Rooting For B-Rob

dave_snyder_squareNice to see you, Brian Roberts. It’s been awhile … again.

Signed to a four-year, $40 million contract through 2013, Roberts has been a constant source of frustration and skepticism for Orioles fans over the last few seasons. It’s not because he hasn’t played well — it’s because he hasn’t played … period.

Injuries have been the story. A herniated disc, an abdominal strain, a long battle with concussion symptoms, hip surgery. Statistically, Roberts leads Major League Baseball in visits to WebMD.

From 2010 (when his lofty contract began) through 2012, the second baseman appeared in only 115 games — less than a 25 percent of all regular-season contests. For those of you bookkeeping at home, that means, technically, he earned around $260,000 per game played.

This spring, O’s fans hoped a healthy Roberts would fortify an already strong roster. Then, in April, just three games into the season, he suffered a severe hamstring injury while attempting to steal second.

I watched, almost in agony, as first base coach Wayne Kirby and trainer Richie Bancells carried him off the field. It was a sight all too familiar. Roberts hurt … again.

However, I’m not writing to bash Roberts for his maddening lack of durability. That story has been told and retold. I’m writing because late last month, after more than eight weeks on the disabled list, Roberts returned to action, and he’s been a steady presence in the lineup ever since.

That’s right. He’s back. And for all the aggravation Roberts has caused over the last three-plus seasons, there is still something so satisfying about seeing him on the field. Although he’s gotten off to a slow start since returning, Roberts is a solid defender. He’s a contact hitter. He can run. He can work the count and take walks. He can lay down a sacrifice bunt.

Roberts is like the pleasant second cousin you only see during the High Holidays. For the most part, he’s a nonexistent element of your life, but when he’s there, you appreciate your time together and wish it would last longer.

The most crushing part of Roberts’ injury saga is that he’s a career Oriole. He has paid his dues. Of the team’s infamous 14 consecutive losing seasons from 1998 to 2011, he was there for 11 of them. But when the O’s snapped that streak last year and made it to the playoffs, Roberts was forced to watch from the dugout. He may have been there physically, but if you hooked him up to a lie detector, I’d bet he would tell you that he didn’t really feel a part of the success.

That’s why I’m hoping, almost pleading, that he can stay healthy for the rest of the season and be involved in the team’s playoff push.

Roberts has not played a meaningful baseball game in August or September in his entire major league career. This could be his first chance. And, with his contract up at the end of the year, it very well could be his last opportunity to do it as an Oriole.

David Snyder is a JT staff reporter dsnyder@jewishtimes.com

Orioles Deal for Jewish Pitcher Feldman

In his first two starts with the Orioles, Scott Feldman is 0-1 with a 7.15 ERA.  (Stephen Green)

In his first two starts with the Orioles, Scott Feldman is 0-1 with a 7.15 ERA.
(Stephen Green)

For the second time in just seven months, the Orioles have tapped into Major League Baseball’s Jewish market.

On Tuesday, July 2, the Orioles bolstered their starting rotation by acquiring pitcher Scott Feldman — one of 11 Jewish players currently on a major league roster — in a trade with the Chicago Cubs. Baltimore parted ways with struggling pitchers Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop to obtain Feldman, a nine-year major league veteran, and minor league catcher (and Baltimore native) Steve Clevenger.

“He’s a proven veteran starting pitcher, and he’s pitched very well in this ballpark [Camden Yards],” Orioles Executive Vice President Dan Duquette said of Feldman last week. “He’s pitched in the postseason, he won 17 games [in a season], and he is on his way to having a good year.”

In an ironic twist, the Orioles demoted fellow Jewish player Danny Valencia to the minors to make room on the 25-man roster for Feldman.

Feldman, 30, has a 46-50 overall major league record with a 4.65 ERA. He spent his first eight seasons with the Texas Rangers, whose ballpark is notoriously tough on pitchers. Arguably his best year came in 2009 when he went 17-8 with a 4.08 ERA and 113 strikeouts. Current Orioles Chris Davis, Tommy Hunter, Darren O’Day and Taylor Teagarden all played for the Rangers that year.

