Interview: MLBer and Team Israel Leader Josh Zeid

I have been following Josh Zeid’s career for the last couple of years. High and lows. But his story is amazing. The man does not quit. And his passion for Team Israel is probably what I love most. This is a Jewish athlete we should all be rooting for and happy he is on our team.  Meet Josh Zeid.

1) Tell TGR a little bit about yourself.

I am 29 years old, grew up New Haven Connecticut with my mom, dad and sister. When I was 18 I went to Vanderbilt, and as a junior transferred to Tulane. Got drafted by the Phillies in the 10th round of the 2009 drafter, was traded to the Astros in 2011 as part of the Hunter Pence trade, made my Big League Debut 2 years later against the Baltimore Orioles.  I was married in January of 2013, we had our son in December of 2014, and I couldn’t be any happier!
2) What is the best and worst part of being a relief pitcher?

The best part about being a reliever, is that every day you show up to the field you could potentially pitch. That is also the worst part about it.  If you have a bad outing, or struggle with any aspect of the game, you don’t have the luxury to take time and try to dissect the actual issue. You just have to go out there and make the necessary adjustments on the fly in the games. 

This was my first whole year where I was a starter. Early on I struggled, but by the end of the year things really began to click because I used the time in between my starts to make myself better and it paid off. 


3) Who is the best hitter you have ever faced and why?

Well, this answer is two fold.  The best hitters I ever faced would probably be David Ortiz and Adrian Beltre.  Right when they step in the box you recognize them and are instantly in awe of their career and ability.  The hardest hitter to get out had to be Yeonis Cespedes and Josh Donaldson.  They hit everything I threw at them very very hard.

4) What is the best pitching advice you ever got and from you?
I’ve gotten lots of advice from lots of different coaches.  I’ve been to two Universities, 5 Major League Organizations, and 9-10 minor league teams. But it always comes back to “Do what got you here.” and to me that means, breath, relax, have fun, treat the game like it was the fun game you played growing up.  Don’t try and do too much.  

5) This was your second time playing for team Israel, what made this one more special?
2012 was one of the more challenging experiences of my baseball life.  It was so fun, and at the same time so disappointing. We created such bonds that even after four years of not being on the same teams or even same states, we all stayed in touch and come in to 2016 with a common goal and growing friendships. It made winning our qualifier in Brooklyn almost undeniable.  We were not going to be disappointed this year.  We had a team of much more mature baseball players this time around, 9 of whom had been on the team in 2012, and all 9 of us were not going to be denied.  We CANNOT WAIT for the spring of 2017 and the opportunity to play in South Korea.

6) Can Team Israel continue to be competitive? 

I absolutely think Team Israel can continue to be competitive. With the pitching staff we assembled for the Qualifier with a couple of additions, will have 5-7 guys with Major League experiences and in a short round robin tournament that is incredibly beneficial.  Our Offense has lots of fire power and our catcher is a great team leader.  I think if a few of the current players in the Major Leagues were to join in, our team would have a really great chance at advancing to the next round.  Players like Kevin Pillar, Joc Pederson, and infielders Alex Bregman and Ian Kinsler, if we were to get any or all of them, our team would be a force to be reckoned with.

7) What was your Jewish upbringing like?
I grew up in a conservative household.  We celebrated every Jewish holiday to the utmost degree.  I attended Hebrew School Monday,Wednesday and Saturday until I was 14 years old.  After my Bar Mitzvah and some time after, baseball became all encompassing, but we still managed to celebrate all the holidays and we would make Friday and Saturday Shabbats when we were all together. I went to JCC camps every summer until I was 10 when I went to a Sleep-away camp for three straight summers  in New Hampshire called Camp Young Judea.  

8) What is next for your baseball career?

After the World Series I will become a free agent for the second time in my career which is scary because there are a lot of unkowns in free agency.  You wait for your agent to get in touch with you and if that never happens, then it could be all over.  I am hoping that with a solid second half of the season as a starter in the Mets organization and a really good showing at the World Baseball Classic Qualifier as a reliever hopefully shows I have some ability left and still a chance to continue to live out my dream as a professional and Major League Baseball player. 

9) Any advice to young pitchers?
Learn to throw your fastball for strikes.  Not just good strikes.  I regret not really ever focusing on throwing quality pitches as a kid.  All my coaches just focused on my velocity, because as a 16 year old I was already throwing 92 mph.  I wish I spent more time becoming a better pitcher, and not just a thrower.  Secondly, command a changeup, and then once you’ve got your fastball down, and a good changeup, then you can work on a slider or curveball.  Become an all around pitcher, don’t be a one trick pony. But most importantly, enjoy the game and love the craft you’re working on.

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