Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Interview: Former MLBer Andrew Lorraine

The story of Andrew Lorraine is a really story of the successful journeyman of Major League Baseball. Raising star who made it to the Big Leagues quickly. But like many Major Leaguers its hard to find a perfect fit. Many fizzle out or cannot overcome the adversity. Lorraine was not that guy. While he played all over the league and World, teams continued to find value in his services. Longevity was the strength of his career. Truth be told, teams are still finding value in him now as coach and scout. Lorraine was part of the mastermind of Team Israel. And we were lucky to get to spend some time talking to Lorraine and hear about his journey and where he is today.

1) Tell TGR a little bit about yourself?

I have been in professional baseball now for upwards for 25 years. I played college baseball at Standford University for three years. I was drafted by the Angels. I made a quick ascension to the big leagues as a prospect and then kind of putted out a few times and bounced around a lot, most of my career. I ended up playing for eight Major League teams. And basically bouncing around the Minor Leagues most of my career, AAA with 14 organizations. Played multiple years in Latin America, winter ball in Venezuela mostly, over 10 times in Venezuela, several times on Puerto Rico, Dominican and Mexico as well. I went overseas and played in Italy and Taiwan. I was a player coach in Italy and then I took over as a coach in the collegiate summer league in the Hamptons in New York, in its first year in 2009 for the South Hampton Breakers. Got some coaching experience there.

When I was done playing I took a job with the Mariners as a pitching coach, worked  seven years with the Mariners in the Minor Leagues, basically all levels up to Double-A. Last year in Jackson I was the Double-A pitching coach and we won championship. And in the meantime got working with Team Israel first in 2012 with Brad Ausmus, was his pitching coach and we didn't make the qualifier in the World Baseball Classic we got eliminated by Spain. And came back on the team in 2016 with Jerry Weinstein and we qualified in Brooklyn and made it to the World Baseball Classic and I was the pitching coach for that club in Korea and Japan. We ended up winning the first region in Korea and finishing in third place, as the last team eliminated in Japan. It was a wonderful experience. In the meantime last fall between the qualifier and the start of the season I was hired by the Pittsburgh Pirates as a professional scout so right now I work as a pro scout for the Pirates covering Pacific Coast League and the Mariners and the Rangers.

2) How did you first get started with baseball?
My parents enrolled me in TBall as a kid and park and rec softball. I began hardball at 11. My parents were a little afraid of the hardball because when I was younger I got hit in the head in a pickup baseball game with some friends, smacked by a line drive and fractured a bone in my face when I was 9. My parents were always worried about me. I began playing in Pony League in Valencia California. Played different levels based on age. I was a late bloomer actually and didn't pitch much. I didn't end up getting on the mound as a left handed pitcher until my last year in Bronco League, eventually moving to the Junior Varsity at Heart High School as a Sophomore and then Junior year on the Varsity. I had a pretty good Senior Year and started getting recruited by Division 1 schools and was drafted  by the New York Mets but ended up going to Stanford, played three years at Standford and eventually drafted by the Angels as a Junior. Then went back to school to finish up my degree.

3) Many times a middle relief pitcher can bounce around the league; what was the most difficult part of that experience and how did you make the best of it?
I did a lot of starting early in my career. I ended up being a jack of all trades, able to pitch as a veteran swing man later in my career. The good thing about my career was that I was very durable. I was able to pitch without injury. I had a few minor injures (neck and back), never had an arm issue. I was able to take the role and roll with it. I think there were times it was difficult because of moving around a lot. I got to the Bigs quickly as a 21-year old kid and I thought I was going to be there forever. I wasn't ready for the bounce around, up and down. Looking at things now from a scouting perspective its easy to see why I had the career I had but I obviously didn't see it from that perspective at the time, I felt that I just had to work harder. I made a lot out of my career but at the same time I didn't pitch as well as I would have liked to to stick with one club and landed a good contract.  For me it was knowing there was always an opportunity somewhere, I just had that knowledge I could add value to a team and as a teammate. It was a challenge, and one has to grind it out and wait for an opportunity to apply your trade. The big leagues were always the goal.

