Monday, November 28, 2016

Interview: Hall of Fame Player and Dad Andre Tippett with son Coby

There is little debate about the greatest Jewish football player of all time; Sid Luckman. But if there was a number two, it'd probably go to Hall of Famer and former Patriots Linebacker Andre Tippett. Tippett, a ferocious Tecmo Super Bowl player, had a stellar career. He was a 5x Pro-Bowler, 2x First Team All-Pro and Defensive Player of the Year. The former second round pick converted to Judaism when he married his wife. Today his Jewish faith is very important to him and his family. He still works for the Patriots and we are lucky enough to witness the rise of another Tippett; his son Coby. TGR caught up with the father and son duo.

BOOK A JEWISH ATHLETE FOR YOUR SYNAGOGUE, JCC, FEDERATION OR CHARITABLE EVENT BY VISITING WWW.THEGREATRABBINO.COM


1) Coby you grew up with a NFL Hall of Famer as a father; what does that mean for your play on field? People look at you differently? Added pressures?
Coby: It was awesome. I have learned a lot from my father. There are some people who are negative and positive because of my father but people know I am playing for my own name.

2) Andre, what does it mean to be watching Coby's progress? 
Andre: It’s been a lot of fun, I was fortunate to be his pop warner coach from start to finish and then observe him at the high school level. He’s gotten better at every step and turn. He’s risen to each challenge. I’m very proud to watch him play to the competition at each level.


3) What is the biggest advice you have received from your father?
Coby: "Act like you have been there before." This goes for playing and when you score. My father has said these words to me ever since I was a little kid in pop warner.
4) Coby what is the next step for your football playing days?
Coby: I hope to be playing D1 ball next year ideally in the Big Ten somewhere. But definitely college ball.

5) Andre what have you been doing since your Hall of Fame career?  
Andre: Well I’ve been very fortunate to have the opportunity to stay with same organization I played for in the New England Patriots, I’m in my 34th year, 12 years as a professional athlete and 22 years working in the front office. I’m presently the Executive Director of Community Affairs.
6) What is it like having Robert Kraft as a boss? 
Andre: It’s been amazing for me, I get to work with him on a weekly basis. The Kraft family is very philanthropic and if you understand that particular area, it’s amazing, because we get to give back and support so many great causes in the New England region. So it’s very fulfilling work.
Coby: I have known Robert Kraft since I was a young kid. He is a great mentor and takes care of everyone around him. He is like family to me.


7) What is Jewish life like in the Tippett home? Favorite holiday? 
Andre:We are a very observant family and it’s important that we support our Jewish community. Our home is usually the gathering spot for all the holiday dinners, so it’s safe to say we are a very close knit group, you can find usually 25-30 people at any given holiday. We belong to Temple Sinai which is a Reform Jewish congregation. Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah are the favorite time for our family.
Coby: We celebrate all the Jewish holidays and Hanukkah is my favorite...because of the presents.

8) Coby when did you first beat your father in something athletic? Andre what was that like? 
Andre: I want say he never beat me in a athletic sports, but he has all High School bragging rights in our household. I played in two High School State Championships, won one and lost one, was All-state, All-city, All-county. But he’s played in three High School State Championships, lost one and won back-to-back State titles while staying undefeated. He was All-state, All-star Catholic Conference, MVP, and Mr. Football 2015 in Massachusetts. I can go on but you get my drift, I’m a very proud father.. Ha Ha Ha
Coby: First time I beat my dad was probably playing video games in Madden. I give him a hard time about it. We are competitive.
9) Best quarterback of all-time? 
Andre: For me it would have to be Dan Marino and Jim Kelly during my era!!
Coby: Tom Brady hands down!

BOOK A JEWISH ATHLETE FOR YOUR SYNAGOGUE, JCC, FEDERATION OR CHARITABLE EVENT BY VISITING WWW.THEGREATRABBINO.COM

Follow the father and son on Twitter: Coby at @tippett_coby and Andre at @AndreTippett

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Headlines


We received the unfortunate news that Ralph Branca passed away. Brances infamous moment is legendary in MLB history. Only recently was it discovered that he had Jewish roots. Read more HERE about his passing and HERE about his Judaism.

Jordan Farmar has been cut by the Sacramento Kings.

Ian Kinsler has finally won a Gold Glove.

Bill Goldberg returned to WWE to destroy Brock Lesnar. Once thought to have a one-off deal, Goldberg has already stated he will be in this year's Royal Rumble. Read more HERE.

