Thursday, February 22, 2007

On the Way to a Minyan?

Mets really going Jewish:-

David Newhan, a scrappy utility player on the Baltimore Orioles...

...Besides being a 10-year-old who fielded fungoes and received batting tips from players like Rod Carew, Newhan is a player who did not receive regular playing time until he was 30. He persevered through a frustrating series of circumstances and two serious injuries, including a broken fibula sustained last season when he slid into second base. Now he finds himself here with the Mets, his eighth organization, and probably on the way to earning a place on the opening day roster.

Newhan’s versatility and high-energy playing style make him the favorite to win a bench spot on the Mets, where he would be, at least by family lineage, one of the team’s three Jewish players, joining Shawn Green and Scott Schoeneweis. Newhan’s religious odyssey, however, has put him so far outside the Jewish mainstream that many Jews probably no longer consider him Jewish...

He made his major league debut with San Diego in 1999.

Then, Newhan said, it all started going wrong. He batted .140 in 32 games. The next year he hit .150. He was traded to Philadelphia and made the team out of spring training in 2001, but he injured his shoulder crashing into a left-field wall and missed most of that season and all of 2002 after having his second shoulder operation.

It was about this time that Newhan started reading the Bible for guidance, and soon, he said, “a different train pulled into the station.” He still held fast to his Jewish beliefs — he had his bar mitzvah at a Conservative synagogue — but he said that accepting Jesus Christ helped guide him through this rocky period. He observes Passover and Hanukkah and considers himself a Messianic Jew.

“I was a Jewish kid at Pepperdine — God must have been working on me then,” Newhan said of his alma mater, which is affiliated with the Churches of Christ.

Even his faith could not provide answers about what happened next. For the Rockies’ Class AAA team in 2003, Newhan batted .348 but was never called up. For the Rangers’ Class AAA team in 2004, he batted .328 and was never recalled.

He finally took advantage of a provision in his contract that allowed him to seek a major league job if he was not in the majors by June 15. He was signed by the Orioles on June 18 and was promptly ordered to fly to Denver for their game against the Rockies. That night, from his seat in the Dodger Stadium press box, his father tracked the game on his computer. His heart skipped a beat in the ninth inning when his son entered the game as a pinch-hitter. The message “Ball in Play” came up. Ross held his breath. Then the screen flashed, “Home run.”

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