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Photo EssayYour guide to all the Jewish baseball players in the MLB

In 2022, 17 Jews played on major league rosters: pitchers, sluggers, and World Series champions

“Jewish people are very passionate about baseball,” Boston Red Sox pitcher Richard Bleier recently told me. “They love finding out who the Jewish athletes are.”

That’s been true ever since Lipman Pike, New York-born son of a Dutch Jewish family, became the first professional ballplayer in 1866.

In the early 1900s, it was often difficult to identify Jewish ballplayers. Many of them changed their names to avoid widespread antisemitism. But by the 1930s, Hank Greenberg had become a Jewish superstar. He wore his religion proudly, as did Sandy Koufax a generation later.

Today, major league Jews are more likely to be the sons of interfaith marriages. Many don’t have identifiably Jewish names.

Last year, 17 Jews played on major league rosters — the largest number in history. Most of them will be on big-league rosters on opening day this year on March 30, and many others joined Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic, which began this week.

I spoke to several of the players and their parents, and below, you’ll find a bit of Jewish info on each athlete.

1 / 17 Harrison Bader, New York Yankees

Harrison Bader of the New York Yankees rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run against the Cleveland Guardians during the second inning in game four of the American League Division Series at Progressive Field on Oct. 16, 2022. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Harrison Bader, the New York Yankees’ center fielder, grew up in Bronxville, New York, with a Jewish father and Catholic mother. Bader and his parents “went to lots of Seders” at friends’ homes, his father Louis told me, but the family never attended synagogue and Harrison didn’t have a bar mitzvah.

“He doesn’t identify either as Jewish or Catholic,” his father told me, “but has talked to me recently about converting to Judaism. He’s spoken to rabbis in New York about this. It is on his mind.” Bader hoped to play for Team Israel this year but withdrew due to injuries. He’d like to join the Israel team in the future. “When it comes back around and the opportunity’s extended, I would absolutely consider it much more,” he told the New York Post.

Team Israel Member? No

2 / 17 Jake Bird, Colorado Rockies

Jake Bird pitching for the Colorado Rockies in April, 2022. Photo by Jeffrey Hyde

Jake Bird was 8 years old when, at the end of second grade, he signed his friend’s yearbook, “Save this autograph for when I’m playing in the major leagues.” He made good on that promise last season as a relief pitcher for the Colorado Rockies.

Raised in Valencia, California, his father Joel is half Jewish (with a Jewish mother and non-Jewish father) and his mother Heidi grew up Catholic. “We’re not religious,” Heidi Bird told me. “We let him decide on his own.” His brother Josh, who went on Birthright and was president of his Jewish fraternity at college, encouraged Jake to apply for Team Israel. 

Team Israel Member? Yes

3 / 17 Richard Bleier, Boston Red Sox

Richard Bleier of the Boston Red Sox throws during a spring training team workout. Photo by Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Richard Bleier, a left-handed pitcher last year for the Miami Marlins, was traded to the Boston Red Sox during the offseason. His father was born Jewish and his mother converted to Judaism. 

He grew up in South Florida, where he went to Hebrew school and had a bar mitzvah at Beth Am Israel, a now-defunct Conservative synagogue in Cooper City. The family celebrated the high holidays, had annual Passover seders, and lit Sabbath candles each week. 

Growing up, he played basketball and roller hockey at the local Jewish Community Center and told me that “My dad would take me out of Hebrew school if I had baseball practice.” Bleier and his wife, who is Catholic, “try to respect both of our traditions.” They don’t attend church or temple, but this year they lit Hanukkah candles every night and also had a Christmas tree. They gave their daughter Murphy, now 3 years old, a Hebrew middle name – Adira.  

Team Israel Member? Yes

4 / 17 Alex Bregman, Houston Astros

Alex Bregman in 2017. Photo by Keith Allison

Alex Bregman is the third baseman for the 2022 World Series champion Houston Astros and a two-time All-Star. His father is Jewish and his mother, who was born Catholic, converted to Judaism. He celebrated his bar mitzvah at Temple Albert in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In December 2022, Bregman lit a candle and recited a Hanukkah blessing for an event at Houston’s Congregation Beth Yeshurun. He was on the gold medal-winning U.S. team in the 2017 World Baseball Classic and later that year helped lead the Astros to a World Series victory.   

Team Israel Member? No

5 / 17 Scott Effross, New York Yankees

Scott Effross delivers a pitch in the ninth inning to the Boston Red Sox in September of 2022. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Scott Effross is a right-handed pitcher for the New York Yankees. He grew up a member of Congregation Shir Shalom in Bainbridge, Ohio, where he celebrated his bar mitzvah in 2006. He wears a Star of David necklace when he pitches. He played for Indiana University. He signed up for Team Israel this year but withdrew due to injuries.

