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Play Ball! The Jewish Boys of Summer take the field

With the 2015 baseball season hitting the mid-way point, the Ledger takes its annual look at how the Jewish boys of summer are faring on the field this year. (Statistics are as of July 12, 2015).

By Suzy Iarusso

Feldman Houston AstrosScott Wynne Feldman (p)
Houston Astros – DL 5/27/2015
Born: February 7, 1983
Birthplace: Kailua, Hawaii
Team: Houston Astros
Position: Starting Pitcher
Number: 46
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Season ERA: 4.80
Season SO: 37
Season Record: 4-4
Career ERA: 4.49
Career SO: 709
Career Record: 63-72
Experience: 10 Years
Feldman ended the 2014 season with the lowest ERA of his career at 3.74. He won the 2014 Darryl Kile Good Guy Award voted by the Houston Baseball Writers Association.

Joc PedersonJoc Russell Pederson (of)
Los Angeles Dodgers
Born: April 21, 1992
Birthplace: Palo Alto, CA
Team: LA Dodgers
Position: CF
Number: 31
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Season Avg: .230
Season HR: 20
Season RBI: 40
Career Avg: .223
Career HR: 20
Career RBI: 40
Experience: 1 Year
Joc was drafted in the 11th round of the 2010 draft by the Dodgers. His father Stu also played for the Dodgers in 1985. In 2013 he played for Team Israel in the qualifying rounds of the World Baseball Classic. While in the minors in 2014, he was voted the MVP of the Pacific Coast League. He made his major league debut on September 1, 2014. When the Dodgers traded Matt Kemp, Joc became their center field starter. He was selected to the 2015 MLB All Star Game and finished second in the Home Run Derby. He replaced Matt Holliday as the starting center fielder in the All-Star Game. He was the first Dodgers rookie to start in an All-Star Game.

breslow bostonCraig Andrew Breslow (P)
Boston Red Sox
Born: August 8, 1980
Birthplace: New Haven, CT
Team: Boston Red Sox
Position: Relief Pitcher
Number: 32
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Season ERA: 3.98
Season SO: 22
Season Record: 0-0
Career ERA: 3.25
Career SO: 388
Career Record: 22-23
Experience: 9 Years
After starting the 2014 season on the disabled list, Breslow’s season performance wasn’t in line with his previous seasons. The Red Sox declined his option but signed him to a one-year contract for 2015. Craig’s Strike 3 Foundation continues to host charity events and accepts donations to support pediatric cancer research.

Nate-FreimanNathan Samuel Freiman (1B)
Oakland athletics
Born: December 31, 1986
Birthplace: Washington D.C.
Team: Oakland Athletics
Position: 1B
Number: 7
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Career Average: .256
Career HR: 9
Career RBI: 3
Experience: 2 Years
Freiman had a 61-game errorless streak at first base in 2014. He was designated for assignment on July 2, 2015.

537195531CP00131_Arizona_DiIsaac “Ike” Benjamin Davis (1B)
Oakland Athletics
Born: March 22, 1987
Birthplace: Edina, Minnesota
Team: Oakland Athletics
Position: First Base
Number: 17
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Season AVG: .248
Season HR: 3
Season RBI: 17
Career AVG: .241
Career HR: 81
Career RBI: 287
Experience: 5 Years
After the 2014 season, Davis was designated for assignment and then traded by the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Oakland A’s. On 4/21/15 Davis pitched a perfect 8th inning in a blowout game against the LA Angels. It was the first time the A’s had a position player pitch since 2000. He retired all three batters in nine pitches and his fastball reached 88 mph.

Athletics Rockies Spring BaseballSamuel Babson Fuld (of)
Oakland Athletics
Born: November 20, 1981
Birthplace: Durham, NH
Team: Oakland Athletics
Position: Outfield
Number: 23
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Season Average: .208
Season HR: 1
Season RBI: 14
Career AVG: .232
Career HR: 11
Career RBI: 104
Experience: 7 Years
On July 31, 2014, the Minnesota Twins traded Fuld back to the Oakland A’s. Fuld has played for five MLB teams since his debut.

