Max Fried pitches in Game 6 of the 2021 World Series, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. (Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

The Jewish Sport Report: A Jewish guide to the 2023 MLB season

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The Jewish Sport Report: A Jewish guide to the 2023 MLB season

Max Fried pitches in Game 6 of the 2021 World Series, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. (Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

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Good morning! 

The men’s and women’s March Madness tournaments are both in the Sweet 16 round, and there’s one Jewish star on each side that you should know about.

Abby Meyers, who I profiled earlier this month, is a guard at No. 2 Maryland, helping the Terps win their first two games comfortably, knocking off No. 15 Holy Cross and No. 7 Arizona. Meyers grew up at a Reform synagogue in Washington, D.C., and has been involved with Jewish life on campus.

Over on the men’s side, No. 15 Princeton is perhaps the biggest surprise in either tournament. The Tigers stunned No. 2 Arizona in the opening round, and crushed No. 7 Missouri in the second round.

Sophomore guard Blake Peters, who dropped 17 points in the win over Missouri, and assistant coach Skye Ettin, both represented Team USA at the Maccabiah Games last summer. NJ.com called Peters “the most interesting man in the NCAA Tournament.”

And congrats to Jewish Sport Report follower (and my 2008 summer camp bunkmate) Josh Hurwitz, who is currently leading our reader bracket tournament!

All the Jewish players to watch in MLB this year

Last season was a banner year for Jews in baseball — and this season could be even better.

From stars like Max Fried and Alex Bregman to rising talent like Harrison Bader and Dean Kremer — not to mention an impressive group of prospects on the verge of making their debuts — the current crop of Jewish MLB talent is unprecedented.

Team Israel’s roster in the World Baseball Classic this month also offered fans a preview of the next wave of Jewish stars — players such as Matt Mervis, Zack Gelof and Spencer Horwitz. Atlanta Braves top prospect Jared Shuster, who did not play for Team Israel, is having a stellar Spring Training and could emerge as a major league fixture this year. In fact, the Braves may begin the year with three Jews on the roster. Dayenu!

So with Opening Day approaching on Thursday, we’ve got you covered with a full Jewish preview of the 2023 MLB season.

Halftime report

CATCH YOU LATER. Team Israel leader and veteran catcher Ryan Lavarnway officially announced his retirement from baseball this week, ending a journeyman career that included multiple stints with Israel and a World Series championship with the 2013 Boston Red Sox. (After meeting Ryan down in Miami, I can confirm he is a certified mensch.)

LEVIATHAN IN GOAL. The Buffalo Sabres signed 21-year-old goalie Devon Levi to a three-year entry-level contract. Levi just wrapped up an impressive run at Northeastern, where he won the Mike Richter Award for best collegiate goalie last season — and is a finalist again this year. Levi hails from the Dollard-des-Ormeaux suburb of Montreal, where he attended a Modern Orthodox school.

KICKIN’ IT. Obed Hrangchal won Israel’s kickboxing title last week. Hrangchal immigrated to Israel as part of India’s Bnei Menashe community — a group who claims descent from one of the lost tribes of Israel.

YOU ASK, WE ANSWER. Mikaela Shiffrin won her record 21st giant slalom this week, and her 88th career win overall, cementing her legacy as the greatest alpine skier ever. Every time Shiffrin is in the news, fans wonder whether she’s Jewish. The answer: not really. Shiffrin’s paternal grandfather was Jewish, but the tradition wasn’t passed down.

JUST KEEP SWIMMING. Speaking of Israeli victories, Shelly Bobritsky and Ariel Nassee became the first-ever Israelis to win a gold medal at the Artistic Swimming World Cup in Canada.

RED FLAG. A Jewish fan brought an Israeli flag and a sign with words of encouragement for Australian Football League Jewish player Harry Sheezel to a game — and was told his flag should have been confiscated. The fan says he was granted permission prior to the game, and accused the AFL of antisemitism.

Team Israel’s Twitter account was the real winner at the WBC

Israel didn’t have much success at the World Baseball Classic this month in Miami, but off the field, the team’s Twitter account was a hit. From joking about storing a cooler of Manischewitz in the dugout to leaning into the “nice Jewish boy” vibe of the team, the account’s sense of humor seemed to resonate.

I spoke to Avi Miller, a marketing veteran and the man behind the puns. His goal for the account was aligned with that of the WBC itself: to grow the game.

“Of course virality is nice, because it creates more of a following. But then once you have a following, what are you doing with it?” Miller said. “So for me, and it’s even continued through today, and it will tomorrow and so on, is to create engagement with people, create interest in it, help to create and raise the fundraising efforts, help to create awareness of these programs.”

Bill Shaikin, an award-winning baseball writer for the Los Angeles Times, called the @ILBaseball page “the best social media account in the tournament.”

Read more about the Twitter account — and see some of its best jokes — right here.

Jews in sports to watch this weekend

🏀 IN BASKETBALL…

Blake Peters and Princeton face Creighton tonight at 9 p.m. ET. Abby Meyers and Maryland play Notre Dame tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. ET. Over in the NBA, Deni Avdija and the Washington Wizards host the San Antonio Spurs tonight at 7 p.m. ET and face the Toronto Raptors Sunday at 6 p.m. ET. Ryan Turell and the Motor City Cruise host the Cleveland Charge tonight at 7 p.m. ET. The Cruise have won five straight and 12 of their last 15 games.

⚾️ IN BASEBALL…

With Opening Day on Thursday, Max Fried is likely to get one more Spring Training start in this weekend. The Braves face the Minnesota Twins tomorrow and the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday, both at 1:05 p.m. ET. Tonight at 9:05 p.m. ET, reliever Eli Morgan and the Cleveland Guardians face Joc Pederson and the San Francisco Giants.

🏒 IN HOCKEY…

Jakob Chychrun and the Ottawa Senators face off against Jack Hughes and the New Jersey Devils tomorrow at 7 p.m. ET. It is unclear when Devon Levi will make his NHL debut with the Buffalo Sabres, but one possibility is Monday, when his new team hosts his hometown Montreal Canadiens at 7 p.m. ET.

⛳️ IN GOLF…

Max Homa is in Austin, Texas, this weekend for the World Golf Championships Dell Technologies Match Play. Homa seems locked in.

Schepping naches

Last but not least, mazel tov to Denver Jewish Day School for winning a basketball state championship earlier this month — becoming likely the third Jewish school in the United States to win a basketball state title, according to the Intermountain Jewish News. Well done!

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