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Monday, November 24, 2014

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Slugger Green describes baseball in new book

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Shawn Green

MIAMI — Former Toronto Blue Jay slugger Shawn Green shared the secrets of his success in his book, The Way Of Baseball: Finding Stillness at 95 MPH, at two recent Jewish Book Fair events held in Miami, Fla. 

Released in June and co-written by Gordon McAlpine, the second-best Jewish hitter in major league baseball history (following Hank Greenberg) attributes his success on the field to “stillness,” a concept derived from Zen and other Eastern philosophies, which allowed Green to concentrate on his hitting.

The 220-page book is a quick read and describes Green’s 14-year journey in the big leagues. It is instructive to young ball players on how to hit effectively. Green practiced hitting the baseball on a tee, hitting ball after ball daily with a focus. Green felt that his best years hitting (1999 and 2002) were also the years he mastered the discipline and his off-years occurred when he was not “living in the moment.”

For Blue Jay fans, the best part of the book includes anecdotes about his friendship with fellow Jay Carlos Delgado and his less than amiable relationship with former Blue Jay manager Cito Gaston. 

“Cito did not think that I could run well or play defence, and I was not an everyday player in the lineup when I made the roster in 1994. It was disappointing. I concentrated more on hitting on the tee and look at the era as a growth period for me,” said Green at the Posnack JCC Jewish Book Festival.

Green blossomed once Gaston was fired as manager in 1997, showing he was more than a hitter. He hit 35 homers and stole 35 bases in 1998. In 1999, he earned a Gold Glove for his defence, hitting 42 home runs, batting .309, earning a berth on the American League all-star team while finishing fifth in voting for the most valuable player in the league.

Knowing that Gaston was rehired as the Jays hitting instructor in 2000, Green asked for a trade and was happy to be sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers, near his home. Green went on to have his best years in baseball as a Dodger, peaking in 2002 when he hit 49 home runs, a Dodger record. He hit four homers in one game, batted in 125 runs and played for the National League all star team.

Green was traded to Arizona following the 2004 season, then traded again in 2006 to the New York Mets. His post-Dodger years were rather lackluster. He retired at age 34 following the 2007 season to spend more time with his wife and two daughters in Los Angeles.

Although Green’s career statistics are impressive (328 HR, 1070 RBI) and he’s a likely shoo-in for the International Jewish Sports Hall Of Fame in Israel, he doubts his statistics are worthy enough for the Baseball Hall Of Fame.

“I played in an era in which steroid use was widespread and I wanted no part of it. I knew which guys used them. You don’t show up at spring training with an extra 20 pounds of muscle and not know how the guy got that way. So, as good as my stats are, there are the guys who had inflated numbers through steroids and that makes a mess of all the players from my era,” said Green.

Another highlight of the book is Green sharing anecdotes about not playing on Yom Kippur on three occasions, including discussing the topic with former great Sandy Koufax. Koufax sat out game one of the 1965 World Series on Yom Kippur and became a legend when he won the seventh and final game of the series for the Dodgers.

“I have always felt proud of being Jewish and felt it was important not to play on Yom Kippur. I had to compromise in 2004 because we had a night game on Yom Kippur eve followed by a day game on Yom Kippur. I played the night game (Green hit a two run home run to win the game 3-2 for the Dodgers) and sat out the day game. I wanted to be fair to my Jewish background as well as my teammates and fans,” said Green.

For those expecting the book to be a chronicle of Green’s childhood and growing up Jewish, there are no revelations, except for the Yom Kippur anecdotes.

Green stated he is a private person and did not want to write a memoir of his life. Fortunately, those that choose to see Green on his still continuing book tour will hear of his fond memories of his father and the Toronto Jewish community.

“My dad was my biggest fan. He was a great basketball coach and taught me how to hit as a youngster.

 “While playing with the Blue Jays, I went with Dr. Glenn Copeland to High Holy Day services each year and was asked to speak by a number of synagogues in Toronto.”

Although retired, Green hopes to play for Israel at their World Baseball Classic game in 2013.

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