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Minor-League Monday (August 21-27, 2017)

By Scott Barancik, Editor

Here are your minor-league highlights from the week of August 21-27, 2017:



Jewish Baseball News Hitter of the Week: Michael Barash

Michael Barash (Angels/High-A) had a career game on August 24, going 5-for-6 with a home run, 4 RBIs and a walk. For the week, he hit .500 (7-for-14) with 2 HRs, 5 RBIs and an impressive 6 walks. Barash is hitting .236 this season, with 10 HRs, 19 doubles and a .326 on-base percentage.



Jewish Baseball News Pitcher of the Week: Jeremy Bleich*

  • P Jeremy Bleich* (Dodgers/AAA) pitched 3 scoreless innings across 2 appearances, yielding just one hit and no walks while striking out 4 and earning his third save. Since being promoted to Triple-A on June 16, Bleich is 5-1 with a 2.66 ERA, has 3 saves in 8 chances, and is yielding an average of just 0.97 walks/hits per inning, #4 among all Pacific Coast League pitchers with 40+ innings.


  • The Seattle Times named CF Braden Bishop (Mariners/AA) the Seattle Mariners’ minor-league player of the year. Bishop began the season in High-A, where he hit .296 with 2 HRs, 3 triples, 25 doubles, 32 RBIs, 16 stolen bases and a .385 on-base percentage. He has performed even better since his July 22 promotion to Double-A, hitting .336 with a home run, triple, 9 doubles, 11 RBIs, 6 stolen bases and a .417 on-base percentage.

Other highlights

  • C Garrett Stubbs (Astros/AAA) hit .294 (5-for-17) with a double, 4 RBIs, 4 walks and a stolen base.
  • LF Mike Meyers (Red Sox/High-A) hit .389 (7-for-18) with a double, triple, home run, RBI, walk and 2 stolen bases.
  • C Andy Yerzy (Diamondbacks/rookie) saw his hitting streak end at 22 games on August 24, but he went on a 3-game tear after that, during which he hit .571 (8-for-14) with 2 HRs, a double and 3 RBIs to lift his average above .300 for the first time this season.
  • P Max Fried (Braves/AAA) was dominant in his first-ever Triple-A appearance. He tossed 4 scoreless innings in an August 24 start, yielding one hit and 2 walks while striking out 6.
  • P R.C. Orlan* (Nationals/High-A) tossed 3 scoreless innings across 2 games, yielding just one hit and no walks while striking out 2 and earning his fifth save.
  • P Kenny Koplove (Marlins/A-short-season) pitched 2.2 scoreless innings across 2 games, yielding a hit and a walk while striking out 5.
  • P Ike Davis* (Dodgers/rookie), who is refashioning himself as a pitcher, threw 2 scoreless innings across 2 appearances, yielding a hit and a walk.
  • P Keith Weisenberg (Braves/rookie), a 2017 draftee, pitched 2 scoreless innings on August 23, yielding one hit and no walks while striking out 2. For the season, he is 3-2 with a 2.59 ERA and one save, and he is holding opposing batters to just 1.11 walks/hits per inning.
  • P Spencer Kulman (Padres/rookie), a 2017 draftee, pitched 2 scoreless innings across 2 games, yielding 2 walks and no hits while striking out one. For the season, he is 1-0 with a 1.25 ERA, 3 saves in 4 chances, and is limiting opposing batters to just 1.06 walks/hits per inning.


  • P Ryan Sherriff* (Cardinals) was called-up from Triple-A on August 23 and made his MLB debut on August 25.
  • P Craig Breslow* (Indians) was called-up from Triple-A on August 26.
  • P Max Fried (Braves/AAA) was sent down to Triple-A on August 23. The Braves had promoted him from Double-A straight to the Majors on August 5.
  • 1B Cody Decker* (Mets/AAA) was placed on the disabled list August 26, retroactive to August 24.
  • P Kenny Rosenberg (Rays/A) was played on the temporary inactive list on August 23.
  • SS Elliott Barzilli (Marlins/rookie) was released on August 24. The 2017 draftee was hitting .254 with 2 HRs and 8 RBIs in 63 at-bats.

Free agents

Disabled list

Note to readers: Minor-League Monday does not include stats for all current Jewish minor-leaguers. Click here for a complete list of players, and then click on a player’s name to be taken to his stat page.

Members of Team Israel’s 2017 squad are marked with an asterisk.

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By Scott Barancik, Editor

Here are your minor-league highlights from the week of May 29 – June 4, 2017. Members of Team Israel’s 2017 squad are marked with an asterisk:

rickles phils mug


Jewish Baseball News Hitter of the Week: Nick Rickles*

Nick Rickles* (Phillies/AA) hit .385 (5-for-13) in his first full week with the Philadelphia Phillies franchise, highlighted by a two-HR, 5 RBI performance on June 3. It was the second two-HR game in his 7-year minor-league career and tied his career high for most RBIs in a game.

weiss tortugas mug


Jewish Baseball News Pitcher of the Week: Zack Weiss

  • Zack Weiss (Reds/High-A), who last played in 2015, finally escaped the disabled list and was nearly perfect in his two relief appearances last week, yielding one hit and no walks over a combined 2.1 innings while striking out 4.

Other highlights

  • P Brad Goldberg* (White Sox) was promoted from Triple-A on June 3 and made his Major League debut the same day. In the minors this season, Goldberg is 2-1 with a 1.99 ERA and 4 saves in 5 chances.
  • CF Braden Bishop (Mariners/High-A) hit .320 (8-for-25) with a double, 4 RBIs, 3 walks and 2 stolen bases. He leads the Modesto Nuts in batting average (.320), on-base percentage (.419), OPS (.844) and stolen bases (11 in 12 tries). Bishop has just one error in the outfield, giving him a .992 fielding percentage.
  • 1B Cody Decker* (Mets/AA) hit .368 (7-for-19) with 4 doubles and 4 RBIs. He leads the Binghamton Rumble Ponies with a .528 slugging percentage and an OPS of .902.
  • LF Mike Meyers* (Red Sox/High-A) hit .348 (8-for-23) with a double and 4 RBIs.
  • LF Jake Thomas (Blue Jays/AA) hit an RBI double in his Double-A debut on June 4.
  • P Corey Baker* (Cardinals/AA) held opponents scoreless in two relief outings, yielding 3 hits and no walks over a combined 3.2 innings while striking out 2.
  • P Ryan Sherriff (Cardinals/AAA) ran his scoreless relief streak to 10 innings over 8 appearances. He is 2-0 with a 3.65 ERA, 3 saves in 3 chances, and only 1.09 hits/walks per inning.


  • P Brad Goldberg* was called up by the Chicago White Sox on June 3 and made his MLB debut the same day.
  • LF Jake Thomas (Blue Jays/AA) was promoted from Single-A on June 3, skipping High-A entirely.
  • P Zack Weiss (Reds/High-A) came off the disabled list and made his season debut on May 31.
  • P Jason Richman (Rangers/High-A) was released on May 31.
  • P Kenny Rosenberg (Rays/A), who is 2-3 with a 3.95 ERA and a save so far this season, was assigned to extended spring training.
  • P Henry Hirsch, a former minor-leaguer with the Pirates, signed with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League.
  • 3B Zach Goldstein, a Southern New Hampshire University third baseman who was named Northeast-10 Conference Baseball Player of the Year in 2017, signed with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League. Playing in his first professional game on June 2, Goldstein went 1-for-3 with an RBI double.
  • C Nick Rickles* (Phillies/AA), who was traded by the Nationals in late May, made his debut with Philadelphia’s Double-A team on May 31.

Free agents

Disabled list

Note to readers: Minor-League Monday does not include stats for all current Jewish minor-leaguers. Click here for a complete list of players, and then click on a player’s name to be taken to his stat page.

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Israel’s WBC roster taking shape

By Scott Barancik, editor

The roster of players set to represent Israel in the World Baseball Classic in South Korea this March is taking shape.

Team Israel general manager Peter Kurz, whose squad of former Major League and current minor-league athletes guided Israel to a qualifying-round win in September, said Tuesday that 15 ballplayers had already committed to play in the main tournament in Seoul. The list includes:

  1. Ty Kelly, IF (New York Mets)
  2. Sam Fuld, OF (free agent)
  3. Jason Marquis, P (free agent)
  4. Ike Davis, 1B (free agent)
  5. Ryan Lavarnway, C (Oakland Athletics/minors)
  6. Cody Decker, IF (Milwaukee Brewers/minors)
  7. Josh Zeid, P (free agent)
  8. Nate Freiman, 1B (free agent)
  9. Tyler Krieger, IF (Cleveland Indians/minors)
  10. Nick Rickles, C (Washington Nationals/minors)
  11. Dean Kremer, P (Los Angeles Dodgers/minors)
  12. Corey Baker, P (St. Louis Cardinals/minors)
  13. Jeremy Bleich, P (free agent)
  14. Jake Kalish, P (Kansas City Royals/minors)
  15. Alex Katz, P (Chicago White Sox/minors)

Two key additions are Ty Kelly and Sam Fuld. During the qualifiers in September, Kelly was playing for the New York Mets, while Fuld, then with the Oakland Athletics, was on the disabled list. Also new are minor leaguers Tyler Krieger and Jake Kalish.

Roster spots have been offered to at least seven additional minor leaguers who played for Team Israel in September : Zach Borenstein (Arizona Diamondbacks), Brad Goldberg (Chicago White Sox), Blake Gailen (independent), Scotty Burcham (Colorado Rockies), Tyler Herron (New York Mets), R C Orlan (Washington Nationals), and Joey Wagman (Oakland Athletics). None has provided a final answer yet.

Kurz told Jewish Baseball News that Danny Valencia of the Seattle Mariners and Craig Breslow, who is seeking to return to the Major Leagues, are possible future additions to Israel’s roster. Team Israel also is pursuing Joc Pederson of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Jason Kipnis of the Cleveland Indians.