“All those guys, all my buddies that I played with on the Rangers, it was kind of cool to walk in the clubhouse and see familiar faces,” Feldman told The Baltimore Sun. (Feldman declined to comment for this story.)

In his first season with the Cubs, Feldman — a 6-foot-7, 230-pound right-hander — was 7-6 with a 3.46 ERA before being traded.

On Wednesday, July 3, just one day after being dealt, Feldman made his first start with the Orioles, limiting the Chicago White Sox to two runs over six innings. He struck out six without giving up a walk. The Orioles won, 4-2.

Last Monday, facing the Rangers, Feldman did not fare as well. Against his former team, he allowed seven earned runs and took the loss in his Camden Yards debut.

Ready & Waiting

Danny Valencia says that even though he doesn’t have a starting role with the  Orioles, he wants to  contribute in any way he can. (Todd Olszewski)

Danny Valencia says that even though he doesn’t have a starting role with the Orioles, he wants to
contribute in any way he can. (Todd Olszewski)

Orioles reserve outfielder Steve Pearce calls it the toughest job in sports.

Yet, in a game against the Detroit Tigers earlier this month, fellow reserve Danny Valencia made it look easy.

The job: serve as a bench player on a major league roster. The mission: find a way to rise to the occasion whenever your number is called.

“When you’re not playing every day, you’re not getting your reps, you’re not getting your rhythm, your timing is off,” Pearce said. “You can take [batting practice] to stay warmed up and sharp, but it’s completely different when you get out there in the [batter’s] box.”

In the bottom of the seventh inning with the Orioles trailing 2-1 and two runners on base, the Tigers brought in a notoriously tough pitcher against lefty hitters. The O’s countered by pinch-hitting with Valencia, who, in his three-plus major league seasons, has hit over .320 against lefthanders.

Valencia came through, looping a single into right field to tie the game. Valencia was immediately lifted for a pinch-runner, who would go on to score the winning run.

The game lasted more than three hours. Valencia was a part of it for less than a minute, yet he delivered in arguably the game’s biggest moment.

“Everybody’s goal in the big leagues is to play every day, but with the team we have here, it’s very difficult,” said Valencia, a third baseman who joined the Orioles in the offseason and was called up to the big leagues in May.

Valencia, 28, is a part of a unique baseball fraternity. He’s Jewish. The progeny of a Jewish mother and a Cuban father who converted, Valencia is one of just 10 Jewish players currently in the major leagues.

Growing up in Boca Raton, Fla., Valencia received a Reform Jewish education. He attended Sunday school every week and had a bar mitzvah. His mother, Mindy Valencia, proudly notes that her son read both his Torah and Haftorah portions in Hebrew.

However, once Valencia left for college, and through his time playing professional ball, he said it has been difficult to stay observant.

Part of the challenge is that he’s hardly ever home. From the middle of February when spring training begins to early October when most teams’ seasons come to an end, Valencia is apart from his family. Cornerstone holidays such as Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur all fall within that time, and it’s tough to assemble a minyan when you’re aboard a red-eye flight from Baltimore to Seattle for a four-game weekend series.

“He’s in a world where there are so few [Jews]. Nobody really notices when it’s holiday time for him,” said Mindy Valencia, who was brought up in a Conservative home.

Valencia noted that in the event he was needed to play on a paramount Jewish holiday such as Yom Kippur, he’d play. It’s not that he doesn’t care, but he’s a trusted teammate who is committed to the guys he’s grinding out games with every day.

For Mindy Valencia, her son maintaining his religious identity is something that often enters her mind.

“I remember growing up and hearing how [Hall of Famer] Sandy Koufax refused to pitch on the High Holidays,” she said, “And yet, as a family, we’ve never really said to Danny, ‘Do not play.’ Sometimes I feel bad about that.”

Danny Valencia jokes that he “survived the Jewish mom,” in that she’s always one to ask what he’s doing, when he’s doing it and who he’s doing it with. That loving attachment also extends to baseball. Mindy Valencia will call her son to talk about games and even specific at-bats. She watches practically all of them.

