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Articles > Avi Rasowsky: Always More to Learn

On the Jewish calendar, March means Purim, and recalling the time that lots were cast to determine the fate of Persian Jews. For aspiring minor league baseball players, March means spring training, at the end of which ones fate is determined – as far as season assignments in the hierarchy of the clubs farm teams.

Two Jewish minor leaguers, Avi Rasowsky and Josh Appell, both pitchers, both in their third season of professional play, spoke recently to the Center for Sport and Jewish Life. Here’s what Avi Rasowsky had to say about life in the minor leagues:

“Ever since I was a kid I have always had the dream of playing baseball professionally.” It’s a dream that many youngsters have, but Avi Rasowsky made it happen. And considering that he spent part of his childhood in Israel, he traveled a longer path than most in his pursuit of that dream.

“When I was two, we lived in Israel for a couple of years,” said Rasowsky. “”My parents had lived there previously. But we returned to the U.S.” Growing up in Albany, NY, Avi and all four of his siblings attended the Conservative-affiliated Hebrew Academy Day School. “We all obviously got a strong Judaic background.”

Harboring his ball-playing aspirations, Rasowsky attended George Washington University in the nation’s capital. “They had a strong team, having won the Atlantic-10 Conference championship my freshman year.” Upon graduation in the spring of 2005, the young pitcher did not get drafted, so he headed out on the road to try to get signed by someone. “There weren’t many spots to be had, so it really worked out well for me when a scout for the Marlins, who had seen me play in college, recommended me to the organization. I hadn’t been a high enough priority for them to consider me as a draft prospect, so it was great that opportunity came knocking in this way.”

Rasowsky started with the Marlins club in the Rookie League in the summer of 2005, and played that summer as well with the Marlins’ short-season A club in Jamestown, NY.

“You definitely learn a lot in your first year in rookie ball,” he noted. “Things are run differently than in college. You certainly learn to treat it like a job, rather than an after-class activity. In college you call your coach “Coach” or “Sir,” here you call them by their first name or nickname.”

In his second season, Rasowsky was sent to the Marlins single A club in Greensboro, NC. Halfway through the season he sustained a shoulder injury that sidelined him for the rest of the year. “There is often a fine line between being a tough competitor and safeguarding your physical health. At first I didn’t want to admit to myself or anyone else that I might be hurt, I just wanted to keep pitching, which only aggravated the situation. Fortunately, I finally spoke up and our head trainer, Gene Basham, was very helpful in taking me through the whole rehabilitation process and getting me back on the mound. I was in rehab for the entire 2006-07 off-season. The physical therapy was long and monotonous; you have to be able to see past the surgery and keep your eyes on the goal of getting back into the game, and then not allowing fears of re-injury to creep in. A big part of the rehab process was not only physical but mental.”

Coming back from rehab and being able to pitch just as well as before – if not better – has been the most gratifying event in Rasowsky’s career to date. He also noted that the off-season is definitely an important time to be working on conditioning and on throwing so that he is ready to go when he comes into spring training.

Getting three years experience under his belt, Rasowsky feels that he has gotten a lot smarter. “I always loved pitching,” he said, “but I have found that there is so much more to learn. It’s definitely the case where you can learn from every inning you pitch, and from every batter you face. The situation is always different depending on who’s up, who’s on base. Like if there’s a left handed hitter up with guys on second and third and one out. What are you going to throw? You learn to see what the hitter is doing and how he will “tell” you how to get him out. You see what pitch sequences are going to work best for you. How he handled the last pitch – whether he handled it well or poorly – your next pitch is going to be based on that.”

“It’s a game where you can never stop learning to perform your best,” he continued. “We go over scouting reports before each game and use that to review the hitters. Once the game gets going, hopefully you remember a lot of that, but it’s mostly just pitching the game you’re in. The biggest challenge at this point is being consistent, game in, game out. You strive to be able to deliver the same quality of pitches day after day that you have shown that you are capable of throwing. That means getting consistent velocity on your fast ball, the same depth on your curve ball, or the same kind of change-up. So that you can go your arsenal and really attack the hitter with your best stuff.

It’s a long season – in college you play about 60 games or so, and this is more than double that. In the minor leagues you play 142 games and you really have to stay focused. There are so many distractions that you can’t let enter your mind; you have to keep focused on your job for 6 months. And you can’t let feeling tired affect you. Coming up the farm system is definitely a test of perseverance.”

Rasowsky noted that “You don’t get much feedback from the pitching coaching staff. Mostly you take note of your stats and you see how you compete out there. We’re old enough to know how we’re doing, and how we match up against competitors.”

When spring training is concluded and team assignments are give, Rasowsky hopes to stay put in Jupiter, FL, where the Jupiter Hammerheads, the Marlins’ highest single A division team, plays. In the meantime, wedding bells will soon be ringing. Rasowsky is engaged to be married to Heather Kaufman, a fellow GW alum. Although Avi and Heather both took part in the 1999 Maccabi Pan-Am games (he in baseball, she in gymnastics), they actually didn’t meet at the time. “In my sophomore year at GW, which was her freshman year, I was wearing a t-shirt that said Maccabi Baseball, and she said, ‘Oh, I was there, too.’ That sparked some conversation and not long after we started dating.” Avi noted, too, that “it was cool to play in the Maccabi games because all of my teammates were Jewish. That is an experience that you never get otherwise in baseball.” If that is not enough, Rasowsky is something of an entrepreneur, with a company called Got Eyewash which he started with two of his teammates from the 2007 season to market athletic apparel to athletes. “Eyewash is a baseball term referring to unnecessary flair or action taken to enhance your appearance,” he noted.

There may yet be another Rasowsky in the professional ranks. Younger brother Oren is a freshman pitcher at Adelphi University. The last Jewish brother combination was Norm and Larry Sherry, who played in the 1950’s and 60’s.

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