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Browsing Posts tagged Garrett Wittels

By Scott Barancik, Editor

Here they are, your minor-league updates from the week of May 9-15, 2016.


Astros #1 prospect Alex Bregman (AA) hit .286 with 2 HRs, 2 doubles, 5 RBIs, and 3 walks in the week ended May 15. He also made his first professional start at third base, a show of versatility that could ease his eventual rise to the Majors, given that Astros SS Carlos Correa is thought to have the shortstop position locked down. General manager Jeff Luhnow told that depending how Bregman does the rest of the season and what sort of spaces open up in Houston, it’s possible the 2015 draftee could be called up later this year. Bregman ranks 1st in the Texas League in on-base percentage (.420), 7th in batting average (.310) and home runs (7/tied), and is homering once in every 12 at-bats.

After enduring a crushing loss on May 9 (3 IP, 9 H, 7 ER, 3 HR, 2 BB, 0 K), St. Louis Cardinals prospect Corey Baker (AA) could have gone into a protracted funk. Instead, the 26-year-old righty rebounded with a dominant 6-inning performance on May 15, yielding one earned run on three hits and two walks while striking out six.

Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Jared Lakind (AA) had three scoreless relief appearances, striking out seven batters over a combined four innings while yielding just one hit and one walk. He also earned his second save of the season.

Washington Nationals prospect Rhett Wiseman (A) drove in eight runs over the week’s final three games to raise his season total to 21, tying him for 11th place in the South Atlantic League. Wiseman hit just .173 in April but is hitting .300 in May.

Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Henry Hirsch (High-A) picked up his first save of the season on May 15 with a perfect inning of relief. For the season, he’s 1-2 with a 3.22 ERA.

In his first week with the Boston Red Sox franchise, former major leaguer Nate Freiman (AA) hit .333 with 3 doubles, 6 RBIs, and 3 walks.

Boston Red Sox prospect Mike Meyers (High-A) hit his third triple, his first two doubles of the season, and drove in six runs to raise his season total to 18. Meyers, who’s hitting .304, is one of very few minor leaguers with more triples than doubles.

Houston Astros prospect Garrett Stubbs (High-A) has reached base safely on all seven steal attempts this season, and he has done so in just 64 at-bats.

Washington Nationals prospect R.C. Orlan (High-A) lowered his ERA to 1.59 with two scoreless relief appearances. He’s 1-0 with three saves in four chances, has held opposing batters to a .143 average, and has yielded just eight hits over 17 innings.

Texas Rangers prospect Jason Richman, a 2015 draftee, held opponents hitless in his first two Double-A relief appearances, yielding two walks over two innings.


Injury updates

  • Cleveland Indians prospect Rob Kaminsky (AA) was placed on the 7-day disabled list.
  • Cincinnati Reds prospect Zack Weiss (AA) remains on the disabled list.
  • Miami Marlins prospect Maxx Tissenbaum (A) remains on the disabled list.


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Garrett Wittels

Corey Baker

By Zev Ben Avigdor/Jewish Baseball News

For the second season in a row, Jewish ballplayers Garrett Wittels and Corey Baker are playing together on the Batavia Muckdogs (A-short season), a New York-based affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Though having a Jewish teammate is rare in baseball (in fact, last year they even had a third Jewish teammate, Venezuelan catcher Kevin Moscatel), the two have more in common than heritage: Success in college is turning into success at the professional level.

Each had an attention-getting collegiate career. Wittels, an infielder from Miami, made international news in 2010 when he hit safely in all 56 games at Florida International University, just short of an NCAA record. Baker, a native of New City, N.Y., became the University of Pittsburgh’s all-time wins leader in 2011 with 24 career victories.

Both are putting up solid numbers in Batavia. Baker is 2-2 with a 2.41 ERA, 24 strikeouts and just 5 walks as a middle reliever this season. Wittels—who also had an extended stay with the Cardinals’ Low-A team this season and brief stints in AA and AAA—is showing more power this year in Batavia, where half of his hits have been for extra bases.

In late July, Jewish Baseball News contributor Zev Ben Avigdor had a pre-game chat with the two men about baseball and Judaism, and then watched them help beat the Auburn Doubledays, 3-0. (Baker threw three perfect innings, while Wittels singled and walked.) Following is an edited transcript of their interview.


What’s it like having another Jewish guy on the team, especially when that person is clearly identified and proud to be a Jew?

CB: It’s pretty awesome. When you first get into pro ball, you don’t really expect—at least for me, I didn’t expect—anyone, because in college I didn’t have any Jewish teammates. Typically the higher up you go, the fewer Jewish baseball players there are, so it was pretty awesome when Garrett showed up last summer and I found out he was Jewish. We actually both just found out—I hadn’t known until last week—that he and I were both bar mitzvah. That was pretty cool to find out. It’s not like you’re uncomfortable if there’s no one Jewish here, but it’s just a comforting feeling knowing that there’s someone else who is.