And in other WWE news, Noam Dar officially becomes the first Israeli wrestler to appear on WWE TV.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Interview: Team Israel Manager Jerry Weinstein

I assume if you read my blog, interviews or checked out any of my social media accounts you would know I am pretty jazzed about Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic. Leading the way is Manager Jerry Weinstein who is a coach with the Colorado Rockies. Side note he is a great baseball follow on Twitter. I caught up with Jerry to talk Team Israel's chances and Rockies baseball.

 
1. Had you ever been to Israel before coaching Team Israel?
I went to Israel in 2006 to coach the USA Maccabiah baseball team. There I began developing a close relationship with Peter Kurz (President of Israel Association of Baseball). Unfortunately I couldn't be a part of Team Israel in 2012 because I started working in the big leagues.

2. What was it like to manage Team Israel?
It was a really good experience. The most amazing part was the instant bonding by the entire team. It was like they had been playing together their whole lives. The competition was great with two very good  teams with Brazil and Great Britain. MLB ran a first class operation.

3. Will you be managing Team Israel come March? Will the team look the same and contain the same players?
I will be managing team. I do not believe it will be the exact team but pretty close. We hope to have some of the current major leaguers. But if we didn't get any of those guys it wouldn't bother me because the team we had in Brooklyn was a great group. 

4. Any of the young players to pay special attention to?
Our impact players were our veterans but Zach Borenstein was definitely notable. He has a tremendous work ethic. 
 

5. What are Team Israel's chances in the WBC?
Its baseball so we have a fighter's chance. We'd have a much better chance if we get some of the MLB high caliber players. Pitching will be our biggest challenge and we are not as deep with major leaguers as other countries.

6. What are you doing while you aren't coaching Team Israel?
I work for the Colorado Rockies as a Special Advisor for Player Development and Scouting. I work both positions and work closely with the top catchers in baseball throughout Spring Training.

7. Is it true the altitude has a major impact on pitchers in Colorado?
Absolutely. At Coors the altitude effects how the ball flies. But if you pitch well in Coors you will have success anywhere. The field is built for offense so the pitchers will get more run support.

8. What was your Jewish life like growing up?
I grew up in a Jewish home. I was not Bar Mitzvahed or anything but we went to shul on the High Holidays. But I have always associated myself with being Jewish.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Offeason Baseball News

Some Jewish Updates from the World of Baseball

Recently Albert Pujols took a visit to Israel. Here is a picture showing him with Miri Regev. Pujols was there promoting the game of baseball.


The As have traded third baseman Danny Valencia to the Seattle Mariners. Valencia had a strong 2016 campaign and the Mariners are excited to add his versatility at the plate.

Ian Kinsler is involved in trade rumors most have him on the Dodgers radar. 

Kevin Pillar was a runner up for the Gold Glove in center field.

Stay tuned for more updates!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Interview: NFLer, Author and Big Bro Geoff Schwartz




There are a lot of interesting stories coming out of the Jewish sports world this year. Team Israel in baseball, Shawn Dawson's climb to a potential NBA career, and Josh Rosen's stock at UCLA. But one of the coolest stories is the Schwartz Brothers' (Geoff and Mitchell) releasing of their book "Eat My Schwartz." Today we interview the incomparable Geoff Schwartz whose outspoken social media presence is growing. Today we get to the bottom of the older brothers story.


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1) Tell TGR a little bit about yourself?
I'm an 8 year NFL offensive lineman just waiting for work. Got a wonderful wife and two little kiddos who are everything. I am one half of the only pair of Jewish brothers to play in the NFL since 1923. I love sports and you can catch all my thoughts on my social media account @geoffschwartz

2) Both you and your brother are NFL Lineman. Who was tougher as a kid?

I'm not sure who exactly was tougher but I was always bigger than him before college. So I guess by default it was me.

3) What was your Jewish upbringing like?
My Jewish upbringing helped shape who I am today. I went to Hebrew school 2/3x a week and got my Bar Mitzvah. I also attended Hebrew High School after my Bar Mitzvah.




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4) Do Jewish NFL players/athletes ever bond over their Jewisness? Is there a nod to Julian Edleman or a fist bump from Nate Ebner?
No I can't say there has ever been that on the field. I know who the Jewish players are but we have never discussed it on the field.

5) What led to you two writing the book? What are your goals surrounding it?
When we found out that fact that we were the first Jewish brothers in the NFL since 1923, we reflected on our path to the NFL. And it's such a unique journey we thought people would enjoy reading and learning about it. We aren't the stereotypical football family.





6) Where can people pick up a copy?

It is on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble.

