Boomers coach enjoying 'unreal' experience with Sox
Mike Kashirsky signed with the White Sox organization in 1999, but multiple injuries derailed his professional baseball career after just 15 games in the Rookie Arizona League.
Thirteen years later, Kashirsky, now the bench coach for the Schaumburg Boomers, is back where he started.
Kashirsky, 34, is currently serving as the left-handed batting practice pitcher for White Sox home games, throwing for players and filling in whenever any one needs extra work.
"It's pretty unreal," he said.
Before returning to the Boomers for afternoon batting practice Wednesday, Kashirsky got called in for the special assignment of throwing for first baseman Paul Konerko as he worked his way back from a concussion.
"At one point we were playing catch, we were on the field, just me and him," Kashirsky said. "He's always been one of my favorite players … It's kind of like nothing to him, but to a guy like me, I'm like, 'holy cow.'"
In June, Kashirsky received a call from an old colleague and friend Tommy Thompson inquiring about the job with the White Sox and he got started during a weekend home series against the Brewers.
Thompson currently manages the Class High-A Winston Salem Dash, a White Sox affiliate, and Kashirsky was once his bench coach when Thompson managed the Windy City Thunderbolts of the Frontier League.
The former batting practice pitcher Kevin Hickey, 56, died in May, creating an unfortunate vacancy on the staff.
"I think he was just as much a part of the team as any player," said Thompson, a former teammate of Hickey's. "He will always be missed. And that probably wasn't easy for Mike to walk in and do what Kevin did."
Thompson, who had tried to place Kashirsky with the White Sox in the offseason, said he immediately thought of the left-handed Boomers coach as the right man for the job.
"It's a chance of a lifetime," Kashirsky's wife, Jackie, said . "Ever since I met him he's been working like crazy, trying to get better."
Kashirsky counts it as a blessing that he's not managing his own minor league team because having a lesser role with the Boomers allowed him the freedom to take the job with the White Sox. Prior to joining the Boomers in 2012, Kashirsky managed the Thunderbolts for two seasons.
"Everything happens for a reason," he said.
After two months on the job, Kashirsky said he is getting to know the players — adding that he's gotten close with some such as Orlando Hudson, Tyler Flowers and Jordan Danks — and is happy to be involved with the organization that offered him his first shot at a baseball career.
But his Big League gig hasn't come without a cost. Kashirsky has missed about 10-to-12 Boomers games to be with the White Sox for home games, but he said the Frontier League team has been nothing but supportive of his new opportunity.
"There's absolutely zero problems," Boomers manager Jaime Bennett said. "Nicest guy I probably ever met in my life. Sometimes you almost think he's faking it cause he's so nice."
Kashirsky said he can usually make it back from U.S. Cellular Field for a Boomers night game around the fifth or sixth inning. Bennett said the bench coach's absence is always felt.
"You can tell the difference when he's in the dugout and when he's not," he said. "He brings a lot of energy to the club."
Between working with the White Sox and the Boomers, Kashirsky is a busy man. He also manages the Robert Morris University baseball team in the spring and refs college and high school basketball five-to-six days per week in the winter.
"He's a man that wears many hats and he does a lot of them well," Thompson said. "He seems to be always going. I don't know when he sleeps of if he sleeps."
Jackie Kashirsky said for her husband, spending time at the baseball field is second only to being at home with her and their 10-month-old son, Chase.
"I don't think he really considers it work," she said, adding that the lack of sleep sometimes takes its toll on him.
"It's hectic but I wouldn't trade it for the world," Kashirsky said. "It's not hard because you're getting up and going to the park every day and doing something you love."
Kashirsky, who has the White Sox logo tattooed on his lower leg, said he's willing to continue with all of his jobs as long as everyone involved is willing to keep him around.
"I'm just appreciative of the opportunity," he said. "Whatever happens, happens. I'll work as hard as I can every day. I could do this for years."
Bennett would like to keep Kashirsky on his staff, but he's rooting for his bench coach to find a permanent, full-time place with a major league organization.
"I'd hate to lose him, but if anybody deserves it, he does," Bennett said.
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