GW: Like Corey said, you’re not really used to having other Jewish people on your team, people you can talk to and stuff. It’s just reassuring knowing that, no matter what happens, you have someone that has your back. You always have your teammates, but in pro ball you just never know really who’s looking after you. I feel like the Jewish family is so small, you’re always kind of rooting for each other, not necessarily from a business standpoint or even in terms of being friends, but if something happens, if the shit hits the fan, you’ve always got someone in your corner.

Has the shit ever hit the fan? Has anyone ever given you any grief for being Jewish?

GW: No, it has nothing to do with being Jewish. I’m just saying, the clubhouse in minor league ball has a lot of—not discrimination, by any means—it’s just very diverse, a variety of different cultures and different places where people are from, so sometimes people tend to argue and things like that, little things. I’m just saying, it just feels comfortable to have someone else Jewish on your team.

CB: I’ve definitely been fortunate that I’ve never been heckled or anything like that, nothing about being Jewish. I would imagine in the World Baseball Classic there could be, because then they know. If we walk out on the field right now, no one really knows (you’re Jewish). Once you put on [Israel’s uniform], if you’re fortunate enough to play for that team, people will know, so maybe that will be different, but I’ve been fortunate enough never to be discriminated against, never had a problem with anyone saying anything like that. So that’s good that I have no stories about that.

What’s your background?

CB: I went to public school growing up, but then twice a week, after school, I’d go to Hebrew school. There’s a pretty good Jewish population where I’m from, so I grew up with a lot of Jewish friends. I had my bar mitzvah. I’m probably not as religious as I was when I was growing up, being around my parents and being in a Jewish household, because you go off to college and no one else is Jewish, and you get involved—especially with baseball. Baseball takes up so much time. On the weekends, I was traveling to play baseball. Being from up North, I was going down South to play baseball. So it wasn’t like I could go to synagogue on Friday night. I was probably on a plane most Friday nights in high school, in the Fall, to go play teams down South. When you’re trying to get recruited to go to college—sophomore, junior, and senior year—you need to play fall ball, but you can’t really play up in New York, so we went down South. Jupiter, Florida, has a tournament. There are tournaments all over the South. So synagogue wasn’t an option anymore, really, just because there wasn’t as much time. Growing up I followed [Jewish tradition] more and had my bar mitzvah, and I obviously still relate, but I don’t get to temple as much as I used to, that’s for sure.

GW: I went to Lehrman Community Day School [in Miami Beach] until the third grade. It was just a little Jewish community day school by my house. We had to wear a kippah every single day to school. It wasn’t anything crazy religious, but we’d say the prayers before we ate, we had prayers in the morning. I ended up leaving there to go to a different school after the third grade, for baseball purposes. [Lehrman] didn’t have a team or anything, and soon, going into middle school and things like that, it was an adjustment I just kind of had to make. I don’t keep kosher or anything like that, but I do fast on Yom Kippur, and I go to temple on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. I observe Passover, and I’ve had a bar mitzvah, and I’m very fortunate to have a good background and a good family and good Jewish traditions throughout my family that I really expect to keep doing throughout my life.

You mentioned Passover. Have you ever had to deal with keeping Passover during baseball season?

GW: Always. Every year in college there was Passover during baseball season. I never broke it. One time on the road our team had a tough loss. It was, I think, a Tuesday night, and our coach, without telling us or anything, ordered pizzas to our room, and there was nowhere else to eat, so I had my matzo I brought on the road with me, and I just took the cheese off the pizza and put it on the matzo and there was my dinner. It was crazy, but I was a freshman at the time, so I wasn’t going to ask my coach, after a tough loss, “Hey, I can’t eat this. Get me something else.” Then he’d be like, “Why? Why can’t you eat this?” and I didn’t want to explain it, so I was like, “You know what? I have the matzo. I’m just going to take the cheese, put it on the matzo, and go to bed.”

Matzo pizza.

CB: Matzo pizza’s the best.

GW: Yeah, but it was cold cheese on non-toasted matzo.

[ writer] Jonathan Mayo once interviewed you. He told you something interesting—something about Jewish fans?

CB: Yeah, I did that interview with him my senior year in college. He told me that in every community there were going to be Jewish fans. Everywhere you go, there will be a group of Jewish people, and they will know. And he said they stick together and they know when the Jewish athletes come through. And he said Jewish fans are very loyal to Jewish players.

Has that happened, with Jewish fans?

CB: I haven’t had anyone come up to me. Last year, I showed up to my locker one day, and I had fan mail from a kid from 3,000 miles away, all the way across the country, and he said he read one of my interviews and he’s Jewish too, and he sent me one of my baseball cards and asked me if I could sign it for him. You know, first rounders and top prospects get that every day, but I never get that. It was strictly because, he said, he was Jewish and he followed me because I was a Jewish baseball player and wanted my autograph, so that was like the coolest thing that’s ever happened, by far. Other than that, I’ve never had a fan come up to me and say, “Hey, I’m Jewish, too,” or anything like that.

How would that feel?