Several prominent pros politely declined Team Israel’s invitations due to injury, family commitments, Major League aspirations, or other concerns. They include Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, Kevin Pillar and Scott Feldman of the Toronto Blue Jays, Richard Bleier of the New York Yankees, Jon Moscot of the Cincinnati Reds, and minor-league prospect and Ryan Sherriff of the St. Louis Cardinals. Sherriff played for Team Israel in the September qualifiers.

Alex Bregman of the Houston Astros and Ian Kinsler of the Detroit Tigers have committed to play for Team USA rather than Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic.

Under WBC rules, athletes can play on Team Israel as long as they are eligible for Israeli citizenship. That means having at least one Jewish grandparent or being married to someone Jewish. Nearly all the players on Israel’s roster personally identify as Jewish.

Earlier this month, eight players on the WBC roster visited Israel for a week to learn about the country, meet Israeli fans, and break ground on a new baseball stadium. reporter Jonathan Mayo and Ironbound Films co-founder Jeremy Newberger plan to create a documentary about the trip, titled Heading Home.

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israel trip

Trailed by a documentary film crew, 10 Jewish ballplayers will be touring Israel from January 3-10, 2017

By Stuart M. Katz, correspondent

When centerfielder Sam Fuld and nine other Jewish athletes head to Israel on January 3 for what might be dubbed a ‘Baseball Birthright’ trip, they won’t be alone.

Wives, parents, sons, and a fiancée will be traveling with this minyan of Major League players and prospects, all of whom plan to represent Israel at the World Baseball Classic taking place in South Korea in March 2017. Team Israel qualified for the quadrennial contest by winning a qualifying tournament in September.

Also coming along for the ride? A film crew. reporter Jonathan Mayo (Twitter) and Ironbound Films co-founder Jeremy Newberger (Twitter) plan to create a documentary titled Heading Home about the one-week trip. For most of the players, it will be their first visit to the Jewish homeland.

“The idea for the film came first,” Mayo told Jewish Baseball News. “It wasn’t originally planned around the WBC, but after Team Israel qualified, it all came together.”

Mayo said he and Newberger, childhood friends from camp Young Judea, are getting a lot of help. Driving forces behind the project include the Jewish National Fund’s Project Baseball, founder Jeff Aeder, and Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States.

Although plans for the film have not been finalized, Mayo expects the documentary will be screened at film festivals and air on

Fuld, who sat out the Oakland Athletics’ 2016 season with a rotator-cuff injury, will be joined on the trip by Ty Kelly of the New York Mets, Josh Zeid of the New York Mets’ organization, Ryan Lavarnway of the Athletics’ farm system, Jon Moscot of the Cincinnati Reds’ system, free agents Ike Davis and Cody Decker, former MLB outfielder Gabe Kapler (now director of player development for the Los Angeles Dodgers), St. Louis Cardinals prospect Corey Baker, and former MLB prospect, Jeremy Bleich, currently playing in the Dominican Winter League. Danny Valencia of the Seattle Mariners planned to come but had to drop out for family reasons.

A key motivation behind the trip and documentary is to build support for baseball within Israel, where soccer and basketball are king. The Israel Association of Baseball, hopes to recruit new players as well as raise funds to expand the country’s meager baseball infrastructure.

In addition to visiting Masada, the Dead Sea, an Israeli Air Force base, the Old City in Jerusalem and Independence Hall in Tel Aviv, the 10 ballplayers will conduct public practices and meet local dignitaries and ballplayers.

# # #

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.


Israel's bench empties after Sunday's series-clinching win

By Scott Barancik, Editor

Israel’s first two wins in the World Baseball Classic qualifiers were fairly close affairs, but the team crushed Great Britain 9-1 in the finals Sunday night to sweep the tournament and earn its first-ever trip to the main WBC event, which will take place in March 2017.

Israel dominated equally from the mound and the plate. Starter Jason Marquis and reliever Josh Zeid maintained a perfect game until one out in the 7th inning, and a no-hitter until two outs in the 8th. Zeid, who notched the win, led all qualifier pitchers with 9 strikeouts in the series. Dean Kremer, a 20-year-old Los Angeles Dodgers prospect who this summer became the first Israeli to be drafted by a Major League team, held Great Britain scoreless in the 9th despite yielding 2 hits.

Israel’s bats thundered, beginning with two 2-run home runs in the 5th inning. Blake Gailen, a 5’9″ outfielder making his first appearance in the tournament and batting last in the order, crushed the first round-tripper. Next was C Ryan Lavarnway, who later in the game stroked an RBI single.

3B Cody Decker, the San Diego Padres’ all-time minor-league home run leader, added a solo shot in the 7th inning. RF Zach Borenstein — who made a diving catch in the 5th to preserve Israel’s perfect game — contributed an RBI triple, and DH Charlie Cutler delivered a 2-run double. SS Scotty Burcham led Israel with three hits.

“This is very emotional. Highly emotional,” Decker told “More emotional than I’m letting on.”

In 2012, Israel lost a heartbreaker to Spain in the 10th inning of the qualifying final. That team was managed by Brad Ausmus, who went on to become manager of the Detroit Tigers.

Israel’s win Sunday earned it the 16th and final berth in the 2017 WBC tournament, which will begin in Seoul, South Korea. The team likely will add a few current Major Leaguers and high-level prospects to its roster, given that MLB will still be in off-season mode then.

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OF <a href=

Zach Borenstein accepts congrats after his RBI single put Israel ahead 3-2 in the 7th (click to see game video)" width="500" height="321" srcset=" 541w, 120w, 300w" sizes="(max-width: 500px) 100vw, 500px" /> (click to see game recap)

By Scott Barancik, Editor

It took Israel’s bats a while to come alive Thursday at Brooklyn’s MCU Park, but a four-run rally in the 7th inning drove the team to a come-from-behind, 5-2 win over Great Britain.

C Ryan Lavarnway led the way with three hits and a walk, and five Team Israel players shared RBI duties, including RF Zach Borenstein, whose 7th-inning single gave Israel a 3-2 lead, and Ike Davis, whose bases-loaded, pinch-hit single brought the score to 4-2. Also plating runs were 3B Cody Decker, CF Mike Meyers, and LF Rhett Wiseman.

Starter Jason Marquis limited Great Britain to one run over three innings, and reliever Josh Zeid kept the game close with 3.2 strong innings, striking out 6 batters while yielding one run.

Israel’s batters ended up with as many hits as its pitchers had strikeouts (11), although the team left the bases loaded in two consecutive innings.

Craig Breslow earned the win despite a shaky inning of pitching, and Brad Goldberg earned the save.

Today at 12pm EST, Israel faces Brazil, which beat Pakistan 10-0 on Thursday. Check out the live stream.

For more details on yesterday’s game:

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Minor-League Monday (August 8-14, 2016)

By Scott Barancik, Editor

Here are your minor-league updates from the week of August 8-14, 2016.

Jewish Baseball News Hitter of the Week

1B Cody Decker (Red Sox/AA) hit .333 last week with 3 HRs, 5 RBIs, and 2 walks. The highlight came August 10, when Decker went 3-for-6 with 2 HRs and 3 RBIs.

Jewish Baseball News Pitcher of the Week

In his first game since being promoted, P Alex Katz (White Sox/High-A) pitched 2.1 no-hit innings, yielding one walk and striking out 2.

Other highlights

1B Nate Freiman (Red Sox/AA) hit .400 with an RBI and a walk.

OF Adam Walton (Diamondbacks/A-short season), a 2016 signee, hit .273 with 3 doubles, 3 RBIs, and a walk.

OF Jeremy Wolf (Mets/rookie), a 2016 draftee, hit .350 with 2 doubles, 4 RBIs, and a walk. He ranks third on the Kingsport Mets with a .304 average, second with a .452 slugging percentage, and fourth with 21 RBIs.

In a 2.1-inning relief appearance August 11, P Brandon Gold (Rockies/rookie) yielded 2 hits and struck out 6. Gold has fanned 16 and walked just 2 over a combined 11.1 innings this season.

In two appearances, P Henry Hirsch (Pirates/High-A) yielded 2 hits and 2 walks over 4.1 innings while fanning 5. He also improved his season record to 6-3.

P Rob Kaminsky (Indians/AA) continues to improve, anchoring an 18-2 win on August 12 after yielding 7 hits and 2 earned runs over 6 innings while striking out 5. After going 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in April, Kaminsky has gone 0-0 with a 3.55 ERA in May, 1-3 with a 4.15 ERA in June, 3-2 with a 2.45 ERA in July, and 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA in August.

Since being reassigned from the rookie Appalachian League to the slightly less competitive rookie Gulf Coast League, 2016 draftee Kenny Rosenberg (Rays) has gone 1-0 with an 0.57 ERA, yielding 12 hits over 15.2 innings, walking just 3, and striking out 21, with a WHIP — walks and hits per innings — of just 0.89.


  • P Dean Kremer (Dodgers) was promoted from rookie ball to Single-A.
  • P Alex Katz (White Sox) was promoted from Single-A to High-A.
  • P Max Fried (Braves/A) came off the disabled list.
  • P Josh Zeid (Mets) was reassigned from Triple-A to Double-A.
  • P Raul Jacobson (Mets) was reassigned from Single-A to A-short season.
  • 1B Ike Davis (Yankees/AAA) was released.
  • P Craig Breslow (Rangers/AAA) was released.

Disabled list

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Minor-League Monday (Aug. 1-7, 2016)

By Scott Barancik, Editor

Here are your minor-league updates from the week of August 1-7, 2016.

Jewish Baseball News Hitter of the Week

C Andy Yerzy (Diamondbacks/rookie), a 2nd-round pick in the 2016 draft, hit .400 last week with a double, 5 RBIs, and a walk. The highlight was a 4-for-5 game on August 5.