Her assessment?

“I think he will be better from having overcome the adversity of [going to the minors],” Mindy said. “I think right now he’s focused and much more mature, and it makes me super proud that he’s there. I pinch myself every time I see him on TV.”

To Baltimore Through Adversity
Valencia’s career began with the Minnesota Twins, who drafted him out of the University of Miami in 2006. His first two big league seasons were chock-full of positives.

In 2010, he batted .311 — the best average by a Twins rookie in 46 years — and finished third in the American League Rookie of the Year voting. In 2011, Valencia hit 15 home runs and had a club-leading 72 runs batted in.

However, last year, Valencia quickly fell out of favor with the Twins. Part of the problem, he said, was rooted in a disconnect with the coaching staff.

“I got away from who I was last year,” Valencia said. “Some of the coaching I received … they wanted me to do some things differently, and in the long run, I don’t think it was the best thing for the way I hit.”

The rift translated to his performance at the plate, where Valencia batted just .198 in 126 at-bats before the Twins abruptly demoted him to the minors just one month into the season.

Relegation to the minors can often shatter a player’s confidence. Four-star hotels and chartered flights are replaced by crusty motels and overnight bus rides.

Yet, Valencia used the experience to fuel his fire. It humbled him. It made him hungry. He had tasted the majors and was hellbent on getting back.

“It was, ‘Hey, get back to what made you successful in the big leagues,’” Valencia recalled. “It definitely drives you because once you’re [in the majors] and you go back down, you realize how good it is up here.”

The Twins traded Valencia to Boston in July, and after just a handful of at-bats, the Red Sox sent him down to their Class AAA affiliate in Pawtucket, Mass.

In November, just days after getting married to his high school sweetheart (and while on his honeymoon), the Red Sox traded Valencia to the Orioles. It was a fresh start.

Valencia began the year at the Orioles’ Class AAA affiliate in Norfolk, Va. There, he tore the cover off the ball, bashing 11 homers in just 40 games before being called up to the Orioles on May 18. Since then, in limited at-bats, he has hit four home runs and driven in eight runs. Valencia’s ability to step up in key spots is respected by his teammates.

“The best part about him is he does his job without any fuss,” centerfielder Adam Jones said. “He doesn’t complain about how many at-bats he’s getting. When he arrives at the ballpark, he knows, somehow, someway, he’s going to help this team.”

A League Of His Own
In college, Valencia played with another well-known Jewish player, Ryan Braun.

Braun, who was named National League Most Valuable Player in 2011, has been dubbed “The Hebrew Hammer.”

What’s Valencia’s nickname?

“We just call him Jew-boy,” joked outfielder Chris Dickerson during a recent talk in the Orioles club house.

In baseball clubhouses everybody gets teased for something. It’s how 25 players endure a 162-game season together.

Valencia gets it. Being Jewish, much like if he had big ears, a receding hairline or a baby face, is what sets him apart. And in the Orioles’ clubhouse, which — with a Ping-Pong and a pool table and blaring music — resembles a teenage hangout as much as it does a place of business, amusement is placed at a premium.

“Baseball players have to have fun,” Valencia said. “We don’t really grow up until we’re done playing baseball.”

Luckily for Valencia, a light-hearted attitude comes naturally — on all fronts. Baseball is predicated on failure. Even the sport’s best hitters fail to get a hit two out of three times. Taking yourself too seriously, whether in the clubhouse or on the field, Valencia said, can only work against you.

“If you’re a sensitive person, you’re not going to last in this sport,” he said. “This is a game, and if you’re not having fun playing it, you’re in the wrong sport.”

Valencia has embraced being a role player, a designated hitter and a lefty hitting specialist off the bench. He’s getting to know Baltimore, his teammates and the fans. And, with the Orioles primed for another playoff run, Valencia said he’s thrilled to be a part of it.