4) Who was your favorite manager to play for? Who was the toughest hitter you faced?
Hard because you usually equate your favorite to how you perform. I didn't have fond memories of playing in Oakland because I didn't pitch well there. But honestly it wasn't bad at all there. By the same token I loved Chicago because that's where I pitched my best baseball for the Cubs. I had some cool managers. Terry Kennedy was my AAA manager in Iowa with the Cubs and Jim Riggleman the manager with the Cubs in '99. I was lucky to have Buck Rodgers my first spring training, Marcel Lachemann and Art Howe, Lou Piniella with the Mariners, some were cool people. Charlie Manuel was in Philadelphia while I was there and Davey Lopes.

As far as players, for me the toughest guys were right handers. Barry Bonds comes to mind. The right handed hitters who had power who could eliminate pitches on me and drive the ball the other way. Jeff Kent stands out as a really tough out. Gary Sheffield. And other guys in AAA because I was a soft throwing left-hander so if I left a ball over the plate they could drive the ball. Bond was maybe the best guy I ever played baseball with all things aside. He could be the greatest player of all-time. He was the only guy I could think about that we all said "Barry is coming up soon."

5) How did you get to coach for Team Israel and what was that experience like?
Got involved with Peter Kurz the President of IAB and then Brad called me and got involved that year and then stayed with the team four years later. The experience was incredible. I can't even describe it. Seeing the kids and how tight-knit they were. It began with the club being close in Jupiter in 2012, it was such a let down. And to see them come back and the leadership they took. I thought it would be tougher to bond them together again, but they are even closer. As far as representing Israel with Israel across my chest that was a dream for me as a kid, I felt tremendous pride. There was nothing like that when I was playing. I could imagine how those kids feel to be on the field. Great feedback from people all over the world. Japanese fans wearing Israel stuff. Great people, selfless, we want to get Israel back in the WBC in four years. We are really proud of what we accomplished.

6) Can Team Israel, with maybe the help from Ryan Braun, Ian Kinsler, Alex Bregman, etc compete for the championship in 2021?
If we had all of the Jewish ballplayers that identified as Jewish we'd have a much better club but I think we were proud to have the guys we had who wanted to play for us. We want the guys to want to play for us. I'd love to have all those guys on our club. I do believe if we have Joc, Kevin Pillar, Braun, Bregman, and Scott Feldman those are great ball players. Do they want to play for Team Israel? I don't know. We'd be a tough club. We could give it a good run. It will be tough to beat what we did but on paper a much better chance.

Big thank you to Andrew. A real mensch on the bench! Looking forward to Team Israel 3.0.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Other Rookies in Camp

Ron Kaplan notes three other rookies to get tryouts. Good luck to them all!

Anthony Firsker, 6-3, 230-lb. TE, Harvard — Jets 
Brandon Kublanow, 6-3, 293-lb. C, Georgia — Baltimore Ravens 
Mitchell Kirsch, 6-5, 300-lb. OL, James Madison — Chicago Bears

Sunday, April 30, 2017

JNFL Draft and Outlook

Congrats to the Adam Bisnowaty out of Pitt who was drafted in the 6th round by the New York Giants who moved up to get him.

Gabe Marks, the PAC 12 all-time receptions leader, surprisingly went undrafted but did sign as a free agent with the Jets.

We are looking into Tarik Cohen's (Bears draft pick) MoT-ness. Do not trust random tweets :)

Also look for Mike Bercovici, who signed with the Chargers in January, to make the team. And potential long snapper Drew Ferris to catch on as well.

Current NFL Players:
Daniel Braverman - Bears
Nate Ebner - Patriots
 Julian Edelman - Patriots
Ali Marpet - Browns
Mitchel Schwartz - Chiefs 

Aaron Murray's father is Jewish but is believed to be a practicing Christian.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Interview: Olympian and Super Bowl Champion Nate Ebner

There are few Jewish athletes I have wanted to interview more than Nate Ebner. Not because he is the best Jewish athlete playing right now, but he might be the winningest. It seems like wherever Ebner goes success seems to follow. From his days at the legendary Ohio State Football program, to playing a vital role on the Super Patriots, to his Olympic rugby run Ebner is a tremendous athlete and winner. With the NFL draft, my favorite day of the year, drawing near we spoke with one of the NFL's best Jewish players of all-time.