Jewish Baseball News Pitcher of the Week

P Rob Kaminsky (Indians/AA) earned his sixth win on August 5, tossing 5 shutout innings. July was Kaminsky’s best month of the season, with the fourth-year going 3-2 with a 2.45 ERA and yielding just 1.12 walks/hits per inning.

Other highlights

On August 5, 1B Ike Davis (Yankees/AAA) went 3-for-4 with 2 home runs and 4 RBIs. Davis went hitless the rest of the week.

1B Cody Decker (Red Sox/AA) hit .348 last week with a double, triple, home run, 3 RBIs, and a walk.

C Ryan Gold (Blue Jays/rookie) went 4-for-8 a double, 2 RBIs, a walk, and an intentional walk. The 2016 draftee is hitting .347 over 18 games.

C Ryan Lavarnway (Blue Jays/AA) hit .421 with a home run, 4 RBIs, and 2 walks.

LF Mike Meyers (Red Sox/High-A) hit .304 with 1 double, 5 RBIs, three walks, and three stolen bases. For the season, he’s hitting .278 with 4 HRs, 60 RBIs, 23 stolen bases in 26 attempts, and a .339 on-base percentage.

OF Jeremy Wolf (Mets/rookie) hit .316 with a double, home run, 5 RBIs, and 3 walks.

In a start on August 5, P Corey Baker (Cardinals/AA) pitched 5 dominant innings, yielding one earned run on 2 hits and no walks while striking out 7 for the win.

Through August 5, reliever Henry Hirsch (Pirates/High-A) had 10 straight scoreless appearances. The last time he yielded an earned run was June 29.

Reliever Alex Katz (White Sox/A) delivered three scoreless appearances last week. In 5 combined innings, he yielded just one hit and two walks while striking out three.


Craig Breslow (Rangers/AAA) was placed on the team’s temporary inactive list. However, reported that the Rangers actually released Breslow from his minor-league contract.

Disabled list

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By Scott Barancik, Editor

Here are your minor-league updates from the week of July 11-17, 2016, a period shortened by All-Star games.

Jewish Baseball News Player of the Week

For the third time this season — and the second week in a row — our Player of the Week is LF Mike Meyers (Red Sox/High-A). Meyers hit .375 with a double, 2 triples, 4 walks, and 5 RBIs. His 8 triples are tied for #1 in the Carolina League.


Two recent draft picks made their debut last week.

C Jason Goldstein (Mariners/rookie), a 9th-round pick, was perfect in his pro debut on July 14. The 22-year-old University of Illinois alum had an RBI single in his only at-bat and threw out an attempted base-stealer who had been a perfect 8-for-8 in thefts up to that point.

In two relief outings, P Matthew Gorst (Red Sox/short-season) held batters scoreless, yielding 1 hit and 2 walks over 2.2 innings.

Other highlights

CF Rhett Wiseman hit safely in all five games last week, going 8-for-23 (.348) with a triple, 3 RBIs, and 1 stolen base in 3 attempts.

1B Ike Davis (Yankees/AAA) went 4-for-12 last week with a HR, 2 RBIs, and 2 walks.

1B Cody Decker (Boston/AA) went only 3-of-13 record at the plate and struck out six times, but he made his hits count, stroking two HRs and a double while driving in 4 runs.

C Ryan Gold (Blue Jays/rookie), a 2016 draftee, went 5-for-14 (.357) with a triple, RBI, and 3 walks.

P Gabe Cramer (Royals/A) pitched 4 scoreless innings across two appearances, striking out 6 batters while yielding 2 hits and a walk. He’s averaging 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings


Second-year P Jason Richman (Rangers) was promoted to Triple-A.

P Josh Zeid (Mets) was demoted to Double-A.

The Miami Marlins released former MLB P Craig Breslow.

The Philadelphia Phillies released P Jeremy Bleich (AA).

Disabled list

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By Scott Barancik, Editor

Here they are, your minor-league updates from the week of June 13-19, 2016.

Jewish Baseball News Player of the Week

LF Mike Meyers (Red Sox/High-A) hit .381 last week with a double, his fifth triple of the season, 2 RBIs, and 2 stolen bases. The highlight: a 4-for-5 showing on June 14.

Other highlights

In his first week as a Red Sox farmhand, Cody Decker (AA) had at least one base hit in all five games, hitting .316 with 2 HRs, 2 doubles, and 5 RBIs. He also moved around the field, serving twice in LF, twice as DH, and one at 1B.

Through his first two weeks of play this season, OF Jake Thomas (Blue Jays/A) is hitting .361 with 3 doubles, a triple, and 9 RBIs.

Jared Lakind (Pirates/AA) added three scoreless appearances last week to up his streak to 17 and cut his ERA to 1.49. The 24-year-old Texas native is holding opposing batters to a .180 average and hasn’t allowed an earned run since April 27.

P Jon Moscot (Reds/AAA) yielded 6 hits, 2 earned runs, and no walks over 6 innings in a 4-2 win on June 15. He also stuck out two batters.

P Brad Goldberg (White Sox/AAA) made two scoreless appearances, giving up a hit and a walk over a combined two innings while striking out two.

P Rob Kaminsky (Indians/AA) had another up-and-down week. The 21-year-old southpaw yielded 4 earned runs in as many innings on June 14 but pitched six innings of one-run ball on June 19.


P Jeremy Bleich (Phillies) was promoted to the Reading Fightin Phils (AAA) and pitched a perfect inning for them in his first appearance.

C Zach Kapstein (Orioles/High-A) made his 2016 debut last week, going 2-for-6 over two games.

Jason Richman (Cardinals) was assigned to the Frisco RoughRiders (AA) from extended spring training.


Minor-League Monday (April 18-24, 2016)

By Scott Barancik, Editor

Here they are, your minor-league highlights from the week of April 18-24.

Borenstein’s streak

Diamondbacks Triple-A prospect Zach Borenstein is 5-for-9 in his last four games with a double, HR, walk, and 4 RBIs. His 12 RBIs (in 51 at-bats) rank 14th in the Pacific Coast League.

Goldberg’s promotion

Brad Goldberg, a 6-foot-4 reliever drafted by the White Sox in 2013, pitched a scoreless inning in his Triple-A debut on 4/23/2016. The proud Ohio State alum spent all of 2015 with Chicago’s High-A team, where he went 11-for-12 in save opportunities.

Bleier’s 2016 debut

Fresh off the disabled list, Yankees Triple-A prospect Richard Bleier made his season debut on April 2014, a 4-inning relief stint in which he yielded 6 hits and one earned run but walked nobody and struck out two.

Baker’s gem

Corey Baker, a starter with the Cardinals’ Double-A club, tossed an impressive shutout on April 23, yielding no walks and four hits over 6-and-a-third innings while striking out six. It was his second straight scoreless start and lowered his season ERA to 1.76.

Short hits

  • The Rockies acquired prospect Cody Decker from the Royals. In Albuquerque Isotopes (AAA) debut on April , he singled and doubled.
  • Washington released former Major Leaguer (and Team Israel star) Nate Freiman.
  • Ike Davis made his 2016 debut with the Rock Express (AAA) on 4/22/2016. In four plate appearances, he walked and hit a sacrifice fly.
  • Max Fried‘s promising return from Tommy John surgery was chronicled by He is Atlanta’s No. 10 prospect.
  • Jeremy Bleich (Phillies/AA) and R.C. Orlan (Nationals/High-A) each record their first save of the season.

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Decker in his MLB debut (ESPN)

Decker in his MLB debut (ESPN)

By Scott Barancik, editor

Cody Decker returned to L.A. on Sunday, a day after his El Paso Chihuahuas were knocked out of the Pacific Coast League (AAA) playoffs. His future was uncertain: after seven seasons as a San Diego Padres farmhand, the franchise’s all-time minor-league home run leader (154 HRs) was due to become a free agent during the offseason.

Yet the 28-year-old slugger was surprisingly upbeat when he entered his mother’s home, according to this interview.

“Hey, whatcha doing tomorrow, Mom?” he asked.

“Not helping you move into your apartment,” Teri Decker joked.

Decker's Rosh Hashanah tweet

Decker’s Rosh Hashanah tweet

“Well, I thought maybe you might want to come to Arizona and watch me play baseball,” he deadpanned.

Hours earlier, Decker had gotten “the call” to join the Padres, something he had come to believe might never happen. Teri Decker was in the stands a day later (Monday) to see her son make his Major League debut. With two outs in the 9th and San Diego leading the Arizona Diamondbacks 10-3, he came in to pinch-hit, popping out to first base on a 2-1 pitch. What a way to celebrate Rosh Hashanah.

“This is the most surreal 24 hours of my entire life. It’s something I’ve looked forward to my entire life,” he said before the game. “I’m borderline speechless, as close to speechless as I can get.”

“It’s a great story, man. It gives you chills,” said Padres interim manager Pat Murphy, who managed Decker in El Paso.

Selected by the Padres in the 22nd-round of the 2009 draft, Decker is rarely at a loss for words. Whether he’s delighting his more than 20,000 Twitter followers with dry wisdom, hosting trivia shows at a Santa Monica bar, appearing on Keith Olbermann’s now-defunct ESPN show, producing and starring in comedic YouTube videos (like this one ‘featuring’ former Padres V.P. Brad Ausmus), or earning kudos from newspaper editorials, El Paso fans’ favorite player is in total control of his public persona, something he cannot say about his baseball career.

On Monday, one admiring baseball blogger called Decker “eminently likable,” citing tweets like this one from the “filmmaker/infielder” in 2014: “People take athletes too seriously….. I hit a ball with a piece of wood for a living….. How is that role model material?”

Where Decker ends up next season is anybody’s guess. For now, the second Jewish player to reach the Bigs this year (after Cincinnati’s Jon Moscot) is enjoying the moment.

Watch out, San Diego: you’re gonna love this guy.

