‘Jimmy Award’ puts Hinsdale Central student at top of class in terms of attitude
Jimmy Camalick (left) and Hinsdale Central catcher Eric Gnippe.This marked the second year, Gnippe won the "Jimmy Award," a scholarship named in Camalick's honor.
Updated: July 3, 2012 10:23AM
Among the Hinsdale Central Class of 2012 are National Merit Scholars, students with perfect ACT scores, scholarship-winning athletes, outstanding musicians and future doctors, lawyers and teachers.
Scores of accolades will be and have been heaped on these teens, with just about every single one of them heading for colleges and universities come August and September.
But within the breathtaking flurry of recognitions, honors and scholarships, are quite a few less well-known, but as impressive, accomplishments such as the one that graduating senior Eric Gnippe earned for the second year in a row.
This scholarship, for $500, is called the “Jimmy Award” and it is given annually to a Hinsdale Central varsity baseball player who exhibits the best, more persevering, inclusive and uplifting attitude. Team members personally select the award recipient by ballot, so the winner is truly an appreciated player.
The Camalick family of Burr Ridge sponsors the “Jimmy Award” in honor of Jimmy Camalick, the oldest of Vicki and Jim Camalick’s eight children—five sons and three daughters. Jimmy, a 2000 Hinsdale Central graduate, is confined to a wheelchair with Duchenne muscular dystrophy and at 30 years old is already beating the odds for the disorder which usually claims its victims in their teens and 20s.
His disability does not prevent him from attending virtually every single Hinsdale Central baseball game, as well as watching and following not just local teams but national ones as well. So crazy for and about baseball he is that he’s been known to offer his brothers and their friends lots of feedback on their playing. In fact, three of his four brothers have been crazy for it too. It was when his brother Josh, Class of 2006, was playing that the “Jimmy Award” started under the suggestion of then-baseball coach Tom Dorrance, according to Vicki Camalick. Jimmy’s brother Jacques graduated from Central last year and is playing baseball in college, and now only two Camalicks remain at Hinsdale Central — Justice who is a junior and played on the varsity baseball team this year and Jared who is a freshman and who has forgone baseball in favor of lacrosse.
The Camalicks themselves are a remarkable, energetic and welcoming family—the sort that offers to be the host for a pasta party for 24 voracious bull-in-the-china-shop boys the day before the party and they do it with graciousness and ease.
“You realize, nothing is ever perfect,” laughed Vicki, “and with Jimmy it makes you realize what’s important. The most important thing is you spend time together as a family.”
For Eric Gnippe, who won the “Jimmy Award” last year as a junior and again this year as a senior, this is a great honor indeed.
“It means a lot to me,” he said.
Gnippe is a catcher, but starting or not, he has a distinctive view of his role, which he takes by paraphrasing John F. Kennedy quote: “What can I do for my team and not what can my team do for me,” Gnippe said.
When he does get discouraged, he looks up to the stands and he sees Jimmy watching and Jimmy’s efforts to show up and his support motivates Gnippe.
When giving Gnippe the award this year, Mark Wittkamper, assistant baseball coach, noted that Gnippe always has an encouraging word for each player on the team and pays attention to what each is doing.
“He’s the kind of guy you want in your back pocket,” Wittkamper said.
Last year, when Gnippe went to the podium to accept the award, he told such a corny riddle — “Why do sea gulls only fly over the sea? If they flew over the bay, they would have to be called bagels”—that he won the heart of every person in the room.
This year, he composed a quick rap song to Jimmy: “Oh, my man Jimmy … He knows all of our names when he’s watching our games … he’s one of a kind and we don’t mind.”
Gnippe played baseball all four of his years at Hinsdale Central and will continue to play at Rockford College where he has been awarded a merit scholarship. He also learned just last week that he is a recipient of one of the Hinsdale Central PTO Book Grants. With his fortunes running high, some would say those with the right attitude manufacture quite a bit of their luck.
To all the young men and women graduating this season, best wishes and heed the words of Albert Schweitzer, European theologian and philosopher: “Example is not the main thing in influencing others — it is the only thing.”