Jews In Baseball
According to Jewish Base ballNews.com, in addition to Valencia, there are nine other Jewish baseball players currently on MLB rosters:
Ryan Braun Milwaukee Brewers (LF)
Craig Breslow Boston Red Sox (P)
Scott Feldman Chicago Cubs (P)
Nate Freiman Oakland Athletics (1B)
Sam Fuld Tampa Bay Rays (OF)
Ryan Kalish Boston Red Sox (OF)
Ian Kinsler Texas Rangers (2B)
Jason Marquis San Diego Padres (P)
Kevin Youkilis New York Yankees (1B/3B)

And, in 2012, in a rare assemblage of Jewish talent, Valencia, Breslow, Kalish, Youkilis and catcher Ryan Lavarnway (currently in the minors) all played for the Boston Red Sox.

David Snyder is a JT staff reporter dsnyder@jewishtimes.com

Father’s Day Reflection

Sean McManus, chariman, CBS Sports

Sean McManus, chariman, CBS Sports

Not only is Sean McManus the chairman of CBS Sports, he is also the son of Baltimore broadcasting legend Jim McKay, who died in 2008 at the age of 86.

Jim McKay, whose last name originally was McManus, started his TV career as a member of the staff at WMAR (Ch. 2) in 1947, after leaving his job as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun. He remained with the station until 1950, when he moved to New York for a network job at CBS.

At that time, there already was a Jim McManus on the air in New York, so he changed his last name to McKay. In 1961, Roone Arledge, then-president of ABC Sports, asked McKay to join that network to host a new program, “Wide World of Sports,” which ultimately changed the way sports on television was packaged and presented. The team of McKay and Arledge were together for more than 37 years and won countless awards, both for “Wide World of Sports” and their coverage of numerous Olympics.

As Father’s Day approaches, the JT asked McManus, 58, to reflect about his dad and what he remembers most of his work and family life.

JT: What was it like growing up with Jim McKay as your father?

McManus: My sister, Mary, and I had a great childhood. Dad and my mother [Margaret Dempsey McManus] met as reporters for the Baltimore Sun and married in 1948. They both loved doing things with their family and made certain we had good times together. As parents, they worked as a team. Since Dad would be gone on weekends, it wasn’t unusual to see him during the week standing with a bunch of Mom’s friends waiting to pick us up from school so he could take us to one of our many after-school activities. When he was on the road, my mother was always there to make sure we did our homework and to support us in everything we did.

The entire family was also really proud of my mother. She was an outstanding journalist in her own right. She wrote a nationally syndicated celebrity column … from our dining room. I remember she once was inv-ited to interview Cary Grant over dinner. Mom said they’d have to meet over lunch because she had to be home when her children got out of school. We had great parents.”

Young Sean McManus by the side of his sportscaster father, Jim McKay, during a “Wide World of Sports” world barrel jumping contest, circa 1965.

Young Sean McManus by the side of his sportscaster father, Jim McKay, during a “Wide World of Sports” world barrel jumping contest, circa 1965.

Tell us how your parents felt about Baltimore.

My parents loved the Baltimore area. They made a promise to themselves that when my sister and I graduated from college, they would leave the New York area and move back to
Baltimore. In 1982, they bought a house in Monkton. Dad and Mom became very active in the Maryland horse-racing industry, and Dad was a minority owner of the Orioles. They kept very busy in the community right up until they passed away — Dad in June 2008 and then Mom in October 2009.

Was your father supportive of your broadcasting career?

Yes, he and my mother were both supportive. I started in my teens as a go-fer at ABC, working a number of events and getting to see how television was done. I never really thought about a career in front of the camera, I felt more comfortable in production and then in management.

Tell us how your father, along with Arledge and the rest of the ABC team, changed the way viewers watch sports.

Jim McKay at the Baltusrol Golf Club, lower course, in Springfield, N.J., for the 1980 U.S. Open; Jack Nicklaus won the tournament.

Jim McKay at the Baltusrol Golf Club, lower course, in Springfield, N.J., for the 1980 U.S. Open; Jack Nicklaus won the tournament.

“Wide World of Sports” covered a number of different sports throughout the years. But its philosophy was to bring the viewers up close and personal with the athletes. They felt telling you a story about the competitors made them more real to the viewers. It was all about the back story. Doing features on Dorothy Hamill, Mark Spitz, Olga Korbut, Jean-Claude Killy, A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti and so many others made the viewers want to watch them. It was a winning formula then, and it is the way we still do television sports. Telling the story of the athlete playing in the game can, in some cases, be more entertaining than the game itself.

