and Northwestern. George is now a Triple-A pitcher with the San Francisco Giants after reaching the major leagues with the Yankees in 2011.
The Kontos brothers have served as inspirations for the Niles West middle infielder/pitcher and are advising him through the college recruiting process.
“Those two guys, I can’t say enough about how much they’ve helped me and told me what to expect (in high school ball),” Colletta said. “Now, they are helping me with what to do and giving me guidance because they have both been there as Division I players.”
Colletta is being pursued by Division I programs, including Winthrop (Ga.), Michigan State, Western Kentucky, Kentucky, Illinois, Northwestern and Illinois-Chicago. He hopes to make a verbal commitment this summer.
Colletta’s junior season came to an end on May 30 when Niles West was no-hit by Maine South lefty John Forsythe. The 10-0 loss in the Class 4A Evanston sectional semifinal finished the Wolves season at 26-11, two wins shy of the program’s single-season record.
Though Niles West loses the likes of shortstop Kevin Ross and third-baseman Jason Meger, Gustafson will build around Colletta and catcher Seth Rosenberg next season.
“Colletta will be one of the best players ever to come through Niles West,” Gustafson predicted after last week’s defeat. “(Rosenberg) is coming back and will be one of the top catchers in the conference in my opinion. We have some kids with some experience coming back. We’ll pick it up in the summer and move on from there.”
Next season, Colletta expects to return to shortstop, from second base, where he has played the last two years. He initially made the switch to second when Ross, one the country’s top high school seniors, transferred into Niles West ahead of the 2011 season.
Colletta said he had no problem making the switch to accommodate Ross, who has committed to play at the University of Michigan.
“Before he came to Niles West, (Ross) emailed me and I had known him before that and had played with him a little,” Colletta said. “When he came in, it was no problem moving over (to second). It made us a better team on the field and we both knew that, so it was no problem at all.”
Before Ross’ arrival, the lefty-swinging Colletta already had established himself as a fixture at Niles West, after becoming a varsity starter as a freshman.
Colletta said his father Sam had been instrumental in his becoming a baseball prodigy of sorts. Sam, a former star pitcher at Niles West, always insisted his talented son compete against older players, and he instilled confidence in him.
“He said ‘Don’t take a backs eat to anyone. Be the best, and play against tough competition,’ ” Kyle said.
The younger Colletta seemed mature beyond his years when his Niles West career began in 2010. He has continued to develop physically.
One of the team’s captains this season, Colletta did not limit his advice simply to his Niles West teammates.
“Every time I play against a kid who is a freshman on varsity, I always tell him to have fun with it,” Colletta said. “We play against a few freshmen and they seem to know that I played as a freshman. Sometimes they ask me things, and sometimes I just tell them what it’s like (playing as a freshman) and to enjoy the year. Sometimes we talk after the game, and other times we talk at second base during the game.”