CB: It would feel cool. I would feel happier almost for them, that they got to experience seeing a Jewish baseball player. I mean, for me, obviously the fans are great, and I love that the fans come, and I appreciate every single fan I have—there’s not many, you know?—but I’d feel awesome for them, that they got to experience seeing a Jewish baseball player being a professional baseball player, because you know there’s not many. For them to be able to see that, it is just a testament that it can happen, and it does happen all the time—even though, not a lot, it does happen—and it’s awesome for them that they get to experience that. Being able to support that is unbelievable.

Garrett, have you had Jewish fans, Jewish kids come up to you?

GW: I actually, last weekend in Aberdeen, there was a Jewish sleep-away camp at the game, and there were literally 50 or 60 Jewish people. They were all religious, wearing yarmulkes, tzitzit, and everything like that, and it was the weirdest thing I’ve ever encountered in my life. I randomly just went up to one of the guys who was asking for a ball and I said, “shalom,” and he tried talking Hebrew with me, and I was like,”I don’t know any more Hebrew.” And he was like, “Oh, you’re not Jewish.” I’m like, “Yeah, my Hebrew name is Naftali.” He goes, “No way.” He had the same exact Hebrew name as me. After the game he made a point to come find me, and he actually gave me his yarmulke; I keep it in my travel backpack.

CB: There were actually groups of Jewish campers in Aberdeen and Hudson Valley. We were on a six-day road trip, and being in Maryland and outside New York—a New York city suburb and a Baltimore suburb—you have those Jewish communities. So they were up there for a sleep-away camp. We were sitting out in the bullpen and a bunch of them came up behind us. The back of the bullpen was against the stands, and a bunch of kids in yarmulkes came up, and all my teammates were like, “Hey, Baker, your cousins!” During the game I couldn’t really talk to them too much, but I know Garrett spoke to that guy and told him he was Jewish, and that was awesome. He told me about the yarmulke thing, and that’s pretty funny; that’s awesome. I’m sure they weren’t expecting that—that definitely made that kid’s day.

GW: Oh, 100%. I signed a ball in Hebrew letters for him, “To Naftali, the same Hebrew name as me, Best wishes, Garrett Wittels.” It was kind of crazy.

What’s it like being someone’s hero, especially to other Jewish kids?

CB: I don’t think that I’m anyone’s hero, so I don’t know.

GW: Not hero. I don’t think “hero” is the right word. It’s just kind of like, to younger Jewish guys in a camp like that, just so they could see that there are actually Jewish professional baseball players, to me is just incredible, because they now believe that they can do that, they can be a professional baseball player, just by seeing someone else who’s Jewish. I know. Growing up, a lot of my family and friends, when we were talking and especially when I was getting ready to go to college, everyone was like, “Why is he still trying to play? No Jewish guy has ever gone to Division I and played sports, and no Jewish guys ever play professional baseball.” Being here just gives you, not exactly satisfaction, but just kind of makes you feel good that you beat the odds and that you’re one of the few Jewish people that are doing it.

CB: [Those kids] don’t believe that they could play professional sports, there’s no way; I don’t think they do. But then seeing a professional athlete who is Jewish…

Well, wait a minute, then how did you know you could play professional sports? You’re a Jewish kid.

CB: I didn’t know. I just liked playing, and I had fun playing, and I just kept playing, and nobody told me I had to stop. People kept letting me play, so I just kept playing.

GW: I remember when I was younger and I always kind of followed baseball, and I remember when Shawn Green hit his four home runs in one day, and someone came up to me and said, “Yeah, did you see that Jewish guy? He hit four home runs in one day in a major league game.” And ever since that, I started to look up some of the Jewish players in the major leagues. I didn’t really know that many others. I knew Gabe Kapler was and Brad Ausmus was and a couple others. But just to see that Shawn Green hit four home runs in one day, made me feel like, “Oh, wow, a Jewish guy just literally hit four home runs in one day; maybe I can make it there one day.”

CB: Yeah, I know. My dad grew up in Brooklyn, a couple of blocks from the Wilpons of the Mets, and they’re Jewish. And my dad grew up a huge Sandy Koufax fan.

So who are your Jewish heroes?

CB: I guess just hearing my dad always talk about Sandy Koufax, I guess that would be who I would recognize the most.

Which one, your dad or Sandy Koufax?

CB: My dad. Definitely my dad.

GW: I don’t really have Jewish heroes. Kind of what Corey said: my parents and my grandparents, for just keeping the Jewish tradition throughout my family, I’ve always respected them for that. I know a lot of my friends who are Jewish don’t really observe some of the holidays that I do. I just feel it brings my family closer together, still having the traditions and still having the bar mitzvahs, and all those little things, and I look forward to continuing that with my own family one day.