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By Scott Barancik, editor

Nu, so what’s going on in the Minors?

Cody Decker — the San Diego Padres’ all-time minor-league HR leader and a participant in this month’s Triple-A Home Run Derby — has hit three HRs since the All-Star break, including Thursday’s solo shot (7/23/2015). The El Paso Chihuahuhas star has 18 HRs, and he’s hitting them at a league-leading pace of one in every 14 at-bats.

Jeff Urlaub is back from Tommy John surgery, albeit in a rehab assignment with the rookie-league AZL Athletics. In his first game in more than 14 months, the 28-year-old reliever pitched a scoreless inning of relief Thursday, striking out two batters and walking one. Mazel tov, Jeff!

At age 28 and in his first season with the Washington Nationals franchise, 2012 Team Israel member Richard Bleier is enjoying his best season yet. Check out this write-up in the Nats’ hometown paper, a modest rag called the Washington Post. And if you wish, check out JBN’s recent article on the lanky southpaw, too.

Diamondbacks prospect Zach Borenstein continues to tear-up Double-A pitching. Yesterday, he smashed his 10th HR in 220 at-bats, a 2-run shot that ran his RBI total to 50. The 25-year-old left fielder is hitting .318 with a .408 OBP and .958 OPS.

Charlie Cutler, who was batting .380 for the Salt Lake Bees (AAA) when the Angels released him earlier this month, remains unsigned. Why? Insiders agree the 28-year-old can hit. Owner of a .306 career average and .393 on-base percentage, the 2008 draftee is tough to strike out and walks as often as he whiffs, a rarity these days. But Cutler’s catching skills are uneven (he nixed only 2 of 23 stolen-base attempts in Triple-A this year), and with no more than 5 home runs per season, he lacks the power expected of a first baseman or designated hitter. Rough game, baseball is.

Dave Rosenfield, who served as general manager of the Norfolks Tides (AAA) from 1963 to 2011, hasn’t retired just yet. Among other duties, the 86-year-old vice president still creates the International League’s (AAA) entire season schedule by hand. You can learn about Dave’s storied baseball career in his 2013 book, Baseball: One Helluva Life.

SUNY-Purchase alum Mike Skoller has signed to play in the independent Ozarks Pro Baseball League, a newly-formed league that has a unique plan for moving players onto MLB-affiliated teams.

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Share Scott Barancik, editor

Lots of news to report in the minors today.

Cody Decker (Padres, AAA)

Cody Decker, the San Diego Padres’ all-time minor-league HR leader, has been chosen to participate in this year’s Triple-A Home Run Derby, along with five other All-Star sluggers. The 28-year-old infielder has 15 HRs this season and leads all Triple-A hitters in home-run frequency, averaging one round-tripper every 15.4 at-bats through games played yesterday (7/9/2015). The Derby will take place Monday, July 13, at 8:35pm EST. Decker will play in the Triple-A All-Star Game the following night.

Beloved by El Paso Chihuahuas fans both for his hitting and his quirky sense of humor, Decker was lionized Tuesday (7/7/2015) by El Paso Times. “”I’ve never seen, in my 21 years in Minor League Baseball, a player connect to the community and the community connect to the player — two-way street — like Cody has to El Paso and El Paso has to Cody,” Chihuahuas’ General Manager Brad Taylor told the newspaper. “And I think it’s for two good reasons. He’s a good guy, and he connects to them outside game time.” The newspaper’s editorial board piled on Tuesday. “In addition to being a very skilled baseball player — and Decker is playing the best ball of his life right now — he also is a filmmaker, actor and social media figure. He is selling T-shirts right now to raise money for El Paso’s From the Heart Rescue, particularly to help a dog named Scooter, who was born with deformed front paws,” the board wrote.

Rhett Wiseman (Nationals, short-season A)

Vanderbilt star Rhett Wiseman, a third-round pick of the Washington Nationals in last month’s amateur draft, has signed with the franchise. The Nats paid him a $554,100 bonus and have assigned him to play for the short-season Auburn Doubledays.

Zack Weiss (Reds, AA)

Cincinnati Reds prospect Zack Weiss, who’s taken on the role of closer since being promoted to Double-A, recorded his 8th save in 9 tries for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos yesterday (7/9/2015). In his past 10 appearances, he’s 0-1 with a 1.69 ERA, 6 saves, 16 strikeouts, and just 2 walks in 10.2 innings. The 23-year-old recorded 5 saves in as many opportunities earlier this season for the Daytona Tortugas (High-A).

Rob Kaminsky (Cardinals, High-A)

Rob Kaminsky, a 1st-round draft pick in 2013, continues to improve. In his past five starts, the 20-year-old southpaw pitched at least six innings per outing, allowed just 4 earned runs in 33 innings (a 1.09 ERA), and struck out 14 while walking just 3 batters. It’s no wonder Baseball America’s midseason update ranks him the Cardinals’ No. 4 prospect.

But like a number of his Jewish peers, Kaminsky also has a gift for writing, which he showcases in a blog called 22’s Two Cents. Particularly compelling is a July 2 post about life in the minors, titled Bus Rides and PB&Js. Be sure to share it with any high-school or college ballplayers you know who are considering going pro.

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By Scott Barancik, editor

Cody Decker is known for producing funny videos. But according to our research, he deserves at least as much praise for his production at the plate.

Through games played Thursday (6/25/2015), the 28-year-old San Diego Padres prospect had 14 HRs and 49 RBIs in just 183 at-bats this season. That sounded pretty darn good to us, so we decided to see how Decker compared to his Triple-A peers.

We looked at HRs first. Twenty-six Triple-A players had 10 or more round-trippers as of Thursday. Who’s hitting them the most often? Cody Decker. The Padres’ all-time minor-league HR leader — he has hit 147 — is averaging one dinger per 13.1 at-bats this season for the El Paso Chihuahuas.

Triple-A leaders: HR productivity (thru 6/25/2015)

1Cody DeckerPadres1831413.1
2Travis TaijeronMets1941314.9
3Jon SingletonAstros2641715.5
4Jarrett ParkerGiants2001216.7
5J.P. ArencibiaRays2081217.3
6Domingo SantanaAstros1971117.9
7Peter O'BrienDiamondbacks2711518.1
8Alex CastellanosMets2221218.5
9Adam DuvallGiants2811518.7
10Xavier ScruggsCardinals2071118.8
11Corey BrownRays2131119.4
12Patrick KivlehanMariners2571319.8
13Jared HoyingRangers2401220.0
14Kyle RollerYankees2481220.7
15Mike HessmanTigers2081020.8
16Matt DavidsonWhite Sox2711320.8
17Matt ClarkBrewers2551221.3
18Matt McbrideRockies2321023.2
19Arismendy AlcantaraCubs2351023.5
20Jamie RomakDiamondbacks2611123.7
21Nick EvansDiamondbacks2651124.1
22Stephen PiscottyCardinals2581025.8
23Dariel AlvarezOrioles2881126.2
24Jefry MarteTigers2631026.3
25Jesus MonteroMariners2911126.5
26Jesus AguilarIndians2771027.7
Note: Includes the 26 Triple-A players who had 10 or more HRs as of 6/25/2015.

Next, we examined RBIs. Jewish Baseball News identified 67 Triple-A players who had amassed 30 or more RBIs as of Thursday. You probably won’t be surprised to find out who’s leading the pack: yep, Cody Decker. The UCLA alum is averaging one RBI for every 3.7 at-bats this season.

Now, it’s not our job to tell the Padres what to do. Maybe Decker isn’t capable of hitting Major League pitching. Maybe his play at first base or third base isn’t MLB-quality. We honestly can’t say.

But seven years into his storied minor-league career, the prince of Triple-A jesters has gotten more call-ups from ESPN’s Keith Olbermann (two) than he has from the Padres (zero).

San Diego, isn’t it time you gave Cody Decker a chance?

Triple-A leaders: RBI productivity (thru 6/25/2015)

1Cody DeckerPadres183493.7
2Jon SingletonAstros264664.0
3Nick EvansDiamondbacks265604.4
4Peter O'BrienDiamondbacks271584.7
5Matt DuffyAstros248534.7
6Travis TaijeronMets194395.0
7Alex CastellanosMets222435.2
8Domingo SantanaAstros197385.2
9Jesus MonteroMariners291565.2
10Jamie RomakDiamondbacks261495.3
11Jason CoatsWhite Sox224415.5
12L.J. HoesAstros210385.5
13Jarrett ParkerGiants200365.6
14Brandon AllenMets198355.7
15Jefry MarteTigers263465.7
16Kyle RollerYankees248435.8
17Christian VillanuevaCubs191335.8
18Franklin GutierrezMariners180315.8
19Danny OrtizTwins250435.8
20Dan Johnson- - -206355.9
21Stefen RomeroMariners236405.9
22Xavier ScruggsCardinals207355.9
23Jesus AguilarIndians277466.0
24Nevin AshleyBrewers183306.1
25Mike HessmanTigers208346.1
26Andy Wilkins- - -216356.2
27Jason PridieAthletics273446.2
28Adam DuvallGiants281456.2
29Brad GlennBlue Jays200326.3
30Kyle ParkerRockies239386.3
31Matt HagueBlue Jays271436.3
32J.P. ArencibiaRays208336.3
33Vinny RottinoMarlins221356.3
34Roger KieschnickAngels196316.3
35Rymer LirianoPadres242386.4
36Alex DickersonPadres237376.4
37Patrick KivlehanMariners257406.4
38Steven MoyaTigers225356.4
39Corey BrownRays213336.5
40Brett WallacePadres239376.5
41Ramiro PenaPadres241376.5
42Matt ReynoldsMets281436.5
43Matt ClarkBrewers255396.5
44Brent MorelPirates231356.6
45Matt DavidsonWhite Sox271416.6
46Kyle JensenDodgers207316.7
47Michael ChoiceRangers223336.8
48Matt McbrideRockies232346.8
49Jared HoyingRangers240356.9
50Alex PresleyAstros215316.9
51Reynaldo RodriguezTwins250366.9
52Adonis GarciaBraves252367.0
53Chris ParmeleeOrioles234327.3
54Shawn O'MalleyMariners220307.3
55Dariel AlvarezOrioles288397.4
56Taylor MotterRays268357.7
57Yorman RodriguezReds255337.7
58Matt LongBrewers258337.8
59Stephen PiscottyCardinals258337.8
60Alen HansonPirates256328.0
61Cheslor CuthbertRoyals262328.2
62Trayce ThompsonWhite Sox272338.2
63Brian BogusevicPhillies266328.3
64Henry UrrutiaOrioles258318.3
65Dixon MachadoTigers262318.5
66Joey WendleAthletics285338.6
67Rob RefsnyderYankees266308.9
Note: Includes the 67 Triple-A players who had 30 or more RBIs as of 6/25/2015.

