After Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg, the debate over the third greatest Jewish baseball player begins, and that conversation often starts with Shawn Green. For a stretch, Green showed elite power, which led him to all-star status, but his story is far deeper than his home runs.
1. What have you been up to since you retired?
I retired to spend more time with my wife and two daughters. I wrote a book that came out about five years ago called The Way of Baseball: Finding Stillness at 95 mph. I was doing a lot of speaking with the book. I have been involved in a few businesses, mainly tech startups. Currently, I work for a company called Green Fly, which mainly handles media apps.
2. Do you think the National League should adapt the DH? Would you have played longer?
I like old school baseball. I am not a big fan of interleague play. I believe the game should be innovative but there is something about old school baseball that I love. I liked when it was a true World Series and the leagues had advantages and disadvantages. It threw a wrench in the mix. It was like two very different games going on which was exciting. I do not think a DH in the National League would have kept me in the game any longer. It is more for infielders rather than outfielders. Leaving the game had less to do with not being able to play anymore and had more to do with not wanting to play anymore.
3. What was it like playing for Israel in the World Baseball Classic? How good was Joc Pederson?
Playing for Israel in the WBC was a lot of fun. It was great to put on an Israeli uniform. There were a bunch of young Jewish players and it was definitely the smartest team I have ever been a part of. While playing I got to know Joc. Joc was coming out of A-ball. We all knew he would be special because he has a beautiful swing. He reminds me a lot of Lance Berkman because of the way he swings and the backspin he hits the ball with. He is young and getting better. Right now he hits lots of home runs and his strikeouts will reduce because of his natural swing.
4. What is the hardest part of being away from the game?
I was burnt out when I retired. I do miss the camaraderie. And I miss the flights but not the travel. There is also something about the physicality of a sport, like taking batting practice and honing a craft. I do not miss the stress of competition, but I do miss the success of accomplishing physical goals; it is a lot of fun to hit a home run.
5. What was your greatest professional accomplishment?
I am proud of a lot of things. My first few years were a big challenge mainly because I was platooning. Getting over that hump and becoming an everyday starter and all-star was gratifying. Also the Golden Glove and 35 stolen bases were major accomplishments. My critics believed I couldn't do either. These things stretched me and got me outside my box.
6. Who was the best pitcher you ever faced and the best player you played with?
No question Mariano Rivera was the best pitcher I ever faced. He basically had one pitch and I could never hit it. Best player I ever played with was Adrian Beltre. He was super talented and truly an incredible ball player. All four years we played together he showed signs of being MVP, but what separates him from everyone else is the way he plays defense. He also could have 3,000 hits and 500 home runs by the end of his career. He should be in the Hall of Fame.
7. Like Sandy Koufax you sat out on Yom Kippur. Is that decision still meaningful in your life?
I actually sat out three times. I sat out in 2001 after 9/11, but that did not get much attention because we were a few games behind the Giants. In 2004 we were a few games ahead and had two games that landed on Yom Kippur. I played in one game and sat out the other. When I was younger we acknowledged the holiday but we were not super religious growing up. In 2007, I again sat one game and played the other. 2004 became a big story juggling a religious decision in the modern workplace. It was the right decision for my family and looking back I am happy I made the decisions I did.
Green is a speaker with The Great Rabbino, the Jewish Sports Speakers Bureau.