Jul 14, 2010

Garret Wittels, Jewish College Baseball star (video)

I am a little late to this game, but it seems there is a Jewish college baseball player that is on the verge of making history.

Garrett Wittels, a Jewish player for the Florida International University, has been thrust into the limelight by what has become his 56 game hitting streak.

Wittles started out as a utility player, but stepped up to the plate, as they say, when he was given the chance. He got a hit, and was put in the lineup again the next day and hit the ball again. he kept hitting and hitting, until he had accumulated a hitting streak on the verge of breaking the record. The current record is held by Robin Ventura at 58 games. The major league streak stands at 56 games by Joe DiMaggio, just to put into proportion the enormity of his accomplishment.

From The Jewish Chronicle:

Like most high-level Jewish athletes, Wittels doesn’t wear his Judaism on his sleeve (or his head -- he's not the second coming of one-time Orthodox basketball phenom Tamir Goodman, who wore a kipah while playing). But baseball is a game of superstitions, and it’s there that Wittels' Jewish background emerges.

While his slate of of good luck rituals has been noted repeatedly in the mounting media coverage of the streak, the mainstream media has missed this one: Before each game, Wittels kneels in the outfield and recites the Shema, the Jewish prayer declaring the unity of God.

Wittels also carries a travel mezuzah, which contains the Shema prayer, and on road trips he brings a copy of the Jewish Wayfarer's Prayer, according to his mother, Lishka, a member of Miami's "Jewban," or Cuban-Jewish community. And, she added, when FIU traveled this spring, he kept as kosher for Passover as he could.

"This is a very spiritual house," his father, Michael, told JTA. "My wife’s family were Turkish Jews. We have that culture, plus all of the other meshugas" he said, referring to his son's pregame habits.

Superstitions can cut both ways -- Wittels’ parents are wary of the media coverage surrounding the streak, citing their fear that others will give their son the "ayin harah," or evil eye of jealousy, his father said.

Even the name Garrett, the father added, is born of kabbalistic philosophy. In English it means strong as an ox, but the name has seven letters -- an important number in Jewish mysticism. (His name was supposed to be Nicholas Garrett, but his paternal grandmother nixed that idea as “too goyish.”)

As a 20-year-old, Wittels has said that he does not yet consider himself a role model, but his mother said, "the Jewishness plays a very big part in his life.”

“He has said he would marry a Jewish girl and talks about how important it is to carry on the Judaism with his life," his mother said. "My son is the most spiritual, non-traditional young athlete you will ever meet. He carries his religion in his heart."

Like many young people -- Jewish or otherwise -- Wittels' parents are his biggest advocates. Michael Wittels lashed out recently at Dave Winfield after the Hall of Fame outfielder and current baseball analyst downplayed the younger Wittels' streak when comparing it to DiMaggio's because college players use metal bats, as opposed to the wooden bats used in the majors.
We are rooting for you!

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