The baseball world is abuzz over Brewers third-baseman Ryan Braun, whose numbers in the big leagues make a compelling case for Rookie of the Year.
Braun impressed the club in his first spring training game, going four for five with a grand slam, a three-run homer, a double, a single and a stolen base. Since being called up to the show in late May, he is hitting .348 with 16 home runs, 43 RBI’s, and a slugging percentage of .667. To put things into perspective, the Rookie of the Year for 2005, Ryan Howard, only hit .331 with 14 home runs and 35 RBI’s in the first half of his rookie season.
Braun’s father, Joe, is Israeli born, and being Jewish is something Braun is said to “take a lot of pride in.” Chosen in the 1st round of the 2005 amateur baseball draft, he is one of the highest drafted Jewish athletes in baseball.
While Braun’s exceptional arm and bat already have some scouts drawing comparisons to Yankees 3rd baseman Alex Rodriguez, a number of interesting similarities also align Braun with some of baseball’s biggest Jewish icons. Braun was Sandy Koufax’s last name before his mother remarried. (There is, alas, no family connection). Additionally, Braun’s grandfather has lived for the last 40 years in a home previously owned by Hall Of Famer Hank Greenberg, and Braun’s nickname, “The Hebrew Hammer,” was once used for Al Rosen, who, when playing for the Cleveland Indians (another “Tribe”) was named MVP in 1953.
If Braun continues to play at this pace, Israel might stand a chance in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, should it attract Braun and fellow Jewish Major Leaguers Shawn Green, Kevin Youkilis and Gabe Kapler.