- While the pandemic and recovery from elbow surgery have limited his games, the 20-year-old aspires to be the first Sikh to play in MLB.
Ever since he was introduced to baseball, Samrath Singh had to find little ways around the norms of the game to be able to play. The Boston College pitcher is believed to be the first observant Sikh to ever play Division 1 baseball. Singh is a senior at the Carroll School, where he is majoring in finance, with a minor in computer science.
The New Jersey native has had a tough road to college baseball. He joined Boston College in the fall of 2018, but it took him more than a year to actually pitch for the Eagles, per his profile in the Boston College Magazine. After recovering from an elbow injury that required surgery, Singh finally pitched his first game as a college ballplayer in the spring of 2020. A lingering arm ache, that he had neglected, became unbearable when Singh was attempting to throw early in 2019. Soon after, he underwent a procedure known as Tommy John surgery. It took him almost six months to get back to baseball.
In the Spring 2020 season, Singh debuted in a game against Fairfield University. “During the game, he walked a batter, struck out another, and gave up one hit in a scoreless inning,” says the Boston College Magazine. “And through it all, he wore his turban.” Singh told the Boston College Magazine that “the whole time on the mound, I was just smiling. I was ecstatic.”
It’s a long way from his Little League years. Singh told Religion Network that as “the only Sikh in my Little League who had a joora (topknot) and patka (small turban) and kesh (uncut hair), it was a challenge to get the helmet on. “I was never going to wear a hat, and I didn’t feel comfortable wearing a visor over my joora either.”
Not Singh is a pitcher; he doesn’t bat anymore and doesn’t have to wear a helmet. “On the field, I just wear my turban and it’s not a big deal to anyone,” he told Religion Network.
Growing up, Singh’s parents introduced him to several sports. He played golf, tennis, and baseball, and eventually settled on baseball. “I always threw hard for my age, and I hit 30 home runs in my Little League career,” he told Perfect Game USA, a baseball scouting service.
By the time he reached middle school, Singh was playing on elite travel teams across New Jersey and taking pitching lessons twice a week. As a freshman on the junior varsity team at West Windsor High School South, Singh was named the team’s most valuable player.
Despite his achievements in sports, Singh never faltered in academics. “Academics have always come first,” Singh told Perfect Game USA. “Excellence in school is a key part of the Sikh culture.”
Singh’s father works in finance, and his mother is a dentist. One of his sisters graduated from Carnegie Mellon University; the other is a student there currently.
Singh describes his college recruitment process as “ frustrating.” With a score of 1510, Singh told Perfect Game USA that he “had his eyes set on an Ivy League school such as Princeton or Dartmouth.” Admitting that coaches wanted him more for his turban as it would “just bring more attention to the team and the school,” most Ivy League sports were filled by the time Singh applied.
Boston College had a spot and Singh recalls how a meeting head baseball coach Mike Gambino made him accept. When Gambino “opened their meeting by talking about Sikhism and how it related to Boston College’s Jesuit values,” Singh told Perfect Game USA that his parents were sold immediately. “That definitely sold my parents immediately,“ Singh recalled. “He was the first coach I talked to that really took a deep interest in my religion and made me feel really comfortable.”
Growing up in New Jersey, Singh was usually the only Sikh in his grade that wore a turban. He faced teasing and discrimination. However, Singh told Religion News that “he focuses less on those negative moments and more on the values that help him navigate and transcend discrimination. He told Religion Networks that growing up, he would attend the gurdwara in Lawrenceville, and he “loved being a part of the community there.” He continued: “Rather than feeling sorry for yourself, you have to remember that life is in your hands and you can take it where you want to. I am confident in who I am and I love myself, and the people around me, my own beliefs, and my religion have helped me accept myself and be proud of who I am.”
With a year left for him to graduate, Singh is currently unsure which way his baseball career is headed. The pandemic and a return of the pain in his arm have limited his games. Still recovering from the surgery, Singh has decided not to compete this year. “Believe me, it’s a very hard pill to swallow,” he told NBC. “But at the end of the day, I’m more than just a baseball player.”
He wants to be a role model for Sikh kids, and realize his lifelong dream of being the first Sikh to play in the major league, he told NBC. “So being the first observant Sikh playing on nationally televised baseball games, that would mean the world to me.”