Interview: Small School, Big Arm – White Sox Draft Pick Justin Friedman

Last week we learned about Evan Kravetz. But Kravetz wasn’t the only MoT drafted in the 2019 MLB draft. Meet Justin Friedman. He graduated Hope International University and waited a bit longer to get drafted; but the passion was the same. Friedman is taking his talent to the South Siders (big fan) and sharing his journey through his website. We caught up with Friedman to find out more about his journey.

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1) Tell TGR a little bit about yourself.

 My name is Justin Friedman. I am a 21-year-old right-handed pitcher in the White Sox organization, and I am originally from Pittstown, New Jersey. I love learning new skills whether that is a language, a different discipline of movement (yoga, martial arts, etc.), or playing an instrument. I also love to read and to be outside in nature. I am a Psychology major and attended four colleges in four years—George Washington University, Ventura College, University of San Diego, and Hope International University.

2) When did you know playing baseball was in your future?

When I was four years old, I told my family I was going to be a professional baseball player one day. This has been my dream and obsession for my entire life. The road here has been a long and winding one, and I still have a lot of work ahead of me, but I believe that this is the path that I was meant to walk.

3) What was it like getting drafted and how did it go down?

 The draft is a lot of sitting around and waiting in tense silence. Luckily, I was surrounded by loved ones who supported me through the entire experience. After receiving some calls on the second day but not hearing my name called, I went out to dinner with my family. When we left the restaurant, I discovered that my truck—packed with all of my belongings—had been broken into and most of what I own had been stolen. The next morning, I listened to the draft while playing dominoes and card games with my family until I could no longer bear it. Eventually, we decided to turn the draft off and go to lunch. As we pulled into the parking lot, I opened the draft tracker on my phone, but it wouldn’t load. I refreshed the page frantically until it finally came up and I saw my name. I instantly broke down crying and was speechless for a very long time, rereading the screen over and over to make sure that it was real. Shortly after that the White Sox called and welcomed me to the family!               

4) You played NAIA baseball. Does that make the accomplishment even sweeter? Did you know you would have your name called?       

I definitely relish in the opportunity that comes with being the underdog and defying the odds. I’ve been written off or counted out many times throughout my career, and I have always used that as fuel. Each organization is tasked with the incredible challenge of selecting just 40 athletes out of everyone who plays baseball across all levels. To be one of those 40 is an absolute honor and a privilege regardless of where you’re coming from and what round you go in. As far as hearing my name called, the past two drafts had shown me just how unpredictable the process really is. I did my best to surrender the outcome and focused solely on what I could control. With this being my third time in the draft, I did not cling to any expectations as to how it would go. My mission in life has always remained the same and I believe that no matter what happens I will find a way to see it through. I cannot guess what my path will be to get there, but I do know where I am headed.

5) In full disclosure, I am a huge White Sox fan. What are you most excited about being in the South Siders system?

I am most excited about the amazing group of people that I get to be around every day. The staff and team members create an incredible atmosphere to learn and develop in. We work very hard and smile all day long. I can’t wait for the season to get started!     

6) What was your Jewish life like growing up and how do you connect today?

My dad’s side of the family is Jewish, and we were very fortunate to have his parents, my grandparents, living about 5 minutes away from us growing up. Nearly every Friday we would go to their house for Shabbos and of course on holidays. I will remember those nights forever because they combined deeply rooted traditions with an atmosphere of levity and love. We laughed, told stories, and played games; it was really special to have a time every week that was set aside for the entire family to get together. My heritage is something I am very proud of and I would love to be able to honor that by representing team Israel during the World Baseball Classic as well as doing birthright at some point.

7) What are your ambitions with regards to baseball?

 First and foremost, I want my career to mean something to others. I want to inspire people through my journey by constantly shattering limitations that are just an illusion and redefining what is possible. Through the pursuit of my own personal greatness and unlocking my utmost potential I want to encourage others to do the same. There is nothing inherently impressive about throwing a ball. It only holds any value because of the amount of resilience, discipline, work-ethic, and commitment that it takes to successfully perform at this level. That is where I believe the focus ought to be. 

8) Tell us about your website and where fans can find you on social media?

My website is meant to inspire thoughts, conversations, connections, and ultimately growth. I am obsessed with the process of evolution/self-actualization both individually and collectively. We have a responsibility to strive for the best version of ourselves and to whole heartedly commit to the things that set our soul on fire. Justinfriedman.org is a resource to both share aspects of my own journey and enrich the lives of others. Aside from that content, fans can also find me on twitter or on Instagram @jfpitcher37.

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