(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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By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

Dry your Monday-morning tears with these updates:

  • Talk about turnarounds. By the time the Philadelphia Phillies sent Michael Schwimer down to the minors last month, the 6’8″ reliever had lost a game, blown a save, and was nursing a 8.53 ERA. But since returning to the City of Brotherly love this month, the 6’8″ reliever has held opposing batters to a paltry.118 batting average and reduced his bloated ERA to a more respectable 5.56.
  • If the Boston Red Sox don’t recall Ryan Kalish soon, International League pitchers may buy him a ticket to Beantown anyway. After missing the better part of a year due to shoulder and neck surgery, the left fielder is sprinting his way through a rehab stint that began with Salem Red Sox (High-A) and most recently brought him to the Pawtucket Red Sox (AAA). His performance there has been nothing short of remarkable. In just 20 at-bats with Pawtucket, the 24-year-old is hitting .500 with 2 doubles, 3 HRs, 8 RBIs, a .600 on-base percentage, and a 1.050 slugging percentage. Can you hear us, Bobby Valentine?
  • Our hearts go out to Washington Nationals prospect Cameron Selik. The 6’2″ reliever was the picture of control with the Potomac Nationals (High-A) this season, striking out 33 batters in 22 innings while walking only 2, one of them intentional. Duly impressed, the Nats promoted him to the Harrisburg Senators (AA). But the magic didn’t last. In his first relief appearance as a Senator on Tuesday (6/5/2012), Selik retired the only batter he faced and then was removed with a lat injury. According to this blog, he may be out for the season, although that is unconfirmed.
  • St. Louis Cardinals prospect Garrett Wittels is making the most of an unlikely (and probably short-lived) promotion to the club’s AAA team. Promotion was hardly in the cards for the shortstop, who was hitting just .208 with 6 RBIs for the Quad Cities Bandits (A) when he was called up to the Springfield Cardinals (AA). Wittels saw only one plate appearance there before the Memphis Redbirds (AAA) called. Chances are the Cards are just using Wittels to fill temporary roster gaps — and may not take him particularly seriously at this point. But Wittels is 2-for-2 since joining Memphis, with a pinch-hit triple, pinch-hit single, and two RBIs.
  • The Gateway Grizzlies of the independent Frontier League couldn’t be much happier with Alex Kaminsky. The former Cleveland Indians prospect is a perfect 4-0 since joining the team this summer and has held opposing batters to a .213 average. And he’s no longer alone. Ex-Chicago White Sox prospect Mike Schwartz recently joined the Grizzlies. In his first two games, the DH/IF went a combined 4-for-9.

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Good news Monday

By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

Mondays can be tough on the soul. So have some smiles on us:

  • Washington Nationals prospect Danny Rosenbaum is off to another good start this season. A starting pitcher with the Harrisburg Senators (AA), the 24-year-old lefty is 2-0 with a 1.25 ERA. Not bad, even for a player whose worst season ERA so far was 2.52, in 2011. And check this out: through three starts in 2012, Rosenbaum has struck out 16 but walked none.
  • Our friends at Kaplan’s Korner recently posted this list of Jewish baseball records that may soon fall. A neat example: with a lifetime batting average of .312, Milwaukee Brewers LF Ryan Braun is just one percentage point behind career leader Hank Greenberg.
  • By his senior year in college, Garrett Wittels had experienced the polar opposites of media fame and infamy. A 56-game hitting streak during his junior year at Florida International University brought him international attention, but so too did a subsequent rape arrest. Although the charge eventually was dropped and his accusers exposed as profiteers, the story did a number on the infielder’s reputation, baseball prospects (he went undrafted), and confidence. Now a 21-year-old St. Louis Cardinals prospect, Wittels is struggling to prop his 2012 batting average above .200. But ESPN The Magazine’s detailed account of his inner and outer trials reveals a deeply spiritual young man who deserves a second chance.
  • Nothing goes together better than Jews and rugby, which is why the Boston Maccabi Rugby Football Club is so intriguing. I mean, how many rugby teams out there profess “an abiding commitment to the timeless Jewish values of tikkun olam and tzedakah “?
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Kevin Moscatel (

Will Krasne (

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Time to add two names to your list of Jewish minor-leaguers.

Thanks to information provided by Jewish Baseball News reader Bill R., we now know that C Kevin Moscatel and P Will Krasne are Members of the Tribe.

Krasne, a 23-year-old rookie out of Stanford University, is 3-4 with a 4.22 ERA for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, the Cleveland Indians’ “A short season” team. A former National Merit Scholar Finalist at St. Albans School in Washington, D.C., Krasne had “Tommy John” surgery in 2007.

Though just 20 years old, Moscatel — a native of Miranda, Venezuela — is a baseball veteran, having been signed by the St. Louis Cardinals at age 16. The light-hitting catcher is batting .211 with 1 HR and 8 RBIs in 90 at-bats this season with the “A short season” Batavia Muckdogs.

He’s in good company in Batavia, where at least two teammates are Jewish: P Corey Baker, and SS Garrett Wittels.

