Double Play

Some would call it irony. Others might suspect it was the Curse of the Billy Goat.

Dan Gooris C’73 can’t say for sure. But the retired chief of police and head of North Park University security has played baseball most of his life, including more than 20 years in national travel leagues. And when his team went undefeated in the 2008 season, only to lose in the Men’s Senior Baseball League (MSBL) World Series game, he couldn’t help but wonder if it was time to change the team’s name.

“We had been calling ourselves the Chicago Cubs, which may have had something to do with it,” jokes Gooris, who is the team’s starting catcher. His team is comprised of doctors, lawyers, and other professionals who all played college or professional baseball and still share a passion for the sport.

Fortunately, small changes can make a big difference. And after honing their skills, acquiring new uniforms, and changing their name to National Pastime, by early November 2009 Gooris and his fellow players were once again ready for a trip to Arizona and a World Series berth. And this time they took the championship.

“Certain things came too easy to us,” says Gooris, reflecting on how the 2008 title slipped through their fingers. “We needed to work for it.”
That intentionality certainly paid off—and in more ways than one for Gooris. Just weeks later, in Fort Myers, Fl., he won a second championship at the Roy Hobbs World Series with yet another amateur team for which he plays.

“We were elated,” he says. “I basically went from a heartbreaking loss to winning two rings within two weeks of each other.”

It’s no small achievement, given that the MSBL is the fastest growing adult baseball organization in the country, with 45,000 members. The schedule is intense and the competition, rigorous. But that’s part of the fun of it for the seemingly ageless Gooris, who is planning to play on two teams again this year, one in the 55+ and one in the 60+ age categories.

As the head coach of North Park’s women’s softball team for 14 years, Gooris practices what he preaches, and vice versa. He himself played baseball for the Vikings as a student, leading the conference in hitting and serving as team captain in 1972. Today he’s in the University’s athletic Hall of Fame.

“I know what my players’ limits are, because I see what I’m still doing at this age,” he laughs.

Under Gooris’ leadership, North Park’s softball teams have produced 15 All-Conference players and four All Region players, as well as more than 40 College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) Academic All-Conference players, including his daughter Dana (Gooris) Wells C’99, a twotime All-CCIW outfielder and hitting champion.
It would seem that the talent runs in the family. Gooris and his wife Leslie (Brostrom) C’72, a former volleyball player at North Park, also have a son named Danny who played in the minor leagues. A graduate of Creighton University, he was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds and played for the San Diego Padres in 2002. Today, he is a high school teacher and baseball coach in Libertyville, Ill.

Although Gooris spent 30 years as a policeman, he admits he can still be a bit of a softie when it comes to coaching. “I tell the girls you’re here first to get an education,” he says. “I want to develop character in these young ladies. We don’t make a lot of cuts. If I see someone who loves to play and loves being out there, I’ll keep her on the team. . . . That’s the most important quality our players have to have—a love of the game.”