Top Jewish pick in 2011 baseball draft, Linsky may pass Sherry mark

Top Jewish pick in 2011 baseball draft, Linsky may pass Sherry mark

Gerrit Cole, the Pirates top draft pick, may have been the first overall selection of the Major League Baseball Draft held early last month, but for us, the No. 1 pick was none other than Lenny Linsky.
Never heard of him, you say? Well, get to know him because he was the top Jewish player selected, taken in the second round, just 88 picks after Cole at No. 89 overall. According to the site, a total of nine Jews were taken in the 50-round Draft. It started with Linsky in the second and ended with Benny Sosnick in the 49th round at pick No. 1,497.
Will all of them be Major Leaguers? Of course not. But my money is on Linsky to make a bee line to the bigs. College relief pitchers often move quickly and Linsky’s got the kind of stuff that could get the game’s best hitters out in the very near future. He throws from a slightly unorthodox low three-quarters angle, which makes it even tougher to hit his sinking fastball that has touched 96 miles per hour. He has a really good slider to go with it, all a guy who will pitch in the eighth or ninth inning will need. There had even been talk that Linsky would go in the first round, but he’s not complaining about joining the Tampa Bay Rays in the second.
“I had heard projections; I heard people say first round maybe,” said Linsky, who signed quickly and should be making his professional debut soon for the short-season Hudson Valley Renegades. “I don’t pay much attention to that. Those people who project that don’t actually have a pick in the draft. Luckily, I went in the second round, which was a great honor. And I’m with a great organization.”
Linsky, whose father is Jewish, celebrated the holidays growing up and was influenced greatly by his grandparents, who visited his family in California. He went undrafted out of high school, however, and ended up at the University of Hawaii, of all places.
“I played in a showcase and [head coach] Mike Trapasso was there,” Linsky said. “He thought I had already signed, but I hadn’t. When my coach asked me where I wanted to go, I said, ‘The University of Hawaii sounds good.’ I love to surf and I love the beach. It was a good fit. Plus, I felt comfortable with Coach Trapasso, so that was a big deal.”
Things didn’t start out too well for the right-hander. He finished with an ugly 8.47 ERA in 17 innings as a freshman. But a little change to his delivery made a world of difference.
“My freshman year, I threw over the top and didn’t have much success. I didn’t have any success, to be honest,” Linsky said. “Coach said try the three-quarters arm angle thing. My velocity started going up; I started getting more movement. He said he wanted to try me as the closer. I thought it was awesome. I play with a lot of passion and it fit well.”
Linsky had 12 saves and a 1.64 ERA as a sophomore and got the save in his conference tournament title game. He set the Hawaii record for saves in a season — 14 — as a junior, being named a third-team All-American by one outlet, and finishing with a 1.30 ERA.
Now he’s about ready to embark on his professional career. Who knows? One day he may surpass the all-time Jewish saves record of 82, currently held by Larry Sherry. At the very least, he’s ready for the attention that our community tends to lavish on one of its own. And with Israel a new entrant into the next World Baseball Classic, he could get the opportunity to really become a hero among Jewish sports fans.
“I would do that in a heartbeat. The opportunity to play for Israel, and in the World Baseball Classic, would be a huge honor,” Linsky said. “I’m ready to embrace that and represent the Jewish community well in baseball.”
(Jonathan Mayo, the Chronicle’s sports columnist and a staff writer for, can be reached at

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