Ian KinslerIan Michael Kinsler (2B)
Detroit Tigers
Born: June 22, 1982
Birthplace: Tucson, AZ
Team: Detroit Tigers
Position: Second Base
Number: 3
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Season Average: .274
Season HR: 3
Season RBI: 39
Career AVG: .273
Career HR: 176
Career RBI: 670
Experience: 9 Years
Kinsler ended the 2014 season with the most at bats in the American League with 684. The Tigers made it to the postseason in 2014 but were eliminated by the Orioles.

Boston Red Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway plays in an exhibition spring training baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota, Fla.,Saturday, March 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)Ryan Cole Lavarnway (C)
Atlanta Braves
Born: August 7, 1987
Birthplace: Burbank, CA
Team: Atlanta Braves
Position: Catcher
Number: 30
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Season Average: .178
Season HR: 1
Season RBI: 2
Career Average: .198
Career HR: 6
Career RBI: 36
Experience: 4 Years
Lavarnway missed the remainder of the 2014 season after breaking his wrist at the end of May 2014. He was designated for assignment by the Boston Red Sox in November. In December 2014 he was claimed and designated for assignment by two different teams before being picked up by the Baltimore Orioles where he started the 2015 season. He was designated for assignment on May 26, 2015 and then signed to a minor league contract by the Atlanta Braves on May 30, 2015. Lavarnway was called up to the majors on June 15, 2015.

Jon MoscotJon Solomon Moscot (P)
Cincinnati Reds
Born: August 25, 1991
Birthplace: Santa Monica, CA
Team: Cincinnati Reds
Position: Starting Pitcher
Number: 46
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Season ERA: 4.63
Season SO: 6
Season Record: 1-1
Career ERA: 4.63
Career SO: 6
Career Record: 1-1
Experience: 1 Year
Moscot was drafted by the Reds in the 4th round of the 2012 draft. He made his major league debut on 6/5/15. He received his first major league win in his second start. On his third start he dislocated his non-throwing shoulder, which required surgery that ended his 2015 season.

Sept 3, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun (8) at bat against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY SportsRyan Braun (LF/1B)
Milwaukee Brewers
Born: November 17, 1983
Birthplace: Mission Hills, CA
Team: Milwaukee Brewers
Position: LF/1B
Number: 8
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Season Average: .275
Season HR: 16
Season RBI: 56
Career Avg: .304
Career HR: 246
Career RBI: 818
Experience: 9 years
Braun returned to the Brewers in 2014 after his PED suspension. After the team traded for Khris David, Braun moved from his longtime position in left field to right field. During the 2014 season, Braun became the 12th Brewers player to appear in 1,000 games with the team. In October of 2014, he underwent surgery to repair a nerve on his right thumb, which had hindered his playing all season. He took over Joc Pederson’s reserve spot in the 2015 All- Star Game.

SP-JAYS13MAY TORONTO, ON- MAY 13  -  Toronto Blue Jays called up Kevin Pillar (11) and he will start today in centre field in place of Colby Rasmus (28)  before the game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Cleveland Indians at the Rogers Centre May 13, 2014. David Cooper/Toronto StarKevin Pillar (of)
Toronto Blue Jays
Born: January 4, 1989
Birthplace: West Hills, CA
Team: Toronto Blue Jays
Position: CF
Number: 11
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Season Average: .278
Season HR: 7
Season RBI: 37
Career Average: .263
Career HR: 12
Career RBI: 57
Experience: 2 Years
Pillar was called back up to the major leagues in August 2014. He became the Blue Jays starting outfielder at the beginning of the 2015 season. In June 2015 he was named the Blue Jays “Player of the Month” by the Toronto Baseball Writers Association. He currently leads the Blue Jays with 12 stolen bases.

TORONTO, CANADA - AUGUST 27: Danny Valencia #15 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates in the dugout after hitting a three-run home run in the seventh inning during MLB game action against the Boston Red Sox on August 27, 2014 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)Danny Valencia (3B)
Toronto Blue Jays
Born: September 19, 1984
Birthplace: Miami, FL
Team: Toronto Blue Jays
Position: 3B
Number: 23
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Season Average: .299
Season HR: 6
Season RBI: 27
Career Average: .265
Career HR: 43
Career RBI: 213
Experience: 5 Years
On July 28, 2014, Valencia was traded from the Kansas City Royals to the Toronto Blue Jays. He transitioned from playing third base to left field.

pillar for converstaions withBlue Jays outfielder a big hit for baseball’s hottest team

By Hillel Kuttler

BALTIMORE (JTA) – Two tattoos sandwich several others along the left arm of Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar.