Team Israel Member? No

6 / 17 Jake Fishman, Oakland Athletics

Jake Fishman poses for a portrait wearing his new team's uniform. Photo by Chris Bernacchi/Getty Images

Jake Fishman was born in Newton, Massachusetts, attended Hebrew school and had his bar mitzvah at Congregation Klal Yisrael in Sharon, Massachusetts. He pitched and played first base for Union College for three years before being selected in the 30th round of the 2016 draft by the Toronto Blue Jays. He pitched for the Miami Marlins last season and in December 2022 signed with the Oakland A’s. Fishman pitched for the Israeli team in the 2017 World Baseball Classic and the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo. 

Team Israel Member? Yes

7 / 17 Max Fried, Atlanta Braves

This year, Max Fried avoided having to make what might have been a tough decision. Photo by Getty Images

Max Fried grew up in Santa Monica, California, attended synagogue on the High Holidays, and had a bar mitzvah. In 2009, at age 14, he pitched for the U.S. baseball team in the Maccabiah Games in Israel that won the gold medal. In 2012, he was drafted by the San Diego Padres out of Los Angeles’ Harvard-Westlake High School (where he wore Sandy Koufax’s uniform number — 32) and signed a contract without going to college. Last season he made the All-Star team and came in second for the Cy Young Award for best pitcher in the National League.

Team Israel Member? No

8 / 17 Dalton Guthrie, Philadelphia Phillies

Dalton Guthrie has water poured on him after a game against the Washington Nationals. Photo by Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Dalton Guthrie made his major league debut on Sept. 6, 2022, for the Philadelphia Phillies. His father, Mark Guthrie, who pitched in the majors from 1989 to 2003, is Christian. His mother, Andrea Balash Guthrie, is Jewish, the daughter of immigrants who fled Hungary in the 1950s. Team Israel recruited Guthrie, but he decided to spend the time in spring training in hopes of making the Phillies roster. But he’d like to play for Team Israel in the future. “My grandparents would be excited if I played for Team Israel,” he told me. “I guess I’ve always considered myself half-Jewish, but I’m going to have to find out more about my Jewish background.”

Team Israel Member? No

9 / 17 Dean Kremer, Baltimore Orioles

Dean Kremer licks his fingers during the a game against the Seattle Mariners. Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

Dean Kremer, a right-handed pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles, was born and raised in Stockton, California. His parents are Israelis who moved to the U.S. after they completed military service in Israel. His grandparents and extended family still live in Israel, where he had his bar mitzvah. Kremer grew up speaking Hebrew at home. In 2013, at age 17, he played on the U.S. team at the Maccabiah Games in Israel. He played for the University of Nevada. On Sept. 6, 2020, pitching for the Orioles, he became the first Israeli citizen to play in the major leagues. He held the Yankees to one hit and one run in six innings and earned the win. He pitched for Team Israel in 2017 and is on this year’s roster, too.  

Team Israel Member? Yes

10 / 17 Eli Morgan, Cleveland Guardians

Eli Morgan throws a pitch during the ninth inning against the New York Yankees in game three of the 2022 American League Division Series. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Eli Morgan was born in Rancho Palos Verdes, California to a non-Jewish mother and a Jewish father (Dave Morgan, former deputy sports editor for the Los Angeles Times). He pitched for Gonzaga University and was selected by the Cleveland Indians (now Guardians) in the eighth round of the 2017 MLB draft. He has a 10-10 won-lost after two years with the Guardians. 

Team Israel Member? Yes

11 / 17 Joc Pederson, San Francisco Giants

Joc Pederson during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies on May 30, 2022. Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Joc Pederson was born to a Jewish mother and non-Jewish father. His father, Stu Pederson, played in eight games for the Dodgers in 1985. In nine major league seasons — playing for the Dodgers, Cubs, Braves and Giants – he’s hit 171 home runs. On his mother’s side, the family tree extends back to membership in a San Francisco synagogue in the mid-1800s. Pederson’s mother Shelly trekked to her late father’s old synagogue to find proof of Joc’s Jewish heritage so he could play for Team Israel in 2013, and he’s back on Team Israel this year.

Team Israel Member? Yes

12 / 17 Kevin Pillar, Atlanta Braves

Kevin Pillar poses for a portrait during the 2023 Atlanta Braves Photo Day. Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Kevin Pillar was born to a Jewish mother (Wendy) and non-Jewish father (Mike). He had a bar mitzvah, encouraged by his maternal grandparents. After graduating from California State University at Dominguez Hills, he was drafted by the Blue Jays. He spent six seasons with Toronto and was embraced by the local Jewish community. “They make sure I have somewhere to go for the holidays,” he recalled in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. In January, he signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Braves.