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Justin Klipp: independent-league pitcher Zev Ben Avigdor, correspondent

One reason we love baseball is because baseball players have great stories. Often those tales make us fans of particular players, regardless of their statistical accomplishments or which uniforms they wear.

Here is one of them, a story of setbacks and adversity, of failure and loss of confidence, and ultimately of perseverance and mastering the mental side of baseball.

Justin Klipp has always been a smart, thoughtful guy. His high GPA and SAT scores attracted the attention of Dartmouth and Harvard, and he was recruited to play baseball in the Ivy League. Instead, the California native chose to make himself more visible as a ballplayer by attending a more traditional baseball school. He played first at Cuesta College, where the Texas Rangers noticed and drafted him in 2004. He subsequently transferred to Cal State Fullerton, the national baseball powerhouse made famous by legendary former coach Augie Garrido. After Klipp’s successes at Fullerton, he was drafted in the 22nd round by the Chicago White Sox, in 2007.

Klipp, 30, has yet to play for a Major League organization, however. During spring training in 2008, he broke his back. Although he was assigned to Chicago’s “Single-A” team, he could not make his first start. He broke his back again in January 2009 and underwent surgery. Doctors said he would not be able to pitch again, but Klipp fought back, worked diligently, and returned to baseball. At first he played in an amateur men’s league in Texas. By 2013, he was playing professional baseball as a member of the Edinburg (TX) Roadrunners in the independent United League. After two weeks in Edinburg, he was picked up by the Wichita Wingnuts of the independent American Association. He pitched two seasons in Wichita, compiling records of 8-3 (3.88 ERA) and 7-3 (3.92 ERA).

This August, while he was in his second season with Wichita, Justin Klipp spoke with Jewish Baseball News. Shortly after, Klipp was traded to the Saint Paul Saints, where he finished out the 2014 season. Following is an edited version of the interview.

JBN: Tell me about your Jewish background.

Klipp: I went to a Jewish preschool, which influenced me in a good way from a young age. And we celebrated family holidays, like Passover and Rosh Hashanah. We’d go to friends’ houses. Very community based. Where I grew up in Calabasas — a lot of Jewish people there. And Hanukah. I got to celebrate Hanukah and Christmas growing up.

JBN: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

Klipp: I like Hanukah. Just lighting the candles and singing every night, and it lasts eight days. I didn’t like having to fast on Yom Kippur. I never fasted. Passover, I remember eating peanut butter and jelly on matzah. All the kids would have it.

[pullquote]I had some back issues my freshman year in college and always just had poor posture. It eventually caught up with me and ended up stress-fracturing twice in less than a year.[/pullquote]

JBN: You said you grew up with a lot of Jewish kids.

Klipp: Definitely. I would say a conservative estimate would be about 50% of the people I went to school with — junior high and high school — were Jewish.

JBN: Did any of them play baseball with you?

Klipp: I’ve known Josh Satin since I was two years old. We grew up going to play groups and stuff like that. We went to the same middle school. Played PONY League Ball, all the way up, and we were close. Still good friends. Aaron Lowenstein, he made it to double-A. He’s actually one of my best friends. I’m going to his wedding in the Fall. Cody Decker was a little younger than me. I think I played against him — when I was a senior, I want to say. He might have been a sophomore. There’s a lot of guys in the area. Jeff Kaplan I played with in college. He went to [Cal State] Fullerton with me. And then last year with Andrew Aizenstadt here on the Wingnuts.

JBN: Did you play with Ryan Braun in high school?

Klipp: No, he was a little bit older. I mean, Derek Kinzler, you probably don’t know him. He was in the Rockies’ organization. He also played in the Can-Am League. He’s actually really good friends with Ryan Braun. They grew up together and so I hung out with Braun a couple of times, but that was all.

photo from <a href=

Justin Klipp" src="" width="300" height="225" srcset=" 300w, 150w, 900w, 960w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" /> Justin Klipp pitching for the Wichita Wingnuts

JBN: Was Ryan Lavarnway from Los Angeles?

Klipp: Yeah. So those were really my closest friends that I’ve had that were Jews in baseball.

JBN: What do you like best about being Jewish?

Klipp: Maybe just that it’s different. There’s not as many Jews. And I do like the community, and it’s always nice when I go back home, because I’m still close with a lot of people I grew up with, from high school and that’s just — I love my family. We’re really family-oriented. Jews are really family-oriented, and I like that a lot.

JBN: It must be hard, to have your family back in LA and you’re here.

Klipp: It sucks.

JBN: Israel had a team in the World Baseball Classic. They’re going to have one again in 2016. Your father is Jewish, so you’re eligible. Would you play?

Klipp: Yeah, I would. If I’m still playing professionally, I would love to have the opportunity to go play. Any opportunity to play in the World Baseball Classic, playing with the best guys in the world, would be amazing. I would definitely love to go play for the Jewish — uh, for the Israeli team.

JBN: For “the Jewish team.”

Klipp: For the Jewish team [laughs].

JBN: How did you start playing baseball?

Klipp: Playing tee ball. I was the kind of kid who was athletic growing up, so I tried a bunch of sports. Soccer — the day of tryouts, I told my mom, I’m like, “Mom, I don’t want to do this. Too much running around on the field for no reason.” I was five. So I did tee ball, basketball. I took karate. I did art lessons growing up. I always loved baseball, since I was young. I had a bunch of ups and downs. Baseball is a sport where, obviously, it has a lot to do with confidence, and I had times when I lost confidence playing and it didn’t become fun, but I was always drawn back to it, just because I love playing and I loved the guys growing up.

JBN: Your back has been a problem. What happened?

Klipp: It was a long time coming. I had some back issues my freshman year in college and always just had poor posture. It eventually caught up with me and ended up stress-fracturing twice in less than a year.

JBN: You had surgery in 2009.

Klipp: Yeah, January 2009. It was the Spring of 2011 that I started playing in a men’s league again.

JBN: And then in 2013 you got recruited to play independent league baseball?

Klipp: No, I actually went and tried out for [the independent Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks], I got a spring training invite to Fargo in 2012. Didn’t make the team. I got cut in spring training. I wasn’t quite ready. Actually, to be honest, I don’t think I got a fair shot. They gave me one inning, and I didn’t give up a run. I gave up one infield hit. And a strikeout.

JBN: Sounds like they already had their minds made up.

Klipp: Yeah, they probably had their minds made up. I was just an extra guy — didn’t get a fair shot. It’ll be nice, because tomorrow will my first time pitching against them, since I didn’t get to pitch against them last year and so far not this year. [NOTE: Klipp and the Wichita Wingnuts beat Fargo 7-4 the next day. He scattered 7 hits over five innings, yielding one run and striking out five.]

JBN: Is that in the back of your mind, to say, “I told you so”?

Klipp: Just a little bit, a little bit of shove it in his face. But to be fair, I’m not the same pitcher now as I was two years ago. But, yeah, it’ll kind of be there.

JBN: How did you end up in Austin, Texas?

Klipp: After my back surgery, I was kind of lost, and I just needed a little adventure. I needed to get out of L.A. for a while, and Austin was somewhere I always found intriguing. I always wanted to go to UT.

[pullquote]It’s more about the team in independent ball, it’s more about winning, not as much about developing guys. They don’t really care too much in organized ball if you win or lose; they just want their prospects to get better so they can keep moving them up and getting them ready for the big leagues.[/pullquote]

JBN: In your blog, you wrote something about being in Austin and attending classes at UT.

Klipp: I was going to, but I didn’t. That fell through. That was if I was — I thought I was going to be done [with baseball]. At the time I was writing the blog, I thought I was done playing. I had no idea, and that was my plan, to go [to UT]. I was coaching tournament ball. Then I played in a Texas winter league. It’s a league where you pay to play for a month. You pay them, and they help you get picked up…The United League takes a lot of guys out of this winter league. So you go down there — you pay to get on a team. Obviously, you have to be good enough; they’re not going to take everyone. I signed with Edinburg after that, the Roadrunners. Ozzie Canseco was my manager down there. That was interesting, to say the least. Guys would go across the border to play for the cartels. The cartels would put on these men’s league games, and they bet a lot of money on these games, so they would bring ringers from over [the border]. We had a couple guys from the team go over there to play, and after the game, they’d have a trash bag full of money, and they would hand you anywhere from $600 to $1000 for a single game. That was the incentive. It was a month’s pay, right there, in one game, on a Sunday, so you’d have guys shoot across the border and make some money. It was scary. I thought about doing it, but then I left. I pitched really well there, and I got picked up by Wichita three weeks into the season. I had three starts under my belt, and then I came to Wichita. That was how I got here.

JBN: For readers who may not understand the distinction, how would you explain the difference between affiliated ball and independent ball?

