Friday, March 17, 2017

New MoT NHLer: Josh Ho-Sang

According to Kaplan's Korner there is a new Jewish NHLer the Islanders Josh Ho-Sang. Welcome to the ice and Mazel Tov!

NCAA Tournament Jews

Often we highlight some of the MoTs playing in the tournaments. This year is led most notably by Spencer Weiscz of Princeton whose team lost a heartbreaking opener yesterday. Weiscz played all 40 minutes and led Princeton with 15 points. Today TJ Leaf and the UCLA Bruins take the floor. They are a #3 sleeper to win the tournament. Also playing today are Ben Carter of Michigan State and Roman Sorkin of Oregon.

The NIT has Sam Singer of California who will finished up his stellar career with an opening round loss, rarely used Ky Feldman & Jon Radner (Syracuse) and Cameron Liss (Illinois) and potential NBA draftee TJ Cline of Richmond.

Jeremy Lieberman (Wyoming) is playing in the CBI tournament.

Team Israel Bows Out

Congrats to Team Israel on a historic run eventually losing two straight to Netherlands and Japan. Israel went 4-2 in the World Baseball Classic. If you include qualifying round they were 7-2 with an all-time record of 9-3. Ryan Lavarnway took home the Pool A MVP Award. Great pitching from Jason Marquis and Josh Zeid. Other highlights include Hatikvah on the field, the team wearing kippot, and Megillah reading in the dugout. And of course the Mench on a Bench team mascot. It was truly an amazing run. Yasher Koach to all the players, coaches and those involved. Looking forward to bolstering that lineup and staff in 2021!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Interview: Orangeman and Israeli Ky Feldman

While Team Israel continues to wow us all, its also time for the NCAA Tournament. Last year the Orangemen made a historic run to the Final Four. This year is a little different as they enter as a #1 seed in the NIT. But both Orangemen teams had something in common; Israel baller Ky Feldman. Great is a great young player beginning to make a name for himself. So in time for the tournament here is a good story about an up and coming Jewish baller. 
1) Tell TGR a little bit about yourself.
I was born in Israel. My dad was American, but he moved out there after a year of playing basketball at Long Beach State to play professionally. He played for a few years, and then he coached for a while. In total, he lived there for 15 years, and that's where he met my mom. We moved to the United States with my little brother when I was 5, and we've been living in the Los Angeles area since then. I played high school basketball at Agoura High School, and I chose to walk on at Syracuse because my ultimate dream is to be a college basketball coach.

2) When did you know that you wanted to play college basketball and when did you realize Syracuse was a reality?
I think most kids that play basketball at a young age dream of playing in the NBA. By the time I got to high school, I realized that wasn't an option for me, but I still knew I wanted to play basketball for as long as possible, no matter what level. I never even dreamed of ending up at a program like Syracuse, and the opportunity kind of came out of nowhere. Going into my senior year, I was planning on playing at Occidental College, a Division 3 school in Los Angeles. My goal was to play and be close to home, but a couple months into my senior year my dad found a connection that allowed him to send some tape into the staff at Syracuse. I had no idea about any of it until we took a visit to Syracuse. We went to watch a practice, and at that point I still had no idea of the work my dad had been doing. Fifteen minutes into the practice, coach Boeheim walked over and started talking to me, and he told me that he had seen me play and that he thought I was good enough to walk on to the team. Until I actually heard him say that, coming to Syracuse wasn't even a thought in my mind.

3) What were walk-on tryouts like?
I didn't try out for the team. I was offered a roster spot but no scholarship, and I took it without hesitation.

4) Whats something people should know about being a college walk-on?
I think the one thing people forget a lot is that walk-ons were all very good high school players, so even though there are a lot of great perks, being a walk-on can be frustrating because we're playing a role that we're not used to. It's hard because we're not competing like we're used to, and it's a completely different mindset on a day-to-day basis. Our goal every day at practice is to push the scholarship players and do whatever the team needs us to do. On game days, it's about being good teammates and bringing energy to every game. Off the court, it's about being a good influence and getting good grades. Our role and our goal is completely different than what we're all used to, so it's a difficult transition for some guys.