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JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — So much to tell, so little time to tell it. Here are a few items worth noting:

  • The 2011 AAA All-Star Game, which pits the International League against the Pacific Coast League, will be broadcast tonight at 9:00pm EST on ESPN. Cleveland Indians prospect Jason Kipnis will start at 2B for the International team. Joining him from the bullpen will be Philadelphia Phillies prospect Michael Schwimer. Schwimer, a 6’8″ reliever from Fairfax, Va., is enjoying a breakout season with the “AAA” Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, where he is 5-0 with 6 saves, a 1.78 ERA, 64 strikeouts, and 17 walks over 50-and-2/3 innings.
  • Speaking of Kipnis, the 24-year-old standout’s 1st-inning HR helped the USA squad defeat the World team 6-4 in Sunday’s (7/9/2011) Futures Game (see box score), which is considered a showcase for minor-league baseball’s top prospects. As recently reported, Kipnis’ promotion to the Majors is expected to come soon.
  • Jews batted 1.000 in last night’s MLB All-Star Game (7/12/2011), though that figure is a bit misleading. The only MOT who played was Boston Redsox 3B Kevin Youkilis, who singled in his only plate appearance. Milwaukee Brewers LF Ryan Braun was supposed to start for the National League but sat out due to a leg injury that has kept him idle since July 2. Braun not only was the top vote-getter in the National League this year but set the all-time N.L. record with 5.9-million votes — which points out is nearly 10 times the population of Milwaukee, Wisc.
  • Garrett Wittels, a Florida International University infielder who hit in 56 straight games in 2010, was signed as a free agent earlier this month by the St. Louis Cardinals and assigned to Batavia Muckdogs, the club’s “A-short season” team. Through 5 games, Wittels is batting .118 with 1 RBI. He joins Muckdogs P Corey Baker, who was picked in the 49th round of last month’s MLB amateur draft.
  • Also signed as a free agent recently was C Jacob Meskin. Since joining the “rookie-league” GCL Astros (Houston Astros), Meskin has gone 0/13 with 5 strikeouts yet somehow managed to drive in 3 runs. Thanks to Jewish Baseball News reader Bill R. for the tip on Jacob.

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Garrett Wittels (Miami Herald)

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Bahamian prosecutors dropped a rape charge against Garrett Wittels on Monday (6/20/2011), ending a six-month legal odyssey that cast doubt on the Florida International University infielder’s character and may have cost him a chance at being selected in the recent MLB draft.

According to the Miami Herald, Bahamian authorities “decided the evidence didn’t support prosecution” of Wittels and two friends on charges they sexually assaulted two 17-year-old American girls in December.

“I’m very relieved for Garrett and the entire Wittels family,” FIU athletic director Pete Garcia told the Herald. “There’s still a lesson to be learned for anybody in the spotlight. You’ve got to be extra careful and use good judgement.”

Wittels drew national attention last year with a 56-game hitting streak that fell just two games short of the NCAA Division I record. Under the shadow of the charge against him, his productivity fell sharply in 2011 versus 2010. Wittels can still sign an MLB contract as a free agent but is otherwise expected to begin his senior year at FIU this Fall..

Thanks to Jewish Baseball News reader Andrew H. for the tip on this story.

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JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — At least four Jewish players were among the 1,530 amateurs drafted last week by MLB teams.

Though the list is likely to grow — Jewish Sports Review typically publishes a more comprehensive tally in its July/August issue — we believe this preliminary list is the first published anywhere this season.

Two of the more interesting story lines in the 2011 draft involve P Lenny Linsky and SS Garrett Wittels. Linsky is noteworthy because he was a relatively high draft pick (2nd round, 89th overall); by comparison, of the 11 Jews selected in the 2010 draft, the highest pick was SS Jake Lemmerman (5th round, 172nd overall). Wittels — a rising senior at Florida International University whose 56-game hitting streak in 2010 drew national attention but was overshadowed by a subsequent arrest — is notable because he wasn’t drafted at all.

The four known draftees include:

Lenny Linsky (Tampa Bay Rays: 2nd round, 89th overall pick). A 6’2″ closer who just finished his junior year at the University of Hawaii, the Palos Verdes, Calif., native led his team with a 1.30 ERA and 14 saves, had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 34/9, and gave up a total of just 3 extra-base hits in 34-and-two-thirds innings this season, all doubles. Baseball America described Linsky as “nearly unhittable” and had predicted he might be drafted even higher than he eventually was. (See local article on him.)


Zach Borenstein (Los Angeles Angels: 23rd round, 705th overall). A 6’0″ OF/3B who just completed his junior year at Eastern Illinois University, the Buffalo Grove, IL, native led his team in at least 10 offensive categories this season, including batting average (.349), on-base percentage (.419), slugging percentage (.554), average with runners in scoring position (.391), runs (38), doubles (13/tie), and stolen bases (9). In the first game of a double-header against Morehead State, Borenstein went 4/5 with 3 HRs and 6 RBIs.

David Colvin (Seattle Mariners: 27th round, 813rd overall pick). A 6’3″ starting pitcher who just completed his senior year at Pomona-Pitzer, the Mill Valley, Calif., native led his team with an 8-2 record and 5 complete games while posting a 2.96 ERA. He fanned 94 batters and walked 21. (See local article on him.) Sosnick (San Francisco Giants: 49th round, 1,497th pick). A 2011 graduate of the Jewish Community High School of the Bay, the 6’1″ Sosnick “primarily played pitcher, catcher and shortstop” but was drafted as a second baseman (see article). He led his team with a .583 batting average. The Giants reportedly will consider offering Sosnick a contract pending his performance in a summer league.

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JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Garrett Wittels‘ 56-game hitting streak ended with a thunk in the first game of Florida International University’s 2011 season, but the junior infielder has been hitting well ever since.

