Guy Stevens
(Photo by Sarah Gopher-Stevens)

By Stuart M. Katz, correspondent

Every baseball player dreams of going to the World Series. Guy Stevens, a right-handed reliever who has pitched for Israel’s national team and Pomona College, got there through a side door last season when he landed an analytics internship with the Kansas City Royals. (The Royals took the 2014 Series to seven games before yielding to the San Francisco Giants.)

It was no fluke. Stevens, 23, was a math and economics major at Pomona when he helped develop a new methodology for predicting how minor leaguers might perform against Major League pitching. The report he co-authored on the research was interesting enough to earn coverage in Wired magazine.

In December 2014, Jewish Baseball News talked with Stevens about baseball, being Jewish, and having dual American and Israeli citizenship. Following is an edited version.

JBN: Where did you grow up?

Stevens: I grew up in Lafayette, California, near San Francisco in the East Bay Area.

JBN: In what ways was your family religiously observant?

Stevens: We attended services for the High Holidays every year and tried to have a family Shabbat dinner as often as possible. I went to Hebrew school for many years when I was growing up, which kept me connected to other Jewish kids and with Jewish traditions and the Jewish community as a whole.

JBN: How did you decide where to attend college?

Stevens: I wanted to attend a smaller, liberal-arts school, so most of my search was focused on the East Coast. I was trying to balance my desire for strong academics with the opportunity to continue playing baseball. There were a few schools that seemed like good fits, but I was really impressed with the baseball program at Pomona. The school definitely fit what I was looking for academically, and as a California kid, the warm weather of Southern California was way too good to pass up.

JBN: What sports did you play before college, other than baseball?

Stevens: I also played soccer and basketball growing up, before high school. Baseball was definitely my favorite sport and also where I had the most success, so that was the only one I really stuck with. But I remained a huge soccer fan despite not continuing my career as a player and still enjoy playing in pickup games and that sort of thing.

JBN: How would you describe your college baseball career?

Stevens: I see my career as a success on all fronts. We won a conference championship and made two NCAA Regionals, and I had an awesome group of teammates that played a huge role in my overall college experience. I had the most personal success after taking over the closer’s role during my Junior year, but I am proud of everything we accomplished as a group.

JBN: Describe your personal connection to Israel.

Stevens: As a dual citizen of the US and Israel, I have been to Israel many times. Most visits have been to visit family; my mom grew up in Israel and didn’t move to the U.S. until graduate school, and much of her family still lives there. Recently, my visits have been more baseball-oriented.

JBN: Describe the experience playing for Team Israel.

Stevens: I spent a few weeks in Israel in 2007 watching Israel Baseball League games, which was the first time I had ever really associated baseball with Israel. After that, my family had developed some connections to Israel baseball, and we reached out to see if I might be able to participate with the National team. I went out for a couple weeks during my summer vacation and practiced with the team, then got the chance to play in two tournaments: a Czech tournament called Prague Baseball Week, and then the European Championship Qualifiers hosted in Israel. It was a lot of fun. We played some good teams in Prague but played competitively and with a lot of energy. The team welcomed me right off the bat, and even without knowing any Hebrew, it was easy to get along with everyone. We came up just a bit short against Great Britain, but we pushed them to a very close final game, and I’m excited for the possibility of getting another shot at qualification next year.

JBN: How did you end up working for the Royals?

Stevens: After an internship in the Mets front office in the summer after my Junior year of college, I knew I wanted to find an opportunity with a Major League team. The Royals were a great fit for me, and I really couldn’t be happier with where I am. I work in the Baseball Analytics department. I have some day-to-day responsibilities, such as providing our coaching staff with the information they need, but I also spend plenty of time on more research-and-development-focused projects. I did not travel with the team at all to the World Series, but I attend all of our home games. The atmosphere at those games was absolutely incredible.

JBN: Which ballplayers did you admire growing up?

Stevens: I grew up as an A’s fan and always loved pitching, so I was a big fan of the Big Three: Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito. I was also a big fan of Marco Scutaro in high school; I was at the Coliseum for his walk-off home run off of Mariano Rivera in 2007, which was one of my best baseball memories as a kid.

JBN: Would you play on the high holidays?

Stevens: I think it would be very tough to play on the high holidays. I don’t know if I would feel differently playing in the Majors, but I still don’t think I would do it, especially on Yom Kippur.

JBN: What are your plans for the future?

Stevens: Right now, my primary focus is helping the Royals win a World Series. We came close this year (2014), so hopefully we can finish the job in the near future. I’m also eager to return to the mound for Team Israel at some point and would really love to help the team win a European Championship.

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Stuart M. Katz is a die-hard Yankees fan. An attorney at Cohen and Wolf in Bridgeport, Conn., he chairs the firm’s Litigation Group, practicing mainly employment law, and represents employers as well as executives.