Goss: Kashirsky’s labor of love in Dodger blue
April 7, 2012 4:12PM
Mike Kashirsky | Supplied photo
Updated: April 9, 2012 10:59PM
Mike Kashirsky said every day this spring was “like Groundhog Day.”
Which was heavenly. “I am the luckiest guy in the world,” he added.
The 1995 Providence graduate, who resides in Minooka, serves as an IHSA and collegiate basketball official and has coached Robert Morris University in Chicago into an NAIA baseball power, recently returned from living a dream as a jack-of-all-trades in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ spring training camp at Glendale, Ariz.
The work was taxing, but so rewarding.
His “Groundhog Days” went something like this.
“I would work out personally from 3:30 to 5 in the morning,” he said. “I’d get to the park about 5:45 and set up all the fields before eating breakfast. Then I worked with catchers, catch bullpens (even though he’s left-handed), run some drills myself, then go play first base catching throws while infielders did their work.”
The full-team workout followed. Kashirsky, 34, continued to wear multiple hats. He was the warmup catcher before that day’s game, a secondary bullpen catcher during the game, and after it ended he picked up all the baseballs, reloaded the buckets and generally got things ready for the next day.
Yes, a baseball junkie’s nirvana.
“It was truly amazing,” he said. “It was a lot harder work than I thought it would be, but very rewarding.
“Tommy Lasorda had a locker two down from mine. I could rattle off a million names of people I met. But the best part is the great people they are, from Lasorda to (general manager) Ned Colletti to (manager) Don Mattingly, right on down. They’re unbelievable baseball people, and what a family atmosphere.”
One day toward the end of spring training, Kashirsky was doing his work when he heard a familiar voice holler, ‘Hey, Kash’.”
“I turned around, and there was (Joliet Slammers manager) Bart Zeller,” Kashirsky said. “He came to a game. He knows Maury Wills (a representative of the Dodgers Legend Bureau) real well. Bart’s a great manager but most of all a great person. Seeing a familiar face, especially a great guy like that, was awesome.”
Kashirsky, who will spend his summer as the bench coach of the independent Schaumburg Boomers, had eight years on the Windy City ThunderBolts coaching staff, including 21/2 as manager. That connection got him involved with the Dodgers.
“An agent who used to get us some players when I was at Windy City asked me if I would be interested,” Kashirsky said. “He said the Dodgers may need some help throwing batting practice and catching bullpens. When I went to work at their young guns camp, which is a pitchers and catchers prospect camp, about three weeks before spring training, I got an invitation to spring training.”
Kashirsky had been assigned to officiate the Class 4A Homewood-Flossmoor Regional and was prepared to don the striped shirt at more college games as well, but of course had to decline. The Dodgers beckoned.
Kashirsky grew up in Orland Park a Cubs fan, and after a college career at St. Joseph’s in Rensselaer, Ind., he played two years in the White Sox organization as a first baseman/outfielder before also playing independent ball and overseas. But if the Dodgers request his services again next season, “I would do it in a heartbeat,” he said. “It would be an honor to wear that uniform again.”
He said Robert Morris made accommodations for him to be able to work the Dodgers’ camp, with Jason Becker, his college teammate and the girls basketball coach at Tinley Park, serving as the Eagles’ interim coach. Imagine the stories Kashirsky has to tell his fellow coaches and players at Robert Morris over the rest of this season.
He is in his fourth season with the Eagles, who won six games the year before he took over, 36 his first year and more than 40 each of the past two years while qualifying for the NAIA National Tournament.
Some tales Kashirsky relates will involve spending time this spring with Jerry Hairston Jr., who recently signed with the Dodgers. Hairston played at Naperville North during the era in the mid-’90s when the Providence powerhouse under coach Mike Napolean included Kashirsky, Ken Miller, Joe Schley, Ken Mitera and former minor leaguer and current Tampa Bay Rays Class A hitting coach Dan DeMent.
Schley arguably was the most accomplished base-stealer in Joliet area history and went on to play at Southern Illinois, where Hairston was his roommate.
“I believe Joey and I combined for 51 steals that year at Providence,” Kashirsky said. “He had 50 and I had one.”
The Sox share the training complex at Glendale with the Dodgers. Kashirsky said that added to the fun. “I know a lot of guys from the Sox organization who I saw out there,” he said.
Kashirsky is married to former Mother McAuley athlete Jackie Gaal. They have a 6-month-old son.
“It was tough to be away at spring training, but they did make it out there for a couple of days,” he said of his family. “Their visit went by fast, but it was good to see the little guy out there.”
Some day, he will hear all about how he was there when Dad wore Dodger blue at spring training, catching pitchers the caliber of Clayton Kershaw. He will be understandably proud.