1) What is it like playing for the Ohio State Buckeyes? Is the Michigan game as big of a deal for the players as it is for the fans?
Playing for Ohio State is an amazing experience.  More fans every Saturday than any other pro team or college team can say they have other than 1 or 2 exceptions.  It is also one of a couple of Universities that prepare you for the NFL at the level in which they do it.  Its nearly like playing professional ball the way meetings and practices and workout programs are handled.  The OSU Michigan game is a big deal for everyone, fans, players, coaches, the city of Columbus.  Its something you start talking about as soon as the football season is over and your starting to prepare for the next season.  We have a countdown clock that literally goes 365 waiting for the kickoff of “THE GAME.”  Every off season workout has some Michigan additive for motivation.  So when it comes time for the game it is as big of a deal as all the hype because its been hyped all year long and it doesn’t matter what you do all season if you lose that game its like having a losing season.  And a lot of the times, that game is very important because its at the end of the season when both teams have a lot on the line and need to win.

2) When did you realize that the NFL was a real possibility?
I realized the NFL was a real possibility after my senior season, having a great year on special teams, and my pro day at Ohio State where I put together a great day of numbers which would've put me among the top in the Combine in every single event we tested in.  
3) You went from one of the winningest college programs to one of the most storied NFL franchises. What similarities do OSU and New England share?
They are similar in regards to how hard we work.  At both places it has been extremely hard work… but its been worth it.  We meet a lot in both places, we break down opponents a lot, and we work extremely hard on the practice field and in the weight room.

4) What is the best part of being a Patriot? What was your favorite moment?
The best part of being a Patriot is being a part of a winning atmosphere that is a product of hard work made up of a bunch of really good people.  Listening to Coach Belichick talk about how were going to go about each week or each day is great to be a part of.  My favorite moment has to be winning the super bowl… twice! No question.  There’s nothing like it.
5) How does playing in the Olympics compare? Were the Patriots and the NFL supportive?
Playing in the Olympics compares in the sense that its the pinnacle of the sporting world, millions of people are watching between the television and the actual arena.  There’s also a lot on the line in both situations.  But there are a lot of differences between the two as well.  The Super Bowl is every year while the Olympics is only once every 4 years! And this was the first time rugby was in the Olympics since the 1920s!!! So in terms of “time” a lot more is riding on the Olympics. 

The Patriots were extremely supportive of me playing in the Olympics.  Did you see the shirts they all wore while my games were on!?  A lot of players throughout the team and league had reached out to me to wish me luck and let me know they’ve been keeping up and watching.  The Pats watched one of my games in the squad room as a team in between meetings and when I got back a lot of the players told me about it and what they thought and it was all very positive and supportive.
6) Would you consider playing rugby in the next Olympics? Is it hard to balance with the NFL?
I would definitely consider playing rugby in the next Olympics, however its a long ways a away and I have a lot of football in front of me until then so we will see when the time comes how my body is feeling or if its even in the cards.  But of course I’m always interested.  It was a long year last year going straight from an NFL season straight into training for rugby then touring the world trying to make the USA team and push myself to get myself where I needed to be physically to make that team.  Then go straight into another NFL season where we went all the way to the Super Bowl! So from a duration standpoint it was a grind at times, but I enjoyed every minute of it!
7) What was your Jewish life like growing up?
As a youngster I went to temple on Sundays with my dad.  We would celebrate the major holidays.  As I got older my football games were on Sundays so that interfered with going to temple.  I kept celebrating the holidays with family and still do when the football season doesn’t get in the way. 
8) Do you, Julian Edelman, Bob Kraft and Andre Tippett ever celebrate holidays together?
We have yet to do so. 
9) Outside of football and rugby is there anything else you work on; business, charity, etc?
I do as much charity with the Patriots Charitable Foundation as I can when I have time.  I also try to get into rugby as much as I can in my free time in the off season to help grow the sport.

Monday, April 24, 2017