Robbie Widlansky (

By Zev Ben Avigdor/Jewish Baseball News

Baltimore Orioles prospect Robbie Widlansky is getting a lot of attention lately.

A first baseman, outfielder, and DH with the Bowie Bowsox (AA), the 27-year-old will play in next week’s Eastern League All-Star game. In June he was named the league’s Player of the Month after hitting .407 with 10 doubles, 2 HRs, 21 RBIs, and an OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging) of 1.116.

It didn’t happen overnight for the Plantation, Fla., native. Picked by the Yankees out of high school in 2003, he deferred his entry into professional baseball and attended Florida Atlantic University instead. But since the Baltimore Orioles drafted him in the 11th round of the 2007 amateur draft, he’s played consistently well. Widlansky led all Orioles minor leaguers in 2009 with a .340 batting average for the Frederick Keys (A-advanced). He rose to AA in 2010, and midway through the 2011 season he was promoted to AAA, where he batted .283 in 127 at-bats.

It’s not clear why the 6’2″, 210-pounder is back with the Bowie Baysox (AA) this season, but as his recent accolades attest, Widlansky continues to give it his all. Jewish Baseball News contributor Zev Ben Avigdor recently caught up with the Orioles prospect. Following is an edited transcript of their chat.


How did you get started in baseball?

I started playing at age 5, 6, 7. Tee ball, the whole thing: little league, high school, college, pro. I have two older brothers. They both played when they were younger. One of them played in college. So we were always around sports. I grew up with sports. That’s basically how things started off.

When you were starting, who influenced you?

My dad. He was into sports, and he’s always been a part of my career. So he’s definitely been a big part of things. I grew up in Florida. Growing up I was a Marlins fan, and I was a Yankees fan because of my family: Connecticut on my dad’s side, New Jersey on my mom’s side. I always liked a lot of the Yankees — [especially] Jeter.

What about now? Are there players that you try to be like?

Not really. I try to be the best guy that I can be. Sounds kind of…But that’s the truth. Just to play hard.

As you were growing up, were you involved in synagogue, Hebrew school, bar mitzvah?

Yeah, I became bar mitzvah. I went to Hebrew school growing up.

What about now? What kind of contact do you have with Jewish fans?

Sometimes they write to me, but not a ton come up to me. Sometimes you get the letters in the mail from Jewish people, and from others, also. [The Jewish fans say] that they like autographs from Jewish ballplayers. Just stuff like that. Same stuff that other guys will say.

Just Jewisher.

Yeah, exactly.

What’s cool about being a Jewish ballplayer?

I don’t know if this is cool, but just the numbers. There’s not a lot of people. It’s more different. It shows you work hard. Maybe you have gotten to a place so far that other people haven’t, where you’re still trying to move on even further in your career. You just have to keep working. It puts you on a small little pedestal, not a big one, certainly.

What’s the best part of being Jewish in general?

There’s a lot of good things. That’s a tough one.

So what do you like best about being a baseball player?

Just to be competitive. It’s fun. The competition. Especially when you get to the pro ranks, you’re obviously trying to get to the top. And it’s just one of those things that everyone wants to — “Oh, man, a baseball player, that’s amazing!” — stuff like that. It’s a pretty fun time. I’m sure it’s a lot more fun in the big leagues, but it’s pretty good in the minor leagues.

Do people understand what it’s like being a minor league baseball player?

Maybe some. I’m sure a lot don’t. Maybe depending on how much people are into the game, or know people that are into the game that they can ask questions. Obviously coming up through the minors it’s not all glamour like up top. That’s why you have to keep working.

What would you want people to know about the life of a baseball player, so they can better appreciate what you go through?

It’s games every day, 142 games a season in the minors, long bus rides, sometimes you’re forced to eat fast food and things you don’t want. You’re in a hotel for 70-plus nights a year. You don’t always have the comforts of home-cooked meals. You’re around 25, 30 guys. You’re probably not going to get along with all of them. So it’s just little things. A grind. Get your body going each day. It’s hard work.

What would you like people who read Jewish Baseball News to know about you? If they could know what it was like for you, what should they know?

To get here, where I am right now, baseball-wise, you put in hours upon hours training and working. Especially the game of baseball. There’s so much failure that you go through a lot mentally — ups and downs. Obviously you hope for as many ups as possible, but it’s a roller coaster ride, and you just have to put in time, a lot of time, hours, hard work, training.

How do you handle the emotional roller coaster?

Sometimes it’s tough. Some guys are better at it than others. I feel like I’m pretty good at it. It’s just that everyone has a different personality. Everyone experiences different ups and downs.

Do you have a way of coping that you would be willing to share?

I don’t have like a big [way of coping]. I’m not set in my ways in a lot of ways. I am just kind of a pretty relaxed type of guy. I’m just kind of going to mind my own things. When things are going well, great. When things aren’t good, just try to fix them as quickly as possible.

What would it be like if you were asked to play for Israel in the World Baseball Classic?

I guess that would be pretty cool. You’re representing — I guess it would be more like a group of people, not a country. I’m not from Israel, obviously. It’s an honor. Like any other person representing a country, a nation — it would be a nice honor.

If you were asking the questions, what would you ask if you wanted to know what it’s like to be a Jewish minor league baseball player?

I would ask — because there have been not as many — do you feel it’s tougher to get to the top? Just because, numbers-wise, there haven’t been too many in the history of the game, do you feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle? But that’s not the case. I mean, you have just as big a chance as anyone else. I’m just saying it might seem like, if you’re Jewish, you can’t make it, but obviously that’s not the case. There’s great players out there, and in the past, obviously, too. Just not a lot of them.

(Editor’s note: “Zev Ben Avigdor” is the pen name of a university scholar who writes for Jewish Baseball News. Click here to see more of his interviews.)

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