5) What was the Final Four run like last year? Was it more exciting that you weren't a top seed?
The Final Four run was amazing. It was kind of difficult at the time to take it all in. We were so focused on winning the next game and advancing that we never really stopped to think about any of it. It wasn't until I stepped out on to the court at NRG Stadium in Houston that it really hit me. Seeing 80,000 empty seats there and knowing they would all be filled to see us play made me realize how amazing what we had done was. That was when we all understood how blessed we were to have had the opportunity to play on that kind of stage. It didn't turn out the way we wanted to, but it was still an amazing week. Being a 10 seed didn't make much of a difference to us personally, but I know it definitely made a difference to the media and the fans, and a lot more attention was placed on us as a result. If it affected us in any way, I would say it definitely helped us because we had a "nothing to lose/ us against the world" attitude.

6) What is the best lesson you have learned from Coach Jim Boehim?
The thing that makes him so great is how simple he keeps things when coaching. Watching the 2-3 on television and because of the high level of play, I thought I'd get here and it would seem like he was coaching different game. Instead, I've always been amazed at how simple everything is, especially with the 2-3. It's a very complicated defense, but he finds a way to break everything down into smaller, simpler parts, and at the end it all comes together. That's why we play it so well.

7) What was your Jewish life like growing up?
Growing up in Israel and for the first few years living in the United States, we were very religious as a family. The longer we stayed here, the less observant we became. Now, I would not consider myself an observant Jew. I do not keep Kosher or Shabbat, but I do go temple often. During the season, we have practice every night, but in the offseason I try to go every Shabbat. For me, it's more about the spiritual connection I feel while I'm at temple. That's what's most important to me.

8) Favorite Jewish food?
Definitely Jachnun. In Israel, we would all go to my grandma's house every Saturday for jachnun, so now, eating it always takes me back to that time. I don't have it very much now that I am in Syracuse, but when I do, it's definitely my favorite.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Interview: WBC Team Israel Pitcher Alex Katz

There are a lot of exciting elements to Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic. The major leaguers who are playing, the notion that Israel baseball is in the top 16 countries in the world, and the returning stars. Probably most exciting is the young players coming through the system that have a chance to shine. For a White Sox fan Alex Katz is one of the shining stars. Katz finished last season in A+ ball but is looking to make a jump this year. The WBC might be the best platform to show his stuff.

1) Tell TGR a little bit about yourself.
I grew up on Long Island, went to St. John’s University in Queens, NY and was drafted by the Chicago White Sox as a junior in 2015.

2) What do you expect this season? Where do you hope to be by seasons end?
I expect to build off of my past 2 pro seasons. There's always room for improvement. Most importantly, to stay consistent throughout the long season. I try not to think about each level, instead just focus on pitching my best, getting outs, and the rest will take care of itself.

3) Who is the best hitter you have ever faced and why?
Andrew Benintendi is one of the best hitters that I’ve ever faced. I pitched against him in the NCAA Regionals in 2015 and he ended up winning the Golden Spikes Award that year, and is currently the #1 prospect in baseball.

4) Team Israel has a lot of momentum going into the WBC. Can you make a run?
Without a doubt we can. The team is full of veteran players with a ton of experience, as well as young talent. The team we had at the WBC Qualifiers in September gelled together extremely well.

5) Who has been the biggest professional mentor in your young career?
My dad has been the biggest mentor for me throughout my baseball career. He doesn’t miss a game, whether it's through live feed on the internet or at the games. He knows me almost as much as I know myself. 

6) Whats behind your Twitter handle @Kittyelgato12?
It was kind of a joke soon after I signed with the White Sox. A lot of teammates called me Kitty and then some of my Latin teammates started calling me Gato, which means cat in Spanish.
7) What was your Jewish life like growing up? And today?

I was Bar Mitzvahed and went to Temple for the major holidays growing up. Currently, it is difficult to go to Temple as much as I did growing up because baseball takes up so much of my time. 

8) Favorite Jewish food and why?
Potato latkes. That’s one of my mom’s specialties.