The summer’s not over until the talk turns to baseball. And, for Jewish major leaguers and their many fans, it’s been a season of firsts…and a decade for the history books. Here is a round-up of current Jewish major leaguers and their statistics as of August 8, 2009.
Bradley David Ausmus
Born: April 4, 1969 • Birthplace: New Haven, Conn.
Team: Los Angeles Dodgers • Position: Catcher
Average: .304 • HR: 1 • RBI: 8
In 2009, Brad Ausmus ranked first all-time among all Jewish major leaguers in career games played. A graduate of Dartmouth, he was one of six Ivy Leaguers on major league rosters at the beginning of the 2009 season. On January 26, 2009, he agreed to a one-year, $1 million deal to be a back-up catcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ausmus was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2004. “I have had quite a few young Jewish boys who will tell me that I am their favorite player, or they love watching me play or they feel like baseball is a good fit for them because it worked for me, or it worked for Shawn Green or other Jewish players at the Major League level,” said Ausmus. “It has been a sense of pride. If you can have a positive impact on a kid, I’m all for it.”
Ryan Joseph Braun
Born: Nov. 17, 1983 • Birthplace: Mission Hills, Calif.
Team: Milwaukee Brewers • Position: Left field
Average: .313 • HR: 26 • RBI: 89
Braun is one of the highest-drafted Jewish ballplayers in the history of professional baseball. In both 2007 and 2008, he hit more home runs (34 and 37) than all but three of the top 10 career Jewish home run hitters in their best seasons. Only Hank Greenberg (58), Shawn Green (49), and Al Rosen (43) hit more in a single year. In May 2009, with his 80th career home run, he passed Brad Ausmus for eighth on the all-time list, directly behind Steve Yeager, for home runs by Jewish major leaguers. He was one of three Jewish players on the Team USA 2009 World Baseball Classic team, joining Youkilis and Grabow. Braun has many business ventures outside of baseball including a clothing line and commercials but recently has turned down a request by ABC that he appear on the TV show “The Bachelor.”
Craig Andrew Breslow
Born: August 8, 1980 • Birthplace: New Haven, Conn.
Team: Oakland Athletics • Position: Relief pitcher
ERA: 3.92 • SO: 43 • Record: 5-6
Breslow was given the nickname “smartest man in baseball” by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Twins beat writer La Velle E. Neal III, and Wall Street Journal reporter Jason Turbow wrote: “Judging by his r?m?Craig Breslow is the smartest man in baseball, if not the entire world.” The Oakland Athletics claimed the lefty-specialist, Breslow, of waivers from the Minnesota Twins on May 20, 2009. Breslow in 2008 started the Strike 3 Foundation, a non-profit charity that raises awareness, support, and funding for pediatric cancer research because his sister is a pediatric thyroid cancer survivor. His first benefit raised $100,000.
Scott Wynne Feldman
Born: February 7, 1983 • Birthplace: Kailua, Hi.
Team: Texas Rangers • Position: Starting pitcher
ERA: 3.87 • SO: 86 • Record: 13-4
On August 13, 2008, against the Boston Red Sox, Feldman became the first major league pitcher in 90 years to give up at least 12 runs in a game and not take the loss. Feldman’s fastball, as well as his overall mechanics, have improved in 2009. On July 25, he out-dueled Kansas City All Star and AL ERA leader Zack Greinke with eight innings of four-hit ball, leading the Rangers to a 2-0 victory.
Samuel Babson Fuld
Born: Nov. 20, 1981 • Birthplace: Durham, N.H.
Team: Chicago Cubs • Position: Outfield
Average: .283 • HR: 0 • RBI: 0
Fuld was an economics major at Stanford University and graduated in 2004. He was drafted for the second time by the Cubs in 2004. He made his major league debut in September of 2007 but was mostly used as a late inning replacement. He spent the 2008 season in the minors but was called up to the majors again on June 30, 2009. On July 1, Fuld recorded his first major league hits in his first major league start of the season, and second start of his career.
John William Grabow
Born: Nov. 4, 1978 • Birthplace: Arcadia, Calif.
Team: Chicago Cubs • Position: Relief pitcher
ERA: 2.88 • SO: 46 • Record: 3-0
Grabow edged Craig Breslow for the 2008 Barney Pelty Award for Jewish Pitcher of the Year. On July 30, 2009, he was traded from the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he had spent his whole baseball career, to the Chicago Cubs.
Gabriel Stefan Kapler
Born: July 31, 1975 • Birthplace: Hollywood, Calif.
Team: Tampa Bay Rays • Position: Right field
Average: .236 • HR: 4 • RBI: 24
In 2008, with his career 69th home run, he passed Art Shamsky and Lou Boudreau to become ninth on the all-time list for home runs by a Jewish major leaguer. Kapler was the unanimous winner of the 2008 Jewish Comeback Player of the Year award. That year, he robbed Russel Martin of the Dodgers of a home run, as he toppled into the left field seats. The outstanding catch earned Kapler the Play of the Year Award, voted by over 12 million fans in major league baseball’s “This Year in Baseball” awards. On October 30, 2008, Kapler filed for free agency and on January 12, 2009, he signed a one-year contract with the Tampa Bay Rays for $1,000,018; the extra $18 represents “chai” and is Kapler’s lucky number. In 2004, Kapler and his wife, Lisa, co-founded the Gabe Kapler Foundation, dedicated to educating the public about domestic violence and helping women escape abusive relationships.