The Golden Panthers are 12-5 so far, and Wittels has played a key role. The 20-year-old leads the team with 16 RBIs and 6 doubles (tied) and ranks second in batting average (.338) and on-base percentage (.403). His 7 strikeouts are the fewest among FIU starters.

Wittels’ ability to make contact was on display in a 13-5 win over the University of Rhode Island on Feb. 28, when he went 2/4 with 6 RBIs. Though 3 of his RBIs came on hits — a two-run double and one-run single — the other 3 came on a fielder’s choice, a groundout and a sacrifice fly.

No doubt, Wittels will have a tough time matching his breakout 2010 season. Last year he led FIU in batting average (.412), doubles (21), RBIs (60), and on-base percentage (.462). But with 2/3 of the 2011 season remaining, you never know.

FIU’s next three games (Feb. 18-20) will be shown online at ESPN3.

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JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Florida International University star Garrett Wittels went 0-4 in Friday’s season opener against Southeastern Louisiana, putting an abrupt end to the 56-game hitting streak he established last year.

Wittels’ streak is the second-longest in NCAA Division 1 history, behind Robin Ventura’s 58-game record in 1987.

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JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Star infielder Garrett Wittels will play in Florida International University’s 2011 season opener on Friday (2/18/2011), the Miami school said in a news release.

The game — which starts at 7:00pm EST and will be broadcast on ESPN3 — was a guaranteed spectacle even before the 2010 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year was charged with raping two 17-year-old girls in the Bahamas.

That’s because Wittels, 20, finished the 2010 season with a 56-game hitting streak that he can extend to 57 games on Friday. The NCAA record of 58 games is held by former Major League star Robin Ventura.

According to the Miami Herald, some universities automatically suspend athletes who have been charged with a felony, but FIU does not. Nevertheless, observers continue to debate whether Wittels or FIU will change their mind before Friday’s game against Southern Louisiana.

Jack O’Dwyer, a New York public-relations consultant, argues on his blog that FIU should have suspended Wittels. O’Dwyer believes that for reasons of political correctness, the news media are treating Wittels and FIU far more gently than they did the Duke University lacrosse players. While Duke’s students tend to be white and well-to-do, FIU’s tend to be minorities on financial aid.

“Similar charges against students from an Ivy League college or Duke (heaven forbid!) would get much greater coverage,” O’Dwyer writes.

Wittels and other members of FIU’s baseball team will appear Wednesday (2/16/2011) at a press conference. An FIU spokesman reportedly has threatened to stop the news conference if anyone asks a question about Wittels’ rape charges.


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JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Florida International University star Garrett Wittels, whose 56-game hitting streak earlier this year electrified the college baseball world, was one of five men arrested in the Bahamas on Dec. 20 and charged with raping two 17-year-old girls.

The men, friends from the Miami area, allegedly met the girls at the Atlantis Resort and Casino in Paradise Island.

Wittels’ father, a Miami area orthopedist, told the Miami Herald that the girls willingly went to the men’s hotel room and later claimed rape only after learning Wittels was a baseball star.

“Anyone can accuse anyone of anything at any time,” Michael Wittels told the Herald. “He’s not doing well, obviously. He’s blown away. He’s devastated that someone would accuse him of this.”

Wittels was released on bond pending a preliminary hearing set for April. The 20-year-old infielder is expected to resume his hunt for the consecutive-game hitting record in February, when Florida International begins its new season. The NCAA Division 1 record is 58 games, held by Robin Ventura.


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JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Garrett Wittels had a phenomenal 2010 season at Florida International University.

The then-sophomore had a hit in all 56 regular-season games, putting him in contention to break Robin Yount’s all-time NCAA hit-streak record of 58 games when he resumes play in 2011. He finished the year with a .413 batting average, an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of 1.004, and 60 RBIs in just 242 at-bats.

So it comes as a bit of a surprise that the 20-year-old infielder’s summer in the Alaska Baseball League was so, well, average. In 32 games with the Peninsula Oilers, a team not affiliated with Major League Baseball, Wittels hit .254 — a hair above the .249 team average — with 16 RBIs in 118 at-bats, 7 stolen bases, and an OPS of .640.

This does not mean Wittels’ streak was a fluke. After all, he has risen above mediocrity before. He batted only .246 his freshman season at FIU, which made his 56-game hit streak the following year seem all the more unlikely.

In a recent interview with the Wichita Eagle (8/6/2010), Wittels displayed the sort of humility and team-spiritedness that have endeared him to baseball fans and earned him a nomination for a ESPY award (Best Male College Athlete):

This summer, I’ve been able just to go out there and get hits, just play the game. It’s been a relief not to be playing with the hitting streak. But definitely, when the fall comes I’ll be able to get home and get started again trying to help my team win. We have eight returners to our starting lineup, so Florida International baseball is definitely going in the right direction.



Wittels loses ESPY bid

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Florida International University phenom Garrett Wittels did not win an ESPY award tonight (7/14/2010).

