Joe Sarna

Like many young people growing up in Chicago, 16″ softball became a passion for him early in life. He started playing organized softball at Cornell Park in the Back of the Yards neighborhood of Chicago when he was in the fifth grade at St. Michael School (starting on the sixth grade team). After grade school he played in the intermediate (or teen) league with his friends at Cornell Park. He attended De LaSalle High School and earned letters in baseball, football and hockey. He also ran track his freshmen year. He received his bachelor’s degree from Lewis University in Plainfield where he played intramural softball and touch football. After graduation he played with the Silhouette SAC team in the adult softball leagues at Cornell and Donovan Parks. He also played with the Chicago Park District team at Grant Park and captained the Chicago Park District co-rec team at Grant Park during the ‘90s, winning the league title for six straight years. He currently plays for the Beeks in the Marist High School alumni league. They have also played at Grant Park and in LaGrange. Throughout his career, he has played on teams that have won championships at each level they have played. When not playing softball, Joe spent many years organizing leagues and umpiring. He started organizing in 1968 when he became a Chicago Park District employee. He was fortunate to learn the tricks of the trade under Edward “Duke” Senka, a great player in his own right. He taught him how to draw up round robin and single and double elimination tournament draw sheets as well as other aspects of tournament and league formation. He has conducted softball, basketball and touch football leagues for all age groups, ranging from grade school through teen and up to adult leagues while serving as the physical instructor at Cornell Park, the playground supervisor at Minuteman Park and as park supervisor at Wentworth and Vittum Parks. While at Cornell Park, he also assisted Jim Venckus in organizing and running the 14th ward Ed Burke Softball Tournament, one of the largest softball tournaments in the Chicagoland area during the ‘60s and ‘70s. As co-coordinating manager of citywide recreation for the Chicago Park District, Joe organized citywide softball and hardball tournaments, ran the Junior Bear Football program, the Cubs Care baseball program, the Silver Skates Speed Skating program at eleven locations and organized four fishing programs. After thirty years with the Chicago Park District, he moved to the Mayor’s office of Special Events in the Sport Development Office. He organized and conducted the Mayor Daley Hall of Fame Softball Tournament at Grant Park and is also the organizer of the Winter Delights Speed Skating Classic and is an assistant organizer of the Mayor Daley Chicago Sport Festival, a estival that draws over 75,000 participants at McCormick Place. He also works with James Rey of the Chicago Park District organizing the popular Mike Royko Memorial Softball Tournament at Grant Park. He and his wife, Christine, have three daughters, Sherry, Wendy and Tammy and seven grandchildren. They live on Chicago’s Southwest Side.