Klipp: Not much difference between Minor League double-A and this league. I’d say it’s between high-A and double-A — that would be about the equivalent. Most of the guys here in this league have double-A time and above. There’s not much difference, except it’s more about the team in independent ball, it’s more about winning, not as much about developing guys. They don’t really care too much in organized ball if you win or lose; they just want their prospects to get better so they can keep moving them up and getting them ready for the big leagues. It’s a lot more fun [in independent ball], I would say, especially talking to guys who have been up in the higher levels of organized ball. They love it here, and that’s part of why they’re still playing, too. They can’t let go of that, and it’s that chance to play for love of the game and for that team camaraderie and to win a championship. But as far as difference — there’s not so much difference, [except for] the mentality — it’s about winning. They don’t care if you’re a pitcher and you throw 85, if you’re getting guys out, you’re going to have a job. It doesn’t necessarily work like that if you’re in organized baseball. They don’t care if you throw 95 on our team [Wichita] and walk a bunch of guys and are struggling to find your command. They don’t want anyone like that. They want a guy who comes in, throws strikes, and gets outs — especially our team, very defense-oriented.

JBN: What do you like best about baseball that makes it different from the other sports you played?

Klipp: Baseball has taught me so much over the years. It’s incredible how much influence it’s had on my life and made me the person, the man I am today. I was really influenced, in college especially. Really, it turned me into a man and made me confident, and it taught me a lot of skills that I will take later, once I retire — and if I don’t decide to coach or stay and do something in baseball afterward — and [I] go into in the business world, a lot of skills I learned on the baseball field, such as confidence and taking things one thing at a time and being in the moment and just life lessons that I’ve learned over the years. The biggest thing is confidence, and that’s what I try to instill in all my kids that I teach during the off-season. That’s why their parents really appreciate what I do. Whether little Johnny gets that much better in baseball, they really like the values I instill, and the kids look up to me…It’s always good for a kid to have someone to look up to, other than your parents, outside your family, and that you can talk to and have a relationship with. I think it’s really important.

[pullquote]The big thing that I had to learn was staying in the moment and not thinking about my last at bat that was bad or my last bad outing or that last pitch that I threw that the guy hit 500 feet. [/pullquote]

JBN: You said that those lessons then extend outside baseball.

Klipp: Yeah, I see it. When I grew up, I wasn’t that confident a kid. I had a lot of self-esteem issues growing up, as most kids do. In this game, you have to have confidence. And there’s a fine line between being cocky and having confidence, which I always tell my guys. And that’s what my dad always harped on me, growing up: You never have to tell anyone how good you are, you go and you show them on the field. He always taught me to be humble. That would be the biggest thing, confidence. And also just being in the moment and not letting things that you can’t control affect you. You can’t control what the umpire does, you can’t control if your fielder makes an error. I see a lot of kids — if you’re pitching and your second baseman makes an error, and you turn around and throw your hands up and show bad body language and show up your fielder, which in turn makes them feel even worse than they already feel for making an error. You control what you can control. And it’s the same thing in life. You can’t control what other people do and let that affect you. And the big thing that I had to learn was staying in the moment and not thinking about my last at bat that was bad or my last bad outing or that last pitch that I threw that the guy hit 500 feet. You have to move on, and that’s another great life lesson, that people are so caught up in the past and the future that they’re not going to live in the now and enjoy what’s going on right in front of them. I enjoy working with kids on that, on getting them to lock in, on teaching kids to be able to focus their mind on whatever it is and then be able to space out. You have to have that time, what our sports psychologist called the six seconds of focus: when you step into your circle and you’re ready, because that’s just about the time it takes from the time the pitcher toes the rubber and delivers the pitch — then space out.

JBN:What would you want the readers of Jewish Baseball News to know about you? Something that’s important to you.

Klipp: I’ve started [writing] a book. A working title is “I’m the Man.” It’s from when I had this nine-year-old team, and we had a kid who was a really skilled player. You saw him, and it was like, “Dang, this kid’s really got some talent.” But he didn’t have confidence, he just wasn’t confident — at all.

JBN: Even though he was so much better than the other kids.

Klipp: That’s the thing. He didn’t realize it. And I guess that was the same thing for me growing up. I didn’t realize how — I knew I was better, but I just didn’t have the confidence that I should have had. After one game, when he had a tough game at the plate and just didn’t do well, I called to him, “Matty, come here. What’s going on, bud?” And he was just sitting there, not really giving me an answer, and I told him, “You need to say, ‘I’m the man,’ out loud. You need to tell me, right now, ‘I’m the man.’” Most kids can’t say it. This is a thing I do with a lot of kids to help build their confidence, because they just can’t say it out loud. If you don’t have self-esteem, you can’t say out loud and with conviction, “I’m the man” and “I can do this” or whatever else you want to replace for that. So he started softly, [in a whisper] “I’m the man,” and I said, “No! Say it louder!” I just got in his face. People were around — it was just outside, in a little league facility, and people were watching me and looking at me like I’m crazy. He just said again [still softly] “I’m the man,” and I was, “No, louder.” And he slowly built up, louder, and he kept saying, “I’m the man,” and we keep going back and forth, and all of sudden tears started coming out of his eyes, because he just had so many emotions going on, he didn’t know what to do to deal with them all, he had no idea — and all of a sudden, he just fired off [yelling], “I’m the man,” loud, at the top [of his lungs], with conviction, and he was breathing [hard] and you could just see the transformation right there, just getting him to say that at the top of his lungs. At that point, everyone was looking at us and going, “Oh my God, what is this?” At the next game, which was later that day, because it was a tournament, I had coaches coming up to tell me, “Who’s your catcher? Your catcher is the best catcher I’ve ever seen.” He made a huge transformation. The other parents — and his mom — they thought it was just something special. And then one of the team moms made shirts with “I’m the man” on the back, and our whole team motto was, “I’m the man,” and that just became our thing. And we ended up winning our first tournament a few tournaments after that. It was a special team, special to do that.

I do that a lot with my clients. They can’t say it, they can’t say it like they mean it. I tell them, “You have to go home and look in the mirror and be able to look at yourself and have that confidence to be able to say that.” That’s the one thing I would say is the most important thing that I’ve taken away from this: in life, the ability to be confident and not cocky. Most of the confident kids, it seems like, growing up, are the ones that are bullies. They act — but they’re probably not — confident. Kids are learning how to be confident. That’s part of growing up. Life is tough. It’s tough out there. It’s not easy. You’re very innocent when you grow up. You have no idea what the real world is going to be like when you get out there, and if you don’t have these skills — being confident, staying in the moment, thinking positive…A lot of it is positive thinking, which really affected me. I would always go to the negative, because I’m a perfectionist. Augie Garrido — I read it in his book [Life Is Yours to Win: Lessons Forged from the Purpose, Passion, and Magic of Baseball] — he tells his team, the first day of practice, that he has four rules, and the third rule is that you will strive for perfection, but you will fail. You learn from those failures, you pick yourself back up, basically you get back on the horse, and you keep doing it, again and again: “When you fail, recognize the message that’s in the failure and be motivated to get better. And then to do your best again and again until you find the solution.” You keep striving for perfection, but you have to understand you’re going to fail. Your expectation level has to be realistic. And that’s the thing: I see a lot of kids who are perfectionists, and that’s how I was growing up — I was a perfectionist. But it wasn’t in check. My expectation level was to always be perfect, and when I did fail, everything would just come crashing down. That was the biggest thing, growing up.

JBN: When was the turning point?

Klipp: When I went to [Cal State] Fullerton, they taught me all this stuff. I quit in the middle of my sophomore year, from losing my confidence. I got drafted my freshman year, by the Rangers. Then my sophomore year, I didn’t have a great start, wasn’t throwing quite as hard. I was working out too much, I was trying too hard. I was trying to get better, to be so much better than the season before. It’s a long story. It came crashing down. If you read the blog, a lot of it is in there. I literally quit in the middle of playoffs my sophomore year. I ripped up my jerseys and put them on my coach’s car — that’s how bad it got. I was fortunate enough to go to the Northwoods League and play in Minnesota — Alexandria — and that’s where I fell back in love with the game. And then I was lucky enough to have an agent who gave me the opportunity to throw a bullpen in front of the Fullerton coach, and they invited me to walk on for January workouts. January workouts are intense, 12 hours a day, every day except Sundays for 23 days. I had to earn a spot there, and that was one of my biggest accomplishments. Against all odds, I was going into one of the top programs in the country, in the middle of their toughest time. They made you run two miles in under 14 minutes, and I didn’t make it. I was one of the few guys that didn’t. I was not a good runner then, not a long distance runner. That’s when I broke down. I got shin splints that turned into stress fractures, both my junior and senior years. So you could say I don’t run [long distances] anymore. But I made the team and actually became the right handed set-up guy for a while until I stress fractured my shin and kind of fell off. But they taught me. At first I was like, “What is all this they’re talking about? What is this six seconds of focus and all this psychology?” It took me a little time to buy into it, but once I did — and especially going into my senior year when I really bought into it — I saw the difference of how it transformed me as a person and as a baseball player. I took a class with Ken Ravizza that fall. He teaches at Fullerton. He used to work with Walter Payton, back in the day, and with U.S. Olympians and the Anaheim Angels. Now he gets flown around to different big leaguers to work one-on-one with them. Evan Longoria does one-on-one sessions with him. He’s a great guy. He influenced my life, as well as our whole coaching staff, and in particular Rick Vanderhook. He was the assistant coach at the time. He’s now the head coach. He’s tough. He’s like an army sergeant, and it took me a while, but he really built my confidence, like you wouldn’t believe. His philosophy — the team philosophy — was, if you can deal with the wrath of “Hooky” you can deal with anything out on the field. That’s what they wanted. It took me a while, but once I could accept the ‘wrath of Hooky,’ I had made the transformation.

