Ian Kinsler helping Jewish fans conquer Shawn Green withdrawal
Ever since the end of the 2007 baseball season, the Manischewitz in the Pearlman household has tasted a tad sour. The matzo ball soup has been mushy and bland, the blintzes moldy, the lox discolored, the gefilte fish unbearably salty.
So life has been without (sigh)
Ah, Shawnie, Shawnie, Shawnie -- where have you gone? Dating to his debut with Toronto some 16 years ago, Green gave Jewish sports fans a reason to read the box scores every weekday morning and say an extra prayer at shul every Friday night (Baruch attah Adonai, elohaynu melech ha-olam, get-a homer, off-a
Did he have a Bar Mitzvah? Well, no.
Did he attend services? Well, no.
Did he marry a fellow Jew? Well, uh, no.
But Green was the product of two Jewish parents, proud of his cultural heritage and -- most important -- willing to speak to each and every reporter from the
Whereas standouts like
Now, alas, Shawn Green is long gone -- yet another Jewish retiree (albeit, one who's 36-years-old) basking in the warm days and Bingo nights of Southern California.
Yet much like the Chavurah Beth Chai, my boyhood congregation that recently lost its longtime rabbi, then replaced her with a potentially better one, we Jews have a renewed reason for hope. In Milwaukee, there is
Uh ... Ian Kinsler? Jewish?
Though he will never boast Green's raw power, throwing arm or appetite for chopped liver sandwiches, the Rangers second baseman is, to steal from
Kinsler smiles, happy to add his name to pastrami on rye and even happier to talk about a heritage he calls, "something I'm very, very proud of." The son of a Catholic mother (
"We'd have Christmas, and I'd be excited," he says. "Then we'd have Chanukah and I'd be excited, too. We'd sing the songs, light the candles, play Dreidel. Then every year for Passover we'd have a seder, which I always looked forward to. I'm not a devoutly spiritual person, but I'm very into the cultural identity that comes with being Jewish. If there are Jewish kids out there who look up to me or see me as a role model of what's possible, I embrace that proudly."
Kinsler won't lack for followers. Though I've often found it sort of funny, Jewish fans long for sports heroes the way Humvees crave fuel. For many of us, the family's emphasis has been on academics (Be a doctor! Be a lawyer! Be an accountant!), often at the expense of athletics. Sure, we could play baseball or basketball on weekends. But not after school, and not if it interfered with grades, studying or family.
Hence, we often watched from afar, clinging to the hopes of
Now, those hopes rest with a 27-year-old Texas Ranger.
With a man willing to shoulder the burden.
"I'm comfortable with who I am," Kinsler says. "And part of who I am is Jewish."