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St. Thomas Academy baseball team mourns player Bennett Kotok

St. Thomas Academy playing through pain of losing teammate
St. Thomas Academy playing through pain of losing teammate 02:12

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. — The St. Thomas Academy baseball team is learning to play through the grief and pain of losing a teammate.

The Cadets are playing for more than themselves this baseball season. They're playing for their former teammate, Bennett Kotok.

"We try to play the way he play and just carry on his legacy throughout that," said Cadets captain Jonathan Dobis.

Kotok was a catcher for the Cadets, graduating last year. While in the middle of his freshman year at Creighton University, he died suddenly in his sleep from a rare heart condition he didn't know he had.

The team now honors their friend and former teammate with his initials on all their caps, bracelets around all their wrists, a jersey retirement and memorial near home plate.

"He's been the only catcher I've ever thrown to until this year that wore an STA uniform, so it was truly a blessing that I was be able to throw to him," he said.  

Bennett Kotok WCCO

Dobis, one of Kotok's best friends, says they're putting their grief to action by fundraising thousands of dollars to build a new batting cage for the team for generations of Cadet baseball players to benefit from.

"One thing he'd do, he'd be the first person in the cage and the last one to leave," he said.

Bennett's mom, Susan, sits in the bleachers at almost every home game. Watching her son's team helps her grieve.

"We feel him here," Susan Kotok said. "This was the place where he was the most joyful."

These boys are proving that a team goes beyond baseball. It's a family that is there for each other in the highs and lows.

"Us coming together as a community is what he would want to see," she said. "I feel grateful that he is my son. I'm very proud."

"People ask me how I'm doing and I say, 'I'm living,' because I know my friend can't say that anymore and that's something that I take for granted at times, I feel like. So every day I try to make the most of it," Dobis said.

You can still donate to help pay for the dedicated batting cages. They hope to have them built later this year so they're ready to go by next baseball season. 

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