My senior year, our team had a falling off, and we barely made the playoffs. The whole year I pitched in relief. I had a stress fracture in my left shin, and I couldn’t go more than four innings, or else I would have been the Sunday starter [one of the top three starting pitchers on a college team but not the ace, who is typically the Friday starter]. We didn’t really have a third starter that year, just a bunch of freshmen that kept rotating in and out — there was no set guy — and I didn’t get to pitch in the first two, first-round playoff games out of the bullpen, because I wasn’t needed. At the time, I had an ulcer in my stomach, because of all the pain pills I had to take to pitch, for my shin, and I had a ten-minute tape job — the tape job was like a cast — before each game. I had to walk around in a boot when I wasn’t playing. The next day after I would pitch, I couldn’t even walk, I was limping around — it was that bad.

[pullquote]Guys would go across the border to play for the cartels. The cartels would put on these men’s league games, and they bet a lot of money on these games, so they would bring ringers from over [the border]…After the game, they’d have a trash bag full of money.[/pullquote]

JBN: How did you find the strength to pitch?

Klipp: That’s the mentality that they taught me. I fell apart my junior year, and that kind of helped, too, because I had experienced it, so that my senior year I knew how to deal with it. So Hooky got on me on the bus after the game, and I was, at that point, pretty fed up. I was pretty upset, because I didn’t get to pitch those two games, and I felt like, “What was going on?” They hadn’t announced the third starter yet, and Hooky got on my case about going from the bullpen to the dugout to get food. And I just yelled back at him, “Hooky. I got an ulcer because of all the pills that I take to pitch for you, so I have to eat.” I kind of went off on him on the bus, in front of everyone. And he yelled, “Klipper, get off the effing bus right now!” We got there, and he just wore me out, and I wore him out. And he loved it. He loves when you can get to the point where you can [yell back at him]. He’ll break you down, like you won’t believe; he broke me down like I was a wild stallion. And the next morning, I woke up and was all pissed off. I was sitting in my chair, slumped down, and they made an announcement, “Starting pitcher today — Klipper.” I made my first start of the year, and we won. We actually beat Fresno State — half of the guys on that team were on the team that won the College World Series the following year. It was a tough game. That day, while I was sitting there in the stands, getting mentally prepared, I saw Tanner Scheppers, who now plays in the big leagues for the Rangers, get hit in the head by a come-backer. Line drive. And I was in the stands, watching, trying to get ready. It was bad. I was sitting there, watching, waiting for the inning to end. I had my headphones in, listening to music, trying to get ready, mentally ready, and I had to witness this, but I couldn’t think about that. So the first thing, I went out, and I was really nervous. First game ever I’m on national television, and I’m pitching, first start of the year. I walked the first batter of the game, but then settled in. I gave up that run, and I gave up one more hit that inning. I got back to the dugout, and Hooky was, “What the bleep are you doing walking the first batter,” and he got in my face. You have to understand, he’s this short, penguin-looking guy, and he has this voice. I said, “Hooky, get the bleep out of my face. I got this.” I can’t say the rest of it out loud, because obviously it was — but basically I yelled back at him, and he said, “Yeah, alright Klipper,” and he smacked me on the butt, and he said, “You got it.” He knew. And the next four innings, I went out and didn’t give up a run. I gave up two more hits, but that was all. We won the game and went to the next round and ended up going to the College World Series after that. I didn’t get to pitch, though. I was supposed to start the third game, but we went two and out. Heartbreakers. We actually played against [UC] Irvine and [Aaron] Lowenstein in that game, which was a pretty cool experience, playing against my best friend. It was a 13-inning, five hour-and-45-minute game, longest game in College World Series history. If we win, I pitch the next game, and if not, we go home. We ended up losing, and I didn’t get to pitch in the College World Series.

JBN: How did Aaron play?

Klipp: He did well. He’s one of the best defensive catchers I’ve ever seen. [Note: Aaron Lowenstein played from 2008-2011 in the San Francisco Giants’ organization, where he threw out an impressive 42 percent of all attempted base-stealers. Like Klipp, Lowenstein had to deal with setbacks — in his case, multiple concussions that prematurely ended his promising career.] 

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“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.


By Scott Barancik, editor

As baseball fans celebrate Opening Day, Jewish Baseball News is taking a look back at the 21 Jews who participated in MLB Spring Training this year.

Fifteen position players and six pitchers saw playing time, some as full-fledged team members, others as non-roster invitees, and several via short-term stints. Their stats are shown at the bottom; players who made their franchise’s Opening Day roster are shown in bold.

Following are some of the Spring’s top stories.

  • It will take a lot more for him to earn back some fans’ trust and affection, but Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun — fresh from a 65-game suspension for taking performance-enhancing drugs — dazzled, hitting .417 with nine RBIs and eight extra-base hits in 36 at-bats.
  • Ike Davis and Josh Satin both made the Mets’ Opening Day roster and will share First Base duties with Lucas Duda. But Davis — who squeaked by with a .241 average in Spring Training — is among the candidates to be sent down later this week to make room for Jon Niese.
  • Nate Freiman‘s 11 RBIs ranked eighth on the A’s, but it wasn’t enough to make the team’s Opening Day roster. Meanwhile, teammate Sam Fuld wowed his way onto the roster with four triples, 7 RBIs and a .348 on-base percentage.
  • With Boston’s Craig Breslow starting the season on the disabled list, Scott Feldman is the only Jewish pitcher to make an Opening Day roster. He also was the only Jewish starter during spring Training. As a group, Jewish pitchers went 1-and-5.
  • After missing much of the past three seasons with surgeries and injuries, former Boston Red Sox OF Ryan Kalish earned a spot on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster. Kalish hit .304 with 3 RBIs, stole 6 of 7 bases, and reached base 38.5% of the time.
  • Texas prospect Aaron Poreda earned some respect in his first MLB Spring Training since 2011. Poreda claimed one save in two chances, held opposing hitters to a .265 average, and walked just one batter over 8.1 innings.
  • Ian Kinsler, traded by Texas during the off-season for Detroit’s Cecil Fielder, outperformed “Big Daddy” with 3 HRs, 9 extra-based hits, 9 RBIs, a perfect 4-for-4 in stolen bases, a .300 average, and a .382 on-base percentage. Fielder matched Kinsler’s power (3 HRs, 9 extra-base hits, 10 RBIs) but hit .246 while striking out 16 times and drawing only two walks.
  • Ben Guez, a 27-year-old outfielder who spent part of the last four seasons with Detroit’s Triple-A club but has yet to be called up, made a brief but exciting splash in three Spring Training games. Against Toronto on 3/18/2014, Guez reached base all six times, going 3-for-3 with two doubles and three walks. His career MLB Spring Training average is a robust .529, along with a .692 on-base percentage.

 MLB Spring Training hitting, 2014

Zach Borenstein LAA 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 NA 1.000
Ryan Braun MIL 36 15 5 0 3 9 0 .417 .500
Ike Davis NYM 29 7 2 0 2 7 0 .241 .313
Cody Decker SDP 10 3 1 0 1 4 0 .300 .417
Nate Freiman OAK 42 10 2 1 1 11 0 .238 .327
Sam Fuld OAK 59 16 1 4 1 7 1-1 .271 .348
Ben Guez DET 7 5 2 0 0 2 0-1 .714 .818
Ryan Kalish CHC 46 14 1 0 0 3 6-7 .304 .385
Ian Kinsler DET 60 18 5 1 3 9 4-4 .300 .382
Ryan Lavarnway BOS 38 11 1 0 2 5 0 .289 .357
Jake Lemmerman SDP 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .500
Joc Pederson LAD 38 7 1 0 3 6 0 .184 .311
Kevin Pillar TOR 33 5 1 1 0 4 0-1 .152 .176
Josh Satin NYM 50 13 2 0 1 4 0 .260 .333
Danny Valencia KCR 48 11 1 0 1 4 1-1 .229 .327

Notes: Zach Borenstein walked in his only plate appearance

MLB Spring Training pitching, 2014

Jeremy Bleich NYY 0 0 9.00 1 1.0 2 0 0 .500 2.00
Scott Feldman HOU 0 2 5.40 4 16.2 21 2 14 .292 1.38
Aaron Poreda TEX 0 1 3.24 8 8.1 9 1 8 .265 1.20
Danny Rosenbaum WAS 0 1 2.70 3 3.1 3 2 2 .300 1.50
Jeff Urlaub OAK 1 1 8.10 4 3.1 4 2 1 .333 1.80
Josh Zeid HOU 0 0 4.15 7 8.2 12 4 12 .333 1.85

Notes: Aaron Poreda earned one save in two chances; Josh Zeid earned a save in his sole opportunity. Boston’s Craig Breslow did not play, due to injury

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By Scott Barancik, editor

Cody Decker is many things, but “average” is not one of them. Neither is “normal.” That seems to suit the 26-year-old San Diego Padres prospect just fine.

The southern California native  played a lead role in The Music Man and other productions in high school. A Dr. Who fan, he watches movies around the clock, poses for photos as his favorite characters (see pics below), and tends bar during the off-season. A constant barrage of clever one-liners has earned Decker more than 16,000 Twitter followers, an almost unheard-of number for a Minor League player.

Padres prospect <a href=

Cody Decker, in superhero pose (c/o Cody Decker)" src="" width="614" height="407" srcset=" 1024w, 150w, 300w" sizes="(max-width: 614px) 100vw, 614px" /> Padres prospect Cody Decker, in superhero pose (photo courtesy Cody Decker)

He also plays a little baseball. Before joining Team Israel for last year’s World Baseball Classic qualifiers, the 5-foot-11-inch, 220-pound slugger hit 29 home runs, the second-most  among all Padres prospects. Twenty-five of them came with the San Antonio Missions (AA), where he and Jewish teammate Nate Freiman (24 HRs) terrorized opposing pitchers.

Jewish Baseball News recently e-mailed Decker a handful of questions. He’re how the UCLA alum responded.

JBN: According to Baseball America, you were the lead in a school play your senior year of high school and had to quickly change into baseball gear after one performance in order to get to a game on time. Is that true? And if so, what was the play?

