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Good afternoon! It’s a big day for Jewish baseball players and fans.
The Chicago Cubs have called up top prospect Matt Mervis, a power-hitting first baseman who represented Israel in this year’s World Baseball Classic. Mervis, who hit 36 home runs in the minors last year, is making his MLB debut today.
Over in Atlanta, Braves ace Max Fried squares off against Dean Kremer and the Baltimore Orioles. I say the losing pitcher has to wear the winner’s jersey next time they go to synagogue.
According to the Jewish Baseball Museum’s Bob Wechsler, there have been four previous instances of Jewish opposing starting pitchers. Can you name any of the matchups? Email us at email@example.com with your answer! (Hint, it’s been a while).
A star in the making
Harry Sheezel is on a path to greatness. The 18-year-old Jewish day school grad has quickly become a star in his first season in the Australian Football League, where he was drafted as the third overall pick last fall. (Australian rules football, or footy, is very different than American football.)
Sheezel is only the 11th Jew in the sport since 1897, and he’s not wasting any time. Since debuting in March, Sheezel has ranked in the AFL’s top 10 in disposals — a stat referring to legal touches of the football, which indicates how involved one is in a game. He set an all-time record for most disposals for a player in their first four professional games, with 127.
His team, the North Melbourne Kangaroos, already extended his contract. And he was nominated for the AFL Rising Star award.
“You don’t want to get too excited too early, but Harry has the potential to perhaps be our greatest-ever male Jewish athlete in Australia,” said Ashley Browne, an Australian sports journalist who wrote a book about Jewish Australian athletes called “People of the Boot.”
WELCOME BACK. Jewish outfielder Harrison Bader returned to action this week after an oblique injury kept him out of the New York Yankees lineup for the first month of the season. In his first game back, the Gold Glove winner made an impressive diving catch. (Elsewhere, Philadelphia Phillies Jewish utilityman Dalton Guthrie was also recalled from the minors this week.)
CHOSEN ONES. The NHL began announcing its award finalists this week, and New Jersey Devils star Jack Hughes is on the shortlist for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, awarded for sportsmanship. Adam Fox is a finalist for the James Norris Memorial Trophy for best defenseman, which the New York Rangers standout won in 2021.
PLAY BALL. Philadelphia 76ers owners Josh and Marjorie Harris are supporting a basketball initiative for girls in Israel, in partnership with the organization The Equalizer. Harris, who has been involved with other Israeli sports projects in the past, is also in the process of purchasing the NFL’s Washington Commanders from embattled owner Dan Snyder.
KING OF KINGS. Domantas Sabonis and the Sacramento Kings’ playoff run came to an end, but the soon-to-be member of the tribe is poised to stick around his team for the long haul. “Domas is a huge part of what we do,” said Kings general manager Monte McNair. “We’re going to do all we can to keep him here and build around him.”
STAY GOLDEN, PONYBOY. Team Israel won the PONY 19U European Championship in baseball this week, earning a spot in this summer’s Palomino World Series in Texas. Israel beat the Stuttgart Reds 8-2 in the title game.
Jews in sports to watch this weekend
🏒 IN HOCKEY…
Jack and Luke Hughes and the Devils face the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 2 of the second round of the NHL playoffs tonight at 8 p.m. ET. Carolina leads 1-0, with Game 3 set for Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET. Zach Hyman and the Edmonton Oilers are down 1-0 in the second round to the Vegas Golden Knights, with Game 2 tomorrow at 7 p.m. ET.
⚾️ IN BASEBALL…
Max Fried vs. Dean Kremer, AKA the Jewish World Series, is tonight at 7:20 p.m. ET. Matt Mervis and the Chicago Cubs host the Miami Marlins this afternoon at 2:20 p.m. ET. On the West Coast, it’s a battle of Jewish sluggers as Joc Pederson and the San Francisco Giants take on Rowdy Tellez and the Milwaukee Brewers at 10:15 p.m. ET tonight.
⛳️ IN GOLF…
Max Homa is at the Wells Fargo Championship in North Carolina this weekend. Homa won the tournament in 2019, his first PGA Tour victory, and again last year.
🏎️ IN RACING…
After finishing in seventh place in last weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll looks to continue his strong season in the Miami Grand Prix, Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Boxing Day came early
Dmitriy “Star of David” Salita, a Ukrainian-born former professional boxer-turned-promoter, was inducted into the New York State Boxing Hall of Fame last weekend. Salita told JTA in 2009 that boxing is one way he expresses his faith.
“God wants us to work hard,” he said. “While I wouldn’t recommend a rabbi’s son become a boxer, it fits in with my background. In my way, I’m spreading my Judaism.”