Baseball and Judaism are 14-year-old Coby Kamish's two passions.
As an observant Jew, Coby never misses *minyan and regularly *davens with one of his closest friends at their synagogue in West Rogers Park. Coby has been bringing his faith with him to the baseball diamond-wearing his yarmulke under his cap and his *tzitzit underneath his jersey and tucking his *payot behind his ears-ever since he was introduced to the game at age five.
As the only Jew, let alone observant Jew on his current travel team at Chicagoland Baseball Academy (CBA), his teammates inquire about his Judaism. "Many of the other guys on the team go to school together and they ask me where I go to the school," he said. "They ask me about my *payos too."
One of Coby's baseball mentors was former Chicago Cubs pitcher Sean Marshall. The two first met a couple of years ago at a local park after team pictures for the house league that Kamish and Marshall's son were playing for. While Kamish was playing catch with Marshall's son, Marshall remarked on Kamish's kindness and dedication to baseball, and taught Kamish how to throw a curveball-a pitch Kamish now uses to dominate opposing hitters.
If it weren't for Marshall, Kamish wouldn't be playing for the CBA travel team. When Kamish's father first called the league and told them that his son would not be able to play Friday and Saturday games, he was told his son couldn't play. But when the Cubs pitcher explained Kamish's devotion not just to Judaism, but to the game too, the league reconsidered and let him try out for and, ultimately, join the team.
Then this past fall, life threw Kamish and his family a curveball. His mother was diagnosed with cancer, making it difficult for her to attend games. "It's easier when she is in the crowd cheering me on," he said.
Even though his mother can't be there for every game, she's always there, in spirit, to motivate him. "She has inspired me to fight through these difficult times," he said.
On a frigid late fall night, he took the mound and was going to pitch the first two innings of a championship game against Evanston with a boisterous Evanston crowd on hand outnumbering the CBA fans. Not only were most of the spectators rooting against him, but Kamish's mom couldn't attend the game. And, he was also struggling with a sore shoulder that pitchers encounter toward the end of the season.
Despite his setbacks that night, he pitched a stellar first two innings, and then his coach asked him to pitch two extra innings, finishing the game with eight strikeouts and two runs batted in at the plate. CBA won the game, and Kamish took home the "Most Valuable Player" award for his inspirational performance.
His mom, who is currently on the road to recovery, was on his mind throughout the championship game. After the big game, he announced, "This one is for mommy."
Glossary of terms in this article:
*Minyan-quorum of 10 required for public Jewish worship