Decker as Magnum P.I.

Decker: I was in every play in high school. Starred in several. As for getting to the game on time, it was the other way around. Had a crowd of 1,200 at the theater, but my game went into extras. The second the game ended, had to sprint to the theater to get into wardrobe and get into character. The show [The Music Man] opened 45 minutes late.

JBN: Were you the inspiration for High School Musical? 

Decker: Doubtful, but yes….

JBN: True or false: you recently let your Twitter followers pick your walk-up song from a list you’d created, and they chose the theme song from the British television show Dr. Who.

Decker: True.

JBN: Do fans look at you funny when the song comes on?

Decker as Prince

Decker as Prince

Decker: I’m too busy getting all charged up by the song to notice.

JBN: In your first four seasons of Minor League ball, you played nearly every game either at First Base or in the outfield. Last month (4/21/2013), you played catcher for the first time. Is this something we should expect to see more of?

Decker: Yes. [Editor’s note: Padres staff recently decided to try Decker out at catcher after seeing him work a bullpen session.]

JBN: You’re 5-foot-11-inches tall. With the exception of Prince Fielder, who’s also 5’11”, all current Major League first basemen are taller. Is your height a disadvantage at that position?

Decker: So I’m told…. But I’ve yet to see any proof of that.

JBN: Last year, you and San Antonio Missions (AA) teammate Nate Freiman were among Texas League leaders in home runs with 25 and 24, respectively. Did you feel like Jewish superheroes?

Decker: We were Jewish superheroes…..We still are.

JBN: You played for Team Israel in 2012. What was it like to play with a whole team of Jews?

Decker: Best baseball experience of my life. It was a special bond we all had.

JBN: You have more than 16,000 Twitter followers, far above than the average Minor League. Your unique sense of humor has a lot to do with it. Are you just clever, or did someone accidentally swing a bat at your head when you were young?

Decker: Both?

JBN: During the off-season, you’ve been known to tend bar. What’s your favorite drink to make, and your favorite one to imbibe?

Decker: I enjoyed making an Old Fashioned…. The problem was I was the only one that would order it. I hated making shots.

Decker in “Bane” mask

JBN: According to your Tweets, you love watching movies. What is the dumbest baseball movie ever made?

Decker: Toss up between The Slugger’s Wife and The Rookie…. Both unwatchable.

JBN: Of the thousands of websites following Jewish baseball players, which one is the most fabulous?

Decker: There are other websites following Jewish baseball players?

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By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

With the regular season now underway, we’re taking a quick look back at how Jewish players performed in spring training.

The sheer number who played was impressive: a total of at least 24 Jews — 18 position players and six pitchers — got on the field for at least one MLB game this spring.


Collectively,  position players hit .255 with 14 HRs and 64 RBIs in 384 at-bats (see table below). Several stood out:

  • Kevin Youkilis had an eye-popping debut with the New York Yankees. He led all Jewish players (as well as all Yankees) with 6 HRs, 6 doubles and 14 RBIs in just 50 at-bats, along with an .800 slugging percentage and a 1.139 OPS (on-base plus slugging).
  • New York Mets prospect Josh Satin made the most of his 16 plate appearances, cobbling together 3 singles, 2 doubles, 5 walks, and 3 RBIs to amass a .455 batting average and .647 on-base percentage.
  • Ike Davis, another Met, showed great poise at the plate, hitting .327 with 4 doubles, 1 HR, and 4 RBIs. Davis’s 9 walks boosted his on-base percentage to a healthy .431.
  • Danny Valencia lost his fight for a spot on the Baltimore Orioles’ opening-day roster but made a good impression on his new team, hitting .323 with 1 HR, 4 RBIs, and a .417 on-base percentage.
  • Maxx Tissenbaum, a 21-year-old San Diego Padres prospect with one minor-league season under his belt, knocked in 3 runs in just 4 at-bats.
  • St. Louis Cardinals prospect Adam Ehrlich walked in both of his plate appearances, St. Louis Cardinals prospect Charlie Cutler singled in his only appearance of the spring, and San Diego Padres prospect Cody Decker went 3-for-6 with a double.

Final hitting stats, 2013 MLB Spring Training

Ryan BraunMIL1023636.261.357
Charlie CutlerSTL111001.0001.000
Ike DavisNYM21551815.327.431
Cody DeckerSD26300.500.500
Adam EhrlichSTL30000-1.000
Nate Freiman*HOU/OAK25541319.241.268
Sam FuldTB820514.250.286
Adam GreenbergBAL21000.000.000
Ben GuezDET11000.000.000
Ian KinslerTEX24631419.222.292
Ryan LavarnwayBOS1644606.136.188
Jake LemmermanSTL11000.000.000
Joc PedersonLAD710101.100.182
Kevin PillarTOR79100.111.111
Josh SatinNYM1211503.455.647
Maxx TissenbaumSD44103.250.400
Danny ValenciaBAL17311014.323.417
Kevin YoukilisNYY185014614.280.339
* Now with Oakland A's
Source: Jewish Baseball News collection of data from,, and



Among the six Jewish pitchers who played in at least one spring training game (see below), these ones stood out:

  • Houston Astros prospect Josh Zeid went 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in six relief appearances, held opposing players to a .235 batting average, and drew 3.33 times as many groundouts as flyouts.
  • San Diego Padres veteran Jason Marquis went 1-1 with a 3.74 ERA in six starts and held opponents to a .239 batting average.
  • Toronto Blue Jays prospect Michael Schwimer earned a 3.00 ERA in three relief appearances and limited opposing teams to a .182 batting average.
  • Scott Feldman stood out for less desirable reasons. The newly-minted Chicago Cub went 0-3 with an 11.25 ERA, gave up nearly 2 hits per inning, yielded 7 HRs, and got lit up by opposing batters to the tune of a .396 average.

Final pitching stats, 2013 MLB Spring Training

1Jeremy BleichNYY000.0010.1000
2Scott FeldmanCHC0311.25620.038617
3Jason MarquisSD113.74621.2211515
4Danny Rosenbaum*COL214.5068.0930
5Michael SchwimerTOR003.0033.0224
6Josh ZeidHOU101.5066.0442
* Now with Washington Nationals
Source: Jewish Baseball News collection of data from,, and

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Kevin Pillar (

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By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

Kevin Pillar is the best Jewish player you’ve never heard of.

In college he set an NCAA Division II record with a 54-game hitting streak. Drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011, he led his rookie league with a .347 batting average and in one game went 6-for-6 with a 9th-inning grand slam. In 2012 he hit a combined .323 with six HRs, 91 RBIs, and 51 stolen bases for two teams, good enough to be named MVP of the Midwest League. Later that year he starred in the invitation-only Arizona Fall League, where he hit a fifth-best .371 and stole 8 bases in just 62 at-bats.

Baseball America’s 2013 Prospect Handbook rates Pillar the Blue Jays’ No. 21 prospect. It says his “quickness and savvy also serve him well in the outfield, where he can play all three positions.”

Somehow, Pillar flew beneath our radar. That is, until a former high-school teammate wrote to say he was Jewish.

The 24-year-old Pillar confirmed it in a recent interview. Though his father is Christian and their southern California home was not “super religious,” Pillar and older brother Michael both were Bar Mitzvah’d, inspired in large part by love and respect for their maternal grandparents.

Jewish baseball fans may not have known Pillar, but Pillar knows plenty of Jewish ballplayers. He told Jewish Baseball News he played little-league ball with Seattle Mariners prospect Jack Marder, high-school ball with Los Angeles Angels prospect Casey Haerther, minor-league rookie ball with fellow Blue Jays prospect Ian Kadish, and sees San Diego Padres prospect Cody Decker during offseason workouts.

Pillar was careful to avoid burning-out on baseball early on. While some kids focused all their athletic energies on one sport, he and his parents decided it would be healthier to mix things up. Thus Pilllar excelled in football, basketball, and baseball at his Catholic high school, where monthly Mass was mandatory but religious- studies electives included Hebrew and Judaism.

Speed was the common thread. Pillar played point guard on the basketball team, outfield on the baseball team, and running back, receiver, outside linebacker, and kick- and punt-returner on the football team. “I had a good basketball I.Q.,” he said.

Two factors persuaded Pillar to focus on baseball at college. One was his modest size; he finished high school 6-feet-tall and weighing 180 pounds. The other was baseball’s vexing failure rate, where even the finest players rarely hit successfully more than 30 percent of the time. “The fact that you fail more than you succeed was more of a challenge,” he said. Pillar enrolled at Cal State — Dominguez Hills, where he majored in business and set the Division II hitting-streak record.

Click photo to buy Kevin Pillar baseball cards

Major-league scouts were not particularly wowed. By the time the Blue Jays selected Pillar in the 32nd round of the 2011 draft, 978 other amateurs already had been picked. Playing the way he has his first two years in the minors undoubtedly has been the best revenge. Baseball America projects him as “at least a fourth outfielder in the big leagues.”

Not that Pillar is content. Last year he compensated for a frustrating lack of extra-base hits by following his singles with stolen bases (his 51 ranked 2nd among Blue Jays farmhands). During the offseason, he decided that to do better in 2013 — he’ll most likely open with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (AA) — he’d need not only to “get bigger, faster and stronger” but also change the mechanics of his swing, and learn to swing more freely.

“I’ve always been a contact hitter,”he said. “It’s just about being a little more aggressive, not that passive at the plate.”

The 2013 season already is off to a good start. Though currently participating in Toronto’s minor-league spring training camp in Dunedin, Fla., Pillar has made his way into four big-league games to date. The highlight so far? Coming off the bench to replace Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista in right field and then stroking a 7th-inning single off Baltimore Orioles reliever Daniel McCutchen.

Pillar shared only one regret in his recent interview: that news of Team Israel’s talent search for last year’s World Baseball Classic qualifiers reached him too late. “I wish that I’d known about it,” he said.

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