A Chicago-area high school pitcher’s challenging path to pitching for a high school baseball team in Chicago was as unlikely as it was emotionally moving, and his story is one that should stand as a symbolic one in a country that is currently enduring the most racial unrest in decades.
Coby Kamish is a 16 year old baseball player from Skokie, Illinois, which is just north of the city of Chicago. I had the honor of interviewing Mr. David Kamish – Coby’s father – who was eager to tell his son’s story. Coby’s mother Sisi, who passed away following a bout with cancer during Coby’s sophomore year, had long desired for him to attend Fasman Yeshiva High School, a Jewish high school in Skokie. Kamish and his family are Jewish, and are extremely dedicated to their faith.
It was dearly important to Coby and his father that he followed his late mother’s wishes and attended Yeshiva. Unfortunately the school does not currently have a baseball team.“Coby has been playing baseball since he was four years old,” Coby’s father said. “His dream was to continue to play into college.”
Kamish decided to take initiative and assume the massive task of establishing the first ever baseball team at Yeshiva, and David said that “he frantically organized an effort to start the school’s first baseball team [so that he could] return to his passion … he had even spoken with the IHSA (Illinois High School Association) to make the team official.”
The team was set to begin play this season, with Coby as the club’s ace starting pitcher, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck the nation and forced the cancellation of most, if not all, high school sports in America. David and Coby felt they had found an excellent solution when they received notice that a larger Jewish school would allow an exception for Kamish to play in their fall league, despite the fact that he did not (and would not) attend classes there.
Kamish and his father were told repeatedly that Coby would be treated exactly as the kids who were already on his new team, with the same opportunities and playing time. Kamish both pitches and plays shortstop, but is much more adept at pitching – he wishes to pursue the position primarily as his playing career goes on.
Yet, as David noted, “his playing time as a pitcher was limited due to the fact that he didn’t attend the school, and they were preparing for spring where Coby wouldn’t be allowed to play.” This frustrated both Coby and David, but they at the time decided to stay the course and just accept the reality and situation that they were given.
Then, earlier this week, everything changed.
Earlier this week, Coby’s team played a team called ‘The Show,’ which is comprised entirely of African American All Stars from the South Side of Chicago. “Coby’s team got absolutely killed,” David said. “It may as well have been 50-0, and yet, Coby still was not allowed to pitch.”
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After the game, David went over to The Show’s bench with the goal of congratulating the kids on playing such a great game. It was at this moment that he decided to go out on a limb and speak to the well-regarded coach of this talented ball club. David said that the coach “saw Coby’s disappointment of not being able to pitch”, and to Mr. Kamish’s surprise, he suggested that Coby “tryout in front of all their fans and both teams as they packed their things.”
David called what happened next a “scene out of the movies”.
He watched as The Show’s team and coaches surrounded the mound and were in disbelief as Coby landed every pitch that the catcher asked of him. “Fastball, pop, right into the mitt. An excellent curveball. A breaking ball. A changeup. Everything that the catcher called, Coby landed with ease,” David said.
David said that the opposing coach was incredulous at the sight of Coby throwing and could only stand in shock as he said that “he had never seen a pitcher at this age make the ball move in the direction and with the accuracy that Coby did”.
The prestigious club from the South Side, who has historically rostered very few white players, offered Coby a chance to pitch for their team on the spot, without a second thought. David said that “Coby’s new teammates greeted Coby afterwards and welcomed him, without regard for his race, religion, or background”.
Coby will join The Show tonight as they play on the far South Side of Chicago.
Coby’s story is so incredible because it transcends every manufactured boundary that society has put before us, and illustrates so beautifully that baseball, and sports as a whole, can bring people together in ways that we could never have previously imagined. David notes that “baseball can build bridges, and we can all have hope [after a story that embodies] love and unity”.
In a country that has been torn apart in recent months and years by the cry for racial justice, we must look to stories like this one to shine a light onto the mentality of the majority of Americans. Most of us love one another. The actions of the few who promote hatred, division, and racism should never be overlooked, but they should not be the pillar upon which our society builds its identity.
David outlined these ideas eloquently when he said, “Race, color, religion, none of it mattered. Coby just wanted to pitch, to play. And that is what he’ll do for The Show”.
Coby’s brothers Joey and Ari, and sister Kayla, along with his step mother Rivki and step siblings Moishe and Chayala will cheer him on as he welcomes his new challenge.