By Chelsea RoemerPromotions and Social Media Assist.
Salem Red Sox
The sound of quick feet racing through the house grows louder as two brothers make their way out the door and to the backyard. Gathering the essential baseball equipment, the pair immediately begin to assemble their one-on-one competition. Kohl runs to his position a few feet away from his younger brother Karson, who takes a couple of practice swings before gearing up for his brother’s pitch.
Fast forward twenty years and the set-up remains the same, while the level of competition is entirely different. Last week Salem Red Sox utility player Karson and Kannapolis Cannon Ballers pitcher Kohl were in opposite dugouts for a six game Carolina League series. They also faced each other the second week of July when the Cannon Ballers played in Salem.
Kohl and Karson, along with their older sister Kegan, have experienced the world of baseball since birth. Their father, Bill Simas, played professionally when the siblings were toddlers. The trio would travel with their mom Kimberly to see him while his team was competing on the road.
“It was definitely crazy having three little ones with me and going on the road to watch him play,” Kimberly said. “But we always had so much fun being with each other and making those unforgettable memories.”
A native of California, Bill was selected by the Angels in the sixth round of the 1992 MLB Draft out of Fresno City College. He spent six seasons at the Major League level with the Chicago White Sox from 1995 to 2000. Throughout his time in Chicago, he posted a career 18-19 record, 3.83 ERA and 23 saves. His 308 career relief outings still rank as eighth-most in White Sox franchise history.
Remaining in the baseball industry today, Bill is currently in his second season as the pitching coach for the Texas Rangers Triple-A affiliate, the Round Rock Express.
Though the boys showed passion for the sport at a young age, Bill made sure they loved the game completely on their own.
“In elementary and middle school they played every sport imaginable but both chose to pursue baseball full-time without any added pressure,” Bill said. “If they wanted any extra practice they would have to come to me and ask, I never made it a requirement.”
The duo always consistently played together, whether it was putting each other to the test in the backyard of their home, or in matching uniforms as Karson was pulled up to compete on his brother’s T-ball team. Once the T-ball days were over, the two were on different rosters for travel baseball, but eventually reunited to share the high school field.
One aspect that remains consistent is their competitive spirit, especially with one another.
“Having my little brother on my team was exciting and frustrating all at the same time,” Kohl said. “I would get more upset with him than anyone else on the team, but it was nice to know he always had my back.”
Karson signed to play with the Boston Red Sox organization after being selected in the 25th round of the 2019 draft out of Clovis West High School. Kohl graduated from high school a year prior and committed to play baseball at Fresno City College, eventually transferring to San Diego State. In the summer of 2021, he signed to play for the Chicago White Sox as a free agent.
At the start of the 2022 baseball season, Karson was assigned to Boston’s Low-A affiliate, the Salem Red Sox, and Kohl to the Chicago White Sox Low-A affiliate, the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers.
With both teams playing in the Carolina League, the brothers knew they could potentially face one another during the season. If so, it would mark the first time the two have shared a field since high school.
“As soon as they were assigned to teams and we glanced at their schedules, we knew they could end up playing one another,” Kimberly and Bill said. “This is something we never expected to happen.”
During the season the Cannon Ballers and the Red Sox were scheduled to meet for two series, the first taking place in Salem starting July 12th. As fate would have it, both boys were still competing at the Low-A level, and would challenge each other on the same field for the first time in their careers.
To make the series even more memorable, their father was able to step away from coaching in Texas for the week to watch alongside Kimberly and Keagan.
“This is a top moment for our family to experience,” Bill said. “I am able to watch both of my boys doing what they love on the same field, and I could not be more proud.”
On Saturday July 16th, Kohl took the mound as a starting pitcher for the Cannon Ballers, with Karson batting second in Salem’s lineup.
“I obviously wanted one to get a hit, but then I also wanted the other to get a strikeout,” Kimberly said. “Watching them play like this was thrilling but nerve-wracking all at once.”
His first time at the plate Karson struck out, but eventually accumulated a hit against his brother in a later inning.
The game resulted in a 5-2 Salem loss, but it did not conclude without an encouraging verbal exchange from Kohl to Karson as he exited the mound.
“I made two errors before he was walking off the mound and was not coming back out to pitch again,” Karson said. “On his way to the dugout, he basically told me that he knows I am better than that and to focus and be as good as he knows that I can be.”
At the end of the year, Karson and Bill will return to Fresno, while Kohl will call Kansas City home to train with his agency for the offseason. Despite where the two end up playing in the years to come, this particular season created memories the family will talk about for a lifetime.
“I always knew my brother and I would pursue our dreams of playing professionally,” Karson said. “But I never imagined we would end up facing each other and having our family here to witness it, that feeling was unreal.”