Wittels, 20, was one of five sportsmen nominated as “Best Male College Athlete” by cable station ESPN for its annual awards show. But fans voting at in recent weeks ultimately awarded the honor to John Wall, star point guard for the University of Kentucky basketball team. The remaining nominees were Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram of the University of Alabama, University of Wisconsin hockey player Blake Geoffrion, and Ohio State basketball star Evan Turner.

Wittels wowed baseball fans this year by hitting safely in all 56 games, the second-longest hitting streak in NCAA history. He’ll have a chance to beat Robin Ventura’s 58-game record when he returns to the diamond in 2011 for his junior season.



JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Many Jewish athletes are proud of their religion but don’t want it to define their career. For them, faith is a subject best kept private.

But not Garrett Wittels. According to a fascinating article in the Jerusalem Post, the college baseball phenom — who hit safely in all 56 games this season at Florida International University — is a practicing Jew who has found a way to integrate Judaism into his athletic routine:

(B)aseball is a game of superstitions, and it’s there that Wittels’ Jewish background emerges. While his slate of of good luck rituals has been noted repeatedly in the mounting media coverage of the streak, the mainstream media has missed this one: Before each game, Wittels kneels in the outfield and recites the Shema, the Jewish prayer declaring the unity of God. Wittels also carries a travel mezuzah, which contains the Shema prayer, and on road trips he brings a copy of the Jewish Wayfarer’s Prayer, according to his mother, Lishka, a member of Miami’s “Jewban,” or Cuban-Jewish, community. And, she added, when FIU traveled this spring, he kept as kosher for Passover as he could.

Added Wittels’ mother:

‘He has said he would marry a Jewish girl and talks about how important it is to carry on the Judaism with his life,’ his mother said. ‘My son is the most spiritual, non-traditional young athlete you will ever meet. He carries his religion in his heart.’

This summer, Wittels is carrying a disappointing .203 average while playing for the Peninsula Oilers of the Alaska Baseball League, a far cry from his .413 average spring as an FIU sophomore. But the 20-year-old’s followers know that he hit just .246 freshman year at FIU, and thus may be a slow adapter.

Tonight (7/14/2010) at 9:00pm ET  on ESPN, Wittels will find out if he is the winner of the 2010 “ESPY” award for Best Male College Athlete. He is one of five finalists for the honor.

My thanks to Jeff Zaremsky for pointing out the Jerusalem Post article.

— Scott Barancik



JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Florida International University has produced an 8-minute video commemorating sophomore Garrett Wittels‘ 56-game hitting streak.

The video is full of details large and small, from the dimensions of the 20-year-old infielder’s bat (33 inches, 30 ounces) to his many superstitions (such as the Bubblicious watermelon bubble gum his younger brother and sister provide before gametime).

Perhaps most remarkable about Wittels’ streak — besides its unlikeliness, considering his lackluster freshman year — is that he only played in 56 games. That’s right: he got one or more hits in every game he played.

Nor is the streak over. For purposes of chasing the NCAA Division I record of 58 games, reached by Oklahoma State’s Robin Ventura in 1987, Wittels will start the 2011 season with his 56-game tear intact.

Wittels has been nominated for ESPN’s 2010 ‘Best male college athlete’ award. This summer is playing for the Peninsula Oilers of the Alaska Baseball League.



JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Florida International University infielder Garrett Wittels is one of five NCAA athletes nominated for ESPN’s 2010 ‘Best male college athlete’ award. Fan voting will determine the winner.

Wittels, 20, garnered national press by finishing the 2010 baseball season with a 56-game hitting streak, second-longest in Division 1 history. He will have a chance to extend the streak — and chase Robin Ventura’s 58-game record, set at Oklahoma State in 1987 — when he suits up for FIU’s 2011 baseball season.

The 2010 ‘Best male college athlete’ will be announced July 14 (9:00pm ET) at the annual ESPY Awards on ESPN. There are two ways to cast your vote beforehand:

  1. Go to the ESPY home page, register for a free account, and cast your vote. You can vote on as few, or as many, of the several dozen award categories (e.g., Best sports movie, Best female tennis player) as you wish.
  2. Go to ESPN’s Facebook page, become a ‘fan’, click on the ‘ESPYs voting’ tab, and cast your vote.

(Of the two ways to cast a vote, Facebook’s appears to be the easiest.)

Prior winners of the ‘Best male college athlete’ award include University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow (2008 and 2009) and USC running back Reggie Bush (2006). Since the ‘Best male college athlete’ award was introduced in 2002, no baseball player has won it.

Wittels is a jack-of-all-trades, at least when it comes to the infield. During the 2010 season he played third base (24 games), shortstop (24 games), second base (16 games) and even pitched (4 games). He finished the regular season with a team-leading .413 batting average, .541 slugging percentage and 60 RBIs. This summer he is playing for the Peninsula Oilers of the Alaska Baseball League.

Thanks to Jewish Baseball News fans Edgar Benes and Lishka Benes Wittels for the tip on Garrett’s nomination. For prior stories about him, click here.