Your father will be forever remembered for his coverage of the 1972 massacre of 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team at the Munich Summer Games. What can you tell us about that horrible day?

Our entire family was at those Games. In the early morning of Sept. 5, my father and I were swimming in the hotel pool. Suddenly, we were told that Roone [Arledge] wanted my father to get to the broadcast center as quickly as possible. We went up to the room, and my dad got dressed so fast that he did not take off his swimming trunks. Once we got to the broadcast center, my father was told there was a hostage situation and that members of the Israeli Olympic team were being held at gunpoint at team quarters in Building 31 of the Munich Olympic Village.

When Jim McKay first stepped before the ABC microphone on April 29, 1961, he could never have predicted the fantastic success of one of television's longest-running series.

When Jim McKay first stepped before the ABC microphone on April 29, 1961, he could never have predicted the fantastic success of one of television’s longest-running series.

While there were other ABC sports and news reporters on hand, Roone told my dad that he wanted him to anchor the coverage. Arledge knew that Dad had a newspaper background and that he understood breaking news. I was in the control room for the entire 14 hours that Dad was on the air. At 3:24 a.m. local time, Dad had to deliver the terrible news that all 11 Israeli hostages were dead. The horrors of that day were never forgotten by our family.

Jim McKay is still known to the sports world as an award-winning reporter, TV personality and a member of the American Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame. But on June 16, he is remembered as a wonderful dad.

Jim Williams is a local freelance writer.

Chomping At The Bit

061413_chompingatthebit1

Pikesville native Gary Weisbaum is coming out of “retirement” in hopes of ending his soccer career on a high note. (Larry French)

From his youth programs to his college squad to the adult leagues he plays in now, Darin Segal has always laid claim as the lone Jew on his ice hockey teams.

“It’s not really a Jewish ‘go-to’ sport,” Segal, 40, said.

Therein lies the beauty, at least in part, of the Maccabiah Games. When the action gets under way next month in Israel, Segal will unite with fellow teammates from across the United States who, like him, were the only Jews on their respective hockey teams growing up.

Segal, of Columbia, is among the several players from the Baltimore area headed to the homeland for the 2013 Games. Spanning the last two weeks of July, the event — held in Israel for the 19th time dating to 1932 — is comprised of 31 different sports spread out over three age classes. Segal will be competing in the masters division for players 40 and older.

While the Games provide Segal with another opportunity to play the sport he loves, the pride runs much deeper than the athletic aspect alone. Very few get the chance to compete on an international stage or to wear a jersey with the name of one’s country embroidered across the front. And, it all takes place in Israel.

“That’s the bonus right there,” Segal said. “I’ve been able to compete at all levels my entire life … [but] once you actually get to put on a USA jersey and get to represent the United States, and being able to do it as a Jew, in Israel, on the [country’s] 65th anniversary — that’s going to be pretty special.”

Unfinished Business
Joining Segal in the masters division is 57-year-old Severna Park native Neil Schechter, who is one of eight players in that group to represent the U.S. in men’s tennis.

Schechter is on a mission to take care of some unfinished business.

At the 17th Maccabiah in 2005, he bowed out in the second round of the men’s singles draw when a hamstring pull caused him to lose a decisive tiebreak and then the match.

This time around, he’s looking to advance much deeper.

Since trying out and making the team this past fall, Schechter has been training on the tennis court practically every day. He was hesitant to divulge the keys to his game (joking that his opponents could scout him out), but said his heavy training regimen will help him stay loose and preserve stamina under the relentless July heat.

“Despite my age, I still feel like I play a whole lot like I did when I was 16,” Schechter said. “I like a big serve and heavy strokes. … I still move around pretty well for an old guy.”

In terms of the experience, Schechter is looking forward to the opening ceremonies, where delegations march in to Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem, similar to the Olympics’ procession. He also enjoys the degree of popularity Maccabiah athletes are treated to in Israel.

