Franklin Regional team manager Ben Kimmich is ‘life of the team’

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Sunday, March 7, 2021 | 9:01 AM


Ben Kimmich smiles as the basketball comes to him in the Franklin Regional lay-up line.

He takes the ball, dribbles a couple of times, hop-steps and banks in a two-handed shot that he shoves into the air with a grunt, before jogging back to the end of the line.

Varsity players offer fist-bumps to their team manager, who is much more than that to the Panthers.

In Franklin Regional circles, he is Big Ben.

“He’s part of the family, part of the team,” Franklin Regional boys basketball coach Steve Scorpion said. “The kids love him.”

Kimmich is a 13-year-old with Down syndrome. Watch a Franklin Regional basketball or soccer game and he is always there offering his endearing support. He hangs out during warmups and sometimes blends into huddles.

“He holds my dry-erase board for me,” Scorpion said. “He loves to be around the team and we love to have him around.”

While he warms up with the team, Kimmich also joins players, coaches and referees in the pregame meeting at midcourt. In pre-covid times, he fist-bumped opposing players during the announcement of starting lineups.

Kimmich wears Panthers’ gear proudly and cheers on his brothers, Luke and Jacob.

“Coach Scorpion asked me if Ben could be around the team,” said Kurt Kimmich, Ben’s father who calls his son a blessing. “He thought it would be good for the boys to have Ben around. That means a lot to us.”

When Franklin Regional hosted Armstrong on the opening weekend of the WPIAL playoffs, Ben Kimmich awoke bright and early for a noon tipoff.

His playoff nerves were going, his butterflies fluttering, as the game drew near.

“He was up at 6:30 (a.m.) full dressed for game day,” Kurt Kimmich said. “He gets his Gatorade bottles all set out and ready to go. He can’t wait to get to the gym.”

Ben is known for his friendly personality, cheeky humor and of course, his hugs. He offers a pat on the back to strangers and holds doors for people, all on his own.

“He’s the life of the team,” said Luke Kimmich, a senior point guard for the Panthers. “He loves it all. He does this thing now where he looks up the teams we’re playing on a map and shows us all where they are.”

Ben Kimmich has five siblings in an athletic family raised by Kurt and Amy Kimmich.

Matt Kimmich played soccer at Franklin Regional and now plays the game at Grove City. Luke Kimmich will join him there next year.

Luke Kimmich also is a standout soccer player and golfer. He won WPIAL titles in both sports.

There are two girls, Maggie Kimmich, a former Saint Vincent basketball player, and Katie Kimmich, who played soccer at Seton Hill.

“Ben might the healthiest of all of our children and his cognitive numbers are off the charts,” Kurt Kimmich said.

You could call Ben a champion because he has the hardware to prove it. Franklin Regional won back-to-back soccer titles and he received two gold medals and a silver.

“Ben’s love for the FR players, coaches and staff is unconditional,” former Panthers soccer coach Rand Hudson said. “It is one of the things I will greatly miss about coaching at FR. It is really special to see his relationships develop with the players, but especially with his brothers. He brings joy.”

Ben said he spends so much time around the teams because he considers himself a Franklin Regional Panther.

He attends Aquinas Academy in Greensburg.

Kimmich even has helped out with the Franklin Regional wrestling team in the past, hanging around the bench area with coach Matt Lebe and the Panthers.

“We’re just grateful that the coaches at Franklin Regional are so accepting of Ben,” Kurt Kimmich said. “We’re grateful the players get to experience his pureness.

“I can’t imagine life without him.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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