Minor-league roundup

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — The latest news on minor-league players:

  • Trenton Thunder (AA/New York Yankees) SP Jeremy Bleich is out for the season with a shoulder injury. Bleich finished the season with a 3-2 record and 4.79 ERA, holding opposing batters to a .236 average.
  • Springfield Cardinals (AA/St. Louis Cardinals) SP David Kopp continues to enjoy a strong season, with a 6-1 record, 3.00 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 57 innings. He’s scheduled to pitch game two of today’s (6/6/2010) doubleheader against the San Antonio Missions. Kopp, a 6’3″, 205 lb. right-hander from Margate, Fla., is one of three Jews in the St. Louis Cardinals’ farm system, along with C Charles Cutler (AA) and CF James Rapoport (AAA).
  • Florida International University sophomore Garrett Wittels extended his astounding hitting streak to 56 games Saturday in a season-ending loss to Dartmouth. According to the Associated Press:

Wittels hit an RBI double in the top of the first inning, leaving him two games shy of the Division I record set by Oklahoma State’s Robin Ventura in 1987. Wittels’ attempt to break the mark will resume next season. He went 3-for-5 and finished the season with a .417 average and a school-record 100 hits.

  • Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees (AAA/New York Yankees) SP Jason Hirsh is in a slump. Hirsh, a 6’8″, 250-pound right-hander from Burbank, Calif., won four straight at one point but hasn’t recorded a victory since May 13.

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JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Garrett Wittels got a hit for the 48th consecutive game Saturday (5/22/2010) as  Florida International University lost a heartbreaker to rival Florida Atlantic University, 14-10.

Wittels, a 20-year-old sophomore, moved into 2nd place in the NCAA Division I record books with his 48-game streak, second now only to Robin Ventura’s 58-game streak in 1987. He went 3-for-5 with 2 doubles and 3 RBIs, finishing the season with a .415 batting average.

FIU was leading its regular-season finale 8-5 until Florida Atlantic’s scored 7 in the 6th inning. All 7 FAU runs were given up by senior RP Eric Berkowitz, the team’s saves leader and a fellow Jew.

Here’s Wittels’ post-game interview on ESPN SportsCenter. FIU’s first postseason game takes place Tuesday (5/25/2010) against the University of South Alabama.

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JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — The latest info on Jews with bats:

  • New York Mets 1B Ike Davis, brought up from AAA two weeks after the 2010 season began, is now batting cleanup. The move to 4th in the batting order paid off for the Mets on Thursday (5/20/2010) as Davis went 3-for-5 with 2 doubles and three runs scored.
  • Davis was one of four Jewish players with multi-hit games Thursday (5/20/2010). Joining him were Tampa Bay Rays RF Gabe Kapler (2-for-2), Texas Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler (2-for-5), and Boston Red Sox 1B Kevin Youkilis (2-for4 with 1 HR and 4 RBIs).
  • According to this article, Youkilis is on pace to have his best month ever at the plate. So far this May, he leads the majors in batting average (.411), on-base percentage (.585), slugging percentage (.786), and OPS (1.371).
  • The Boston Red Sox dropped RP Scott Schoeneweis from the team’s roster Wednesday (5/19/2010). Schoeneweis, a last-minute addition to the Opening Day squad, had an unimpressive 7.90 ERA this season, allowing 19 hits in 13 innings. The Red Sox have not said yet whether they will trade Schoeneweis, release him, or place him on waivers.
  • Florida International University sophomore Garrett Wittels continued his record-setting streak Thursday by getting a hit in his 46th straight game, part of FIU’s 12-4 victory against Florida Atlantic University. Wittels needs one more game to tie Phil Stephenson for second on the all-time list at 47 games.
  • AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees SP Jason Hirsh had his four-game winning streak broken Tuesday (5/18/2010) in a 3-0 loss to the Indianapolis Indians. On the bright side, Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader columnist Dave Konopki praised Hirsh this week, saying “it would be great to see him wearing pinstripes while standing on the mound at Yankee Stadium.”
  • AAA Memphis Redbirds CF James Rapoport is on a tear since being called up from AA. After 11 games with the Redbirds — a St. Louis Cardinals affiliate — the 24-year-old is batting .378 with a .440 on-base percentage. Yesterday (5/20/2010) he went 4-for-6 in a 13-3 victory over the Sacramento River Cats.
  • Milwaukee Brewers LF Adam Stern hasn’t made the most of his brief return to the bigs. In four games since being called up from AAA, the 30-year-old Canadian is 0-for-6 with two strikeouts.
  • Texas Rangers SP Scott Feldman earned his first victory since April 11 with a 13-7 victory over the Baltimore Orioles. It wasn’t his finest hour: Feldman gave up a career-high 12 hits in six innings.
  • In other struggling-Jewish-pitcher news, Chicago Cubs RP John Grabow continued his shaky 2010 in a 5-4 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. Grabow gave up 1 hit, two walks and the winning run in 2/3 inning. Grabow’s 8.44 ERA is second-worst in the National League, and he’s reportedly “testing the patience of manager Lou Piniella, who continues to give him the ball in crucial late-inning situations.”

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O.”BP (.585 — a mark that is 100 points better than any other player in the game), slugging (.786) and OPS (1.371).
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