Team Israel Member? No

13 / 17 Kenny Rosenberg, Los Angeles Angels

Kenny Rosenberg pitching against the New York Yankees on May 31, 2022. Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Kenny Rosenberg had his major league debut with the Angels last April. “I grew up in a largely non-religious household,” he told an interviewer. “However, I had a bunch of Jewish friends and attended my fair share of bar and bat mitzvahs. I also have been to two Jewish weddings and they were both an absolute blast! The energy on the dance floor is unparalleled.”  

Team Israel Member? No

14 / 17 Bubby Rossman, New York Mets

Reading Fightin Phils pitcher Bubby Rossman throws during a game against the Binghamton Rumble Ponies on June 21, 2022. Courtesy of Reading Fightin Phils

Bubby Rossman made his major league debut with the Phillies last July 13, under unusual circumstances. Four unvaccinated Phillies, including two pitchers, were ineligible to play in Canada under its tougher COVID-19 rules. The Phillies hastily called Rossman up from its Double-AA team and put him on the mound in the eighth inning. He walked the first batter, then gave up a home run to Teoscar Hernandez, then retired the next three batters on nine pitches. His catcher was Garrett Stubbs, another Jewish player.  

Both his parents — Charles (an actor) and Denyce Rossman — have Jewish backgrounds, but only his mother identified as Jewish. At the predominantly Latinx La Habra High, where he was one of a handful of Jewish students, the 6-foot-6 Rossman starred in soccer, football and baseball.

In 2021, he visited Israel, became an Israeli citizen, and then played on the Israel national team in theEuropean Baseball Championship, pitching a winning game against Russia and helping the team win a silver medal. “It was neat hanging out with other Jewish ballplayers when I was in Israel. I even went to synagogue. I enjoyed becoming more familiar with my heritage. I want to know about what my grandparents and great-grandparents went through,” he told me.  

Shortly after the conclusion of the World Baseball Classic, Rossman signed a minor league contract with the New York Mets.

Team Israel Member? Yes

15 / 17 Garrett Stubbs, Philadelphia Phillies

Garrett Stubbs celebrates after hitting a walk-off three run home run. Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Garrett Stubbs debuted in the majors in 2019, and played with the Astros for three years before being traded to the Phillies. He was born in San Diego to a Jewish mother and a Catholic father. He was raised Jewish, attended Hebrew school every Wednesday from age 8 to 13, and celebrated his bar mitzvah at Temple Solel in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, a San Diego suburb. Currently unmarried, he wants to raise his children as Jews. “That’s important to me. I like the Jewish religion,” he told the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent. “There is just a sense of community.”

Team Israel Member? Yes

16 / 17 Rowdy Tellez, Milwaukee Brewers

Rowdy Tellez watches his three run homer to left field against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

Rowdy Tellez is the only player since 1913 to hit seven doubles in his first seven major league games. Last season, he slugged 35 homers for the Milwaukee Brewers. He was born in Sacramento, California, to a Jewish mother and non-Jewish father. His grandfather played in the Mexican League and for the Greeley Grays, a semi-pro team of migrant farmers in Colorado in the late 1930s. Both Israel and Mexico recruited Tellez for this year’s World Baseball Classic teams; he picked Mexico. 

Team Israel Member? No

17 / 17 Zach Weiss, Los Angeles Angels

Zack Weiss throws against the Detroit Tigers on September 7, 2022 Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Zach Weiss, a relief pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels, grew up in Irvine, California, and was always an Angels fan. He began blowing the Rosh Hashanah shofar at age 8 at Congregation B’nai Israel in Tustin, where he went to Hebrew school and celebrated his bar mitzvah. “I was raised in a pretty traditional Jewish home,” he said in an interview with Hillel. “Identity-wise, it’s a very strong component of who I am, and a big part of my makeup.”  

While playing in the minors in Billings, Montana, during Rosh Hashanah and in El Paso, Texas, during Yom Kippur, Weiss found local synagogues and attended services. He became a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen in 2018 and played for Team Israel in the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo. “If my great-grandfather was alive to see me represent Israel, it would have been an overwhelming feeling for him,” Weiss told an interviewer. “The impact it has on my family is what means a lot to me.”

Team Israel Member? Yes

Photos via Getty Images, Wikimedia, and courtesy of Reading Fightin Phils. 

Correction: Due to an editor error, the original version of this article misstated Alex Bregman’s role. He was not a member of Team Israel in 2023.

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