Ian Michael Kinsler
Born: June 22, 1982 • Birthplace: Tucson, Ariz.
Team: Texas Rangers • Position: Second base
Average: .245 • HR: 26 • RBI: 69
Despite having been drafted in only the 17th round, Kinsler has risen to become the Rangers’ starting second baseman and leadoff hitter, an All Star, a two-time Player of the Week, and #24 on the Sporting News’ 2009 list of the 50 greatest current players in baseball. He also had an historic game on April 15, 2009 against the Orioles, in which he had hits in all six of his at-bats, and hit for the cycle. In 2008, Kinsler had a majors’-best 25-game hitting streak in June and July, just shy of the team hitting streak of 28 that belongs to Gabe Kapler. In 2008 Kinsler won the Rangers’ Jim Sundberg Community Achievement Award for his community service.
Jason Scott Marquis
Born: August 21, 1978 • Birthplace: Manhasset, N.Y.
Team: Colorado Rockies • Position: Starting pitcher
ERA: 3.58 • SO: 79 • Record: 14- 8
Marquis, whose grandparents were Holocaust survivors, grew up in a Conservative Jewish home, attended Hebrew school, and observes the major Jewish holidays. His bar mitzvah had a baseball theme; his parents surprised him with a replica scoreboard of the game line from his Little League World Series no-hitter against Canada. He was traded to The Colorado Rockies from the Chicago Cubs on January 6, 2009. On July 19, he became the first 12-game winner in the major leagues. He is sixth all-time of all Jewish major leaguer pitchers in strikeouts and seventh in wins, trailing, among others, Sandy Koufax, Ken Holtzman, and Steve Stone in both categories. In 2009 he joined Koufax as the only other Jewish pitcher to have at least 10 victories in six consecutive seasons. When there was talk in the off-season about an Israeli/Jewish team being fielded in the World Baseball Classic, Marquis said he would definitely be interested in playing on that team.
Born: Oct. 1, 1986 • Birthplace: Walnut Creek, Calif.
Team: San Diego Padres • Position: Relief Pitcher
ERA: 2.45 • SO: 12 • Record: 1-0
Poreda was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in 2007. He made his major league debut on June 12, 2009. He was part of a 4 for 1 trade to the San Diego Padres for Jake Peavy.
Ryan Keith Sadowski
Born: Oct. 4, 1982 • Birthplace: Miami, Fla.
Team: San Francisco Giants • Position: Starting pitcher
ERA: 4.45 • SO: 17 • Record: 2-4
Sadowski was drafted by the Giants in 2002 and made his major league debut on June 28, 2009 with a win over the Milwaukee Brewers.
Scott David Schoenweiss
Born: Oct. 2, 1973 • Birthplace: Long Branch, N.J.
Team: Arizona Diamondbacks • Position: Relief pitcher
ERA: 8.24 • SO: 13 • Record: 1-2
On December 12, 2008, Schoenweiss was traded from the New York Mets to The Arizona Diamondbacks. He is actively involved in the Office of the White House National Drug Control Policy, encouraging students to say “no” to drugs.
Joshua S. Whitesell
Born: April 14, 1982 • Birthplace: Durham, N.C.
Team: Arizona Diamondbacks • Position: First base
Average: .194 • HR: 1 • RBI: 14
Whitesell was the 2008 Diamondbacks Minor League Player of the Year. He made his major league debut on September 2, 2008 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He collected his first major league hit, a single, on September 15, 2008, during his first start.
Kevin Edmund Youkilis
Born: March 15, 1979 • Birthplace: Cincinnati, Oh.
Team: Boston Red Sox • Position: First base
Average: .308 • HR: 22 • RBI: 72
Youkilis is the son of a Jewish jewelry wholesaler of Romanian ancestry, whom Youkilis has described as a “well-known third baseman in the Jewish Community Center fast-pitch softball league.” He was named the winner of the AL Hank Aaron Award for the best offensive performance of the 2008 season. Youkilis was named the Jewish MVP for 2008, beating out fellow all-stars Braun and Kinsler. Through April 25, 2009, his .294 batting average placed him 8th on the all-time list (directly ahead of Ron Blomberg, and behind Kinsler) for batting average by Jewish major leaguers, and his 71 home runs placed him 10th on the all-time list (directly ahead of Art Shamsky and Lou Boudreau, and behind Braun). In 2007, Youkilis established “Hits For Kids,” a foundation that raises support and awareness for the health, advocacy, safety, and medical healing of children across Massachusetts, in his hometown of Cincinnati, and beyond. “In the Jewish religion, that’s one of the biggest things that’s taught; giving a mitzvah, forming a mitzvah”, said Youkilis. “I was always taught as a kid to give to charity. You’re supposed to give a good amount of charity each and every year…. It’s just a great thing when you can make a kid smile that’s going through some hard times in life.”