7) You have been a little bit of a stable journeyman. Best quarterback you blocked for? Best running back? Best lineman you played beside?
Best QB, Eli Manning. Best RB is tough. I've blocked for Deangelo Williams, Jon Stewart, Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles. I've been lucky. Best lineman are Jordan Gross and Ryan Kali.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Interview: MLBer and Team Israel Leader Josh Zeid

I have been following Josh Zeid's career for the last couple of years. High and lows. But his story is amazing. The man does not quit. And his passion for Team Israel is probably what I love most. This is a Jewish athlete we should all be rooting for and happy he is on our team.  Meet Josh Zeid.


1) Tell TGR a little bit about yourself.
I am 29 years old, grew up New Haven Connecticut with my mom, dad and sister. When I was 18 I went to Vanderbilt, and as a junior transferred to Tulane. Got drafted by the Phillies in the 10th round of the 2009 drafter, was traded to the Astros in 2011 as part of the Hunter Pence trade, made my Big League Debut 2 years later against the Baltimore Orioles.  I was married in January of 2013, we had our son in December of 2014, and I couldn't be any happier!

2) What is the best and worst part of being a relief pitcher?
The best part about being a reliever, is that every day you show up to the field you could potentially pitch. That is also the worst part about it.  If you have a bad outing, or struggle with any aspect of the game, you don't have the luxury to take time and try to dissect the actual issue. You just have to go out there and make the necessary adjustments on the fly in the games. 
This was my first whole year where I was a starter. Early on I struggled, but by the end of the year things really began to click because I used the time in between my starts to make myself better and it paid off. 

3) Who is the best hitter you have ever faced and why?
Well, this answer is two fold.  The best hitters I ever faced would probably be David Ortiz and Adrian Beltre.  Right when they step in the box you recognize them and are instantly in awe of their career and ability.  The hardest hitter to get out had to be Yeonis Cespedes and Josh Donaldson.  They hit everything I threw at them very very hard.

4) What is the best pitching advice you ever got and from you?
I've gotten lots of advice from lots of different coaches.  I've been to two Universities, 5 Major League Organizations, and 9-10 minor league teams. But it always comes back to "Do what got you here." and to me that means, breath, relax, have fun, treat the game like it was the fun game you played growing up.  Don't try and do too much.  


5) This was your second time playing for team Israel, what made this one more special?

2012 was one of the more challenging experiences of my baseball life.  It was so fun, and at the same time so disappointing. We created such bonds that even after four years of not being on the same teams or even same states, we all stayed in touch and come in to 2016 with a common goal and growing friendships. It made winning our qualifier in Brooklyn almost undeniable.  We were not going to be disappointed this year.  We had a team of much more mature baseball players this time around, 9 of whom had been on the team in 2012, and all 9 of us were not going to be denied.  We CANNOT WAIT for the spring of 2017 and the opportunity to play in South Korea.

6) Can Team Israel continue to be competitive? 
I absolutely think Team Israel can continue to be competitive. With the pitching staff we assembled for the Qualifier with a couple of additions, will have 5-7 guys with Major League experiences and in a short round robin tournament that is incredibly beneficial.  Our Offense has lots of fire power and our catcher is a great team leader.  I think if a few of the current players in the Major Leagues were to join in, our team would have a really great chance at advancing to the next round.  Players like Kevin Pillar, Joc Pederson, and infielders Alex Bregman and Ian Kinsler, if we were to get any or all of them, our team would be a force to be reckoned with.

7) What was your Jewish upbringing like?
I grew up in a conservative household.  We celebrated every Jewish holiday to the utmost degree.  I attended Hebrew School Monday,Wednesday and Saturday until I was 14 years old.  After my Bar Mitzvah and some time after, baseball became all encompassing, but we still managed to celebrate all the holidays and we would make Friday and Saturday Shabbats when we were all together. I went to JCC camps every summer until I was 10 when I went to a Sleep-away camp for three straight summers  in New Hampshire called Camp Young Judea.  

8) What is next for your baseball career?
After the World Series I will become a free agent for the second time in my career which is scary because there are a lot of unkowns in free agency.  You wait for your agent to get in touch with you and if that never happens, then it could be all over.  I am hoping that with a solid second half of the season as a starter in the Mets organization and a really good showing at the World Baseball Classic Qualifier as a reliever hopefully shows I have some ability left and still a chance to continue to live out my dream as a professional and Major League Baseball player. 


