By LARRY HYPES
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
TAZEWELL, Va. —
Like brother, like sister.
Karlee Wasilewski, a rising sophomore at Tazewell High School, is the “other” athletic talent in the family. With all the attention – and rightly so – focused on brother Zak as he makes his professional debut in the Toronto Blue Jay farm system, it would be easy to overlook the standout sister who still plays games for the fun of it.
“Karlee is a good player, too,” noted Zak recently as he came back to the area as a pitcher on the Bluefield roster for manager Dennis Holmberg. “I am living a dream, myself, coming back ‘home’ to play at Bowen Field in front of so many Tazewell fans, but she has had a good season, too.”
Indeed, the Lady Bulldogs coached by Tom Keene broke double digits in the win column and advanced to the Virginia High School League state playoffs for the first time. Tazewell fielded a youthful squad, overall, and Wasilewski raised a few eyebrows by earning an outfield position as a freshman.
Still, she has enjoyed the past few months watching her talented sibling take his game to the next level. Karlee beamed back in January when Zak had his number retired in front of the THS student body. She has been following his progress closely through the winter and was pleased when he got the assignment to Bluefield.
“That (Bluefield) was great,” she admits. “Zak could have gone to Vancouver or someplace where we could not have seen him play. It is easy to drive from home to Bluefield. It’s kind of like he is still playing for Coach (Peery) here in Tazewell but just to know he is in the Appalachian League and a professional player is fantastic,” she said earlier this season.
Karlee kept her own classmates informed as interest mounted before the decision was made about where he (Zak) would play.
“Every day my family would wonder where Zak was going to go – would he be in Florida or Vancouver, or would he make it to Bluefield?” recalls Karlee. “That would be all I would hear from everyone around town (Tazewell) and I would just keep saying ‘We’ll find out in June.’ I thought if he got assigned to Bluefield that would really raise the roof on publicity for the Jays and it sure has.”
Karlee has enjoyed reading about her brother in the paper and seeing items about him and the Blue Jays on TV this summer and she has not been alone.
“I’m so excited he’s in town to make his dreams come true and play the game he loves,” grins the bright-eyed 10th grader. “All the fans seem to be enjoying it, too. Lots of Tazewell people and from all over the area have been here to see Bluefield and cheer for Zak.”
Zak is no longer a batter, since Toronto is the American League where the designated hitter prevails and pitchers almost never get to the plate. Despite his career .504 average and school-record 25 home runs, he is now completely focused on throwing strikes for the Jays.
Karlee, however, made her own presence known at Tazewell in her first year as she put up a .333 average and also developed a reputation as a quality defensive player.
“She did a good job for us this year,” said Keene when the Southwest District season concluded. “Karlee has a lot of ability and we’re happy that she will be with us for three more seasons.”
Karlee kept notes as her brother and his teammates made the journey from Duneden, Florida, and arrived in Bluefield in mid-June. She wanted to remember her own feelings about these very special days.
On Wednesday, Karlee and her family were thrilled to see No. 13 get professional victory number one as manager Holmberg noted, “He (Zak) was a totally different pitcher, for the most part, from his first start to this one” as Bluefield topped Burlington 7-3.
Karlee said, “Being at the game with all the fans and the signs up around the stadium about Zak is one of the greatest feelings a sister could have.”
Especially one who knows her way around the diamond, as well.