“It’s a big deal in Israel, it’s televised,” Schechter said. “The last time I was there, people came up to talk to me, asked questions. It was flattering and fun. Israel is very much into this.”

Keeping A Promise
While Schechter is making a return trip, longtime friends Sara Ruzzi and Kayla Devlin are stoked to take part for the first time. They’re equally excited that they’ll be able to do it together.

Both members of Temple Beth Shalom in Arnold, Ruzzi and Devlin each vowed at their respective bat mitzvahs more than four years ago that they would make the Maccabi field hockey team in 2013. They were in part inspired by Devlin’s older sister, Becca, who competed on the 2009 squad that fell to the Netherlands in the gold medal game.

As participants in the open division, usually comprised of players 18 to 35, the recent high school graduates (Ruzzi from Broadneck High School and Devlin from Annapolis High School) will be two of the youngest players on the team.

While both admitted to being a little intimidated at first — the squad is stocked with college players as well as some college coaches — they have settled in and quickly learned that, on the field, it’s more about performance than age.

“At our practice the other day, we all said how old we are,” Devlin, 18, said. “But when we started playing, that didn’t matter. The older players were challenging the younger players, and the young challenged the old. I think we sort of put age aside when we’re playing.”

And because both figure to receive playing time on the defensive end, where communication is especially paramount, the duo can’t be timid about making their voices heard.

“If there are older girls who are distinct leaders, I won’t take away from them,” Ruzzi, 17, said. “But I’m not afraid to tell them something whether it’s constructive criticism or positive reinforcement.”

Ruzzi and Devlin are certainly steadfast about what they can bring to the field, however both are still wrapping their heads around the experience that is to come, particularly that they will be competing on an international stage.

“That’s just mind blowing to me,” Ruzzi said. “I’ve been playing sports all my life, and I did not know they could take me this far. Playing for the U.S. is an honor that I can’t even comprehend sometimes.”

For both girls, the Games will serve as a gateway to their collegiate athletic careers. Ruzzi is set to attend Columbia University, where she will play on the school’s lacrosse team, while Devlin heads to the University of Delaware, where she will join its field hockey squad.

A Second Wind
On the other end up the spectrum, Gary Weisbaum’s college soccer career came to an end this fall.

The Pikesville native was a senior captain on a Loyola University Maryland team that lost in its conference finals and was not selected to participate in the NCAA soccer tournament. For Weisbaum, 23, it was a sour ending to a talented soccer career.

After testing the waters with pro and semipro teams, Weisbaum made the decision to temper his soccer aspirations and enter the standard workforce, taking a job for a staffing company in Arlington, Va. However, he lamented the way his playing career finished.

“It sucked,” he said. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to get another go-round.”

Thanks to the Maccabiah Games, Weisbaum will get the chance rewrite his ending. He beat out hundreds of other players nationwide to earn a spot on the men’s soccer squad in the open division.

“Having this opportunity as a second wind, it’s not my goodbye to soccer, but this is the hardest I’ve trained in my life,” Weisbaum said. “I want to go out with a bang for sure. … I’m not going there to party and live it up. I want to win.”

Weisbaum is hoping to contribute as a starting midfielder, both as a leader and a distributor in the center of the field. Leading up to the Games, he’s swimming and running every night when he gets home from work to give himself the best chance of warranting prime minutes (in the eyes of his coaches) when game time arrives.

“I’m putting it in my own hands. If I get beat out and I don’t get a starting spot, I won’t have a sour taste because I’ve been working so hard,” Weisbaum said. “If you want to play at this level, you need to believe you’re the best.”

Regardless of how many minutes he gets on the field, Weisbaum called the chance to represent the U.S. in this type of setting “a lifetime dream.”

“It brings a different type of pride,” he said. “I grew up in a Jewish household, in a kosher home, I went to Jewish day school, I know Hebrew, I have family members who made aliyah. Being able to represent your country as well as your religion is a special feeling.”