9) Any advice to young pitchers?
Learn to throw your fastball for strikes.  Not just good strikes.  I regret not really ever focusing on throwing quality pitches as a kid.  All my coaches just focused on my velocity, because as a 16 year old I was already throwing 92 mph.  I wish I spent more time becoming a better pitcher, and not just a thrower.  Secondly, command a changeup, and then once you've got your fastball down, and a good changeup, then you can work on a slider or curveball.  Become an all around pitcher, don't be a one trick pony. But most importantly, enjoy the game and love the craft you're working on.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Something Bigger Than a Curse


(Article first appeared on the JewishJournal.com/BeyondtheBimah)

Throughout the baseball playoffs many of my closest friends have asked why I am repeatedly bashing the Cubs. First off, sports have always been about cheering and booing, yelling and celebrating and excitement and disappointment. It is the ultimate escape from reality. So, it is not only acceptable for Michigan fans to hate Ohio State fans, Viking fans to wish the worse on the Packers and for everyone to smile when the Yankees lose, it is encouraged. Cub fans will say they would rather the White Sox win and see the Cardinals lose and that is fine, but many White Sox fans enjoy living in the glory that has been 108 years of Cubs losing. The fantasy world of sports allows us to take something not so serious, make it feel serious for a moment, even though at the end of the game nothing truly changes in our lives besides maybe a hangover and the purchase of an overpriced T-shirt.

But sometimes sports can be serious when it challenges something greater. For example, Jackie Robinson’s barrier breaking life meant more to the country than it did to the mere game of baseball. So why do I hate the Cubs? Well, like most of my decisions it’s Jewish. In the early 1900s Jews used baseball to assimilate. It was an inexpensive entertainment where an individual could blend into a crowd, take pride in their team/city/country, learn some English and most importantly make their children feel normal. So, my great-grandfather took my grandfather to a Cubs game. As they approached Wrigley Field a sign on the stadium read “No Jews or Dogs allowed.”  Do not tell me to get over it, I will not. Do not tell me it didn’t happen, because it did. And I will always be a White Sox fan because of it.

Baseball is unlike any other sport because of its rich history and tradition. And Jews were easily able to relate because tradition is the foundation of our religion, peoplehood and even pain. Of course, one does not need to look any further than the legacy Jews have in Sandy Koufax’s decision to skip game one of the 1965 World Series. Every year news outlets run numerous stories on the Koufax decision and every year Koufax’s silence adds another layer of intrigue. But at the heart of the story, there was a prideful Jewish man who withstood the pressure of secularism to stand up for his people.

Baseball and Judaism are about to collide again. This past August Team Israel, stacked with former Major Leaguers and current Minor Leaguers, participated in their second qualifier for the World Baseball Classic. Unlike their first attempt in 2012, the team qualified. Which means in March they, alongside many countries including Team USA, Team Israel will compete in the World Baseball Classic. Here will be another true test, the Koufax decision of its time, for several Major Leaguers. It was easy for former Major Leaguers like Ike Davis, Ryan Lavarnway, and Jason Marquis to showcase their talents on a national stage. And to take nothing away from their ability as professional athletes or their Jewish/Israel connection and pride, the only dilemma they faced was whether they wanted to play baseball.  But come March there are a handful of Major Leaguers who might be given the opportunity to play for Team Israel and Team USA. Ryan Braun, Ian Kinsler, Joc Pederson, Alex Bregman, and Kevin Pillar all have potential offers to play for both the USA and Israel. Also, eligible will be Paul Goldschmidt and Jason Kipnis neither who recognize as Jewish but have Jewish fathers so they could get an invitiation to compete for Team Israel.

Why is this important? Like my great-grandfather and Sandy Koufax these men will be faced with a decision. On a national stage Americanism and Judaism will collide and each individual’s choice represents a little bit of us all. If they choose Team USA it makes a statement, not just about themselves but about how far we have assimilated since my great-grandfather walked away from Wrigley Field. Team USA does not need any of those players to compete regardless of how great they are. But their participation on Team Israel would mean so much to a people and we would once again feel the pride that Koufax infected us with. The choice my great-grandfather made was a peoplehood decision and what Koufax did was a religious decision (even though he was not a religious man), but choosing Team USA in 2017 would be a public cultural display that pride in America supersedes the pride in your homeland and people. In some way, choosing Team USA means Judaism has lost the game to Americanism.

This is why I dislike the Cubs because my great-grandfather did not feel welcome in Wrigleyville. I have been to Wrigley Field including Ryan Sandberg’s last game. I caught my first foul ball off Starlin Castro's bat. I know that a Jewish man bought and sold the team. And I know that a Jewish man is the General Manager that assembles the team. But I have no love for that team on the North Side and it’s personal. Do not try to tell me to get over it because I won’t. Do not try to tell me that this Team Israel decision is not important because it is. I do not, for a moment, take the game of baseball seriously; because baseball is just baseball, until its not.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Rosen Out for the Season

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After a shoulder injury looks like UCLA QB Josh Rosen is out for the season. Lets hope he heals soon! Read more HERE.