One near the shoulder reads “8-14-13,” the date of Pillar’s major league debut. The bottom one shows a nautical compass in tribute to his grandfather, Ed Lambert, who often took his grandson on his boats and taught him how to sail. Pillar, a Los Angeles native, cherishes the memories of those Southern California trips. They’d set out from Coronado, the San Diego-area port where Lambert kept his yacht and a sailboat. His grandfather, Pillar said, was “a smart man” – an accountant, teacher and real-estate professional near Palm Springs who attended his grandson’s games.

Lambert fell at home and suffered head trauma during Pillar’s first season with the Blue Jays. Pillar visited just before Lambert died.

“The last thing he told me was he was proud of me. It meant the world to me to have him see me put a major league uniform on and play [on television],” Pillar told JTA in a recent interview at his locker prior to a game against the Orioles here.

Pillar is now in his third season with the Blue Jays. In his first season as a regular player, Pillar has contributed with his glove and his bat.

The 26-year-old is second on the hard-hitting club in games (he’s missed just one of the first 64), at bats and hits; is tied for the lead with nine stolen bases; and his .251 batting average has risen nearly 30 points in recent weeks. Earlier in June, Pillar homered twice and singled against Washington and its ace pitcher, 2013 Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer.

His prowess at the plate isn’t surprising: Pillar set an NCAA Division II record with a 54-game hitting streak in 2010 with California State University, Dominguez Hills, and batted .367 over his four years there. In the minors he had a batting average of .323 after being drafted in the 32nd round.

But it has been on defense that he has surprised some, making several outstanding catches that have landed him on highlight shows.

“For the majority of my minor league career, my offense definitely overshadowed what I was able to do on defense,” Pillar said. “And in [the major leagues], my offense has struggled, so I don’t think people paid much attention to what I was able to do defensively.”

Two plays in 2015 especially stand out.

There was the catch in Toronto against the Tampa Bay Rays in which Pillar stretched over the 10-foot-high wall — planting his right foot about halfway up to propel himself — to pull back a home run. Two weeks later, in Cleveland, he sprinted into right-center field and crashed into the fence to take away an Indians’ extra-base hit.

“Going through that stretch when I made some pretty fantastic catches, I think it’s not only opened the eyes of my teammates and coaching staff, but all of baseball – that I play the outfield well,” he told JTA.

His manager, John Gibbons, said the baseball world “has woken up to him.”

“He’s on those [ESPN] ‘Web Gems.’

It’s not happening by mistake,” said Gibbons, who had started Pillar in left field but now has him solely in center field. “He’s a heck of an outfielder.”

Teammate Russell Martin, a catcher, calls Pillar a “blue-collar, hard-nosed competitor. Everything he’s accomplished is through hard work.” Even his opponents are noticing: Orioles’ All-Star centerfielder Adam Jones said of Pillar, “I love how he approaches the game.”

Pillar is taking nothing for granted, saying that playing in the majors “is a dream come true. It’s what I’ve worked for my whole life.”

A teammate’s spring training injury put Pillar into the starting lineup. “I took the mindset that every day I’d prove that I’m worthy of playing every day and help the team win games,” he said.

His mother, Wendy, said her son “can never get enough” of baseball. Even his offseason includes rigorous training. After starring in basketball and as a two-way player in football, Pillar devoted himself to baseball late in high school, she said.

It was his mom’s family who provided Pillar’s Jewish influence: Wendy’s mother and maternal grandparents were observant and lived in the Los Angeles suburbs. The family didn’t affiliate with a synagogue, but Pillar and his elder brother, Michael, participated in bar mitzvah prep classes.

Now Pillar has his sights set on playing for Israel in next year’s World Baseball Classic; he said he wasn’t contacted in time for the 2012 tournament.

With his maternal grandmother, Leila, 80, in mind, Pillar said it “would be a great honor.”

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