David Snyder is a JT staff reporter — dsnyder@jewishtimes.com

Black Eye for the Orange and Black

dave_snyder_squareFan violence at sporting events is disgusting, immature and unacceptable. And now, not even Oriole Park at Camden Yards can say it’s immune to it.

On Wednesday May 29, 25-year-old Hagerstown resident Matthew Fortese, out on a second date, attended an
Orioles-Nationals game wearing a New York Yankees hat. It’s doubtful that he ever could have imagined that a simple wardrobe decision would land him in the hospital fighting for his life.

Michael Bell, 21, of Annapolis and Gregory Fleischman, 22, of Jarrettsville took exception to the cap, shouting repeated taunts for the majority of the game. When, according to reports, one went as far as hurling a beer at him, Fortese decided to confront the two, climbing up the terrace box where Bell and Fleischman were sitting.

Police said Fleischman responded by punching Fortese in the face, sending him plummeting about five feet onto the concrete below. At the time of this writing, Fortese remains in the hospital in critical condition and reportedly has slipped in and out of consciousness.

Fleischman has been charged with first- and second-degree assault and disorderly conduct, Bell with second-degree assault and disorderly conduct. Both are out on bail.

This calamity raises serious questions.

First, why is there this innate animosity toward someone supporting a rival team? I too loathe the Yankees as an organization — does this mean I should resent the fans who cheer for them?

And, attending as many games as I have, I’ve seen plenty of playful ribbing — harmless jabs tossed back
and forth between opposing fans. Nothing about the heckling by Fleischman and Bell could be constituted as playful.

Sports, in general, can be so great, but far too often they bring out the absolute worst in people.

It’s likely that Fortese would have been better served to call an usher or a policeman or asked to have his seat changed. But anyone who thinks Fortese shares some of the burden for this outcome by wearing a Yankees hat in Birdland — and from reading message boards there are people with that opinion — needs to take a step back and realize how ridiculous that is.

Second, nearly 40,000 people att-ended the game that night. Not a single person in that section had the fortitude or decency to tell these two “Orioles fans” to simply shut their mouths, sit down and watch the game.

No one felt the need to grab an authority figure when the situation was clearly escalating. A handful of people took out their cell phones, but instead of calling for help, they recorded videos.

Sadly, that is what we’ve come to as a society. We love observing conflict, we just don’t want to help solve it. Why step in when you can be the first to post a video to YouTube?

The opportunity was there for someone to intervene — but no one ever did.

The culprits are Fleischman and Bell, and I hope their punishment is severe. But as Orioles fans, we let down Matthew Fortese.

David Snyder is a JT staff reporter dsnyder@jewishtimes.com

The Beauty Of The Game

Apparently, I didn’t always appreciate baseball.

According to family lore, I was 4 or 5 years old when my dad took me to my first Orioles game. Everything was going along just fine until I learned one earth-shattering tidbit. The conversation went something like … [Read more…]

Kenny Albert

‘Baltimore remains a special place to me’

One of the most talented broadcasters in sports is Kenny Albert. Nationally recognized as a member of the Fox Major League Baseball “Saturday Game of the Week” broadcast team, as well as for his play-by-play of the NFL on Fox, Albert also is in his 17th season as the radio voice of the NHL’s New York Rangers. He also fills in on the Madison Square Garden Network doing a select number of NBA games for the New York Knicks. [Read more…]

Jews and Baseball

Author digs deep to connect America’s pastime with Judaism

Larry Ruttman is an attorney by profession.

But the 82-year-old Massachusetts lawyer is also a history buff. His love of sports history led him on a search into Jewish baseball history, and the results can be found in his book, “American Jews & America’s Game: Voices of a Growing Legacy in Baseball.” [Read more…]

Hillel hoops tournament builds Jewish common ground

Emily Jacobs
Washington Jewish Week

More than 300 students from over 20 universities came together this past weekend for the third annual National Hillel Basketball Tournament hosted by the University of Maryland, College Park Hillel.

Sponsored by New York-based philanthropists, Jonathan and Dina Leader, as well as BodyArmor and Klipped Kippas, the Friday-Sunday event featured Shabbat dinner, a post-services kiddush and lots of basketball.
[Read more…]