Max Fried’s Birthright From Israel to SunTrust Park
SportsThe Jewish Brave Starts Strong for Gwinnett

Max Fried’s Birthright From Israel to SunTrust Park

The Braves sent the Jewish left-handed pitcher down to Gwinnett, but he's expected back up in September.

David R. Cohen

David R. Cohen is the former Associate Editor of the Atlanta Jewish Times. He is originally from Marietta, GA and studied Journalism at the University of Tennessee.

Max Fried pitches for the Braves on Aug. 8, 2017, against the Philadelphia Phillies. (Photo courtesy Pouya Dianat/Atlanta Braves)
Max Fried pitches for the Braves on Aug. 8, 2017, against the Philadelphia Phillies. (Photo courtesy Pouya Dianat/Atlanta Braves)

Max Fried, the Atlanta Braves’ lone Jewish player, was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett on Wednesday, Aug. 23, after a 20-day stint in the majors that included four relief appearances.

During his time in the National League, the 23-year-old rookie allowed four runs and seven hits over 6 2/3 innings while issuing six walks and racking up four strikeouts.

The lefty, ranked as the Braves’ 10th best prospect, grew up in Santa Monica, Calif. In 2009 he competed for the United States in baseball at the Maccabiah Games in Israel. In high school he started wearing No. 32 in honor of another Jewish left-handed pitcher, Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax. (Fried is No. 61 with the Atlanta Braves and No. 37 with Gwinnett.)

At Gwinnett, the Braves are using Fried as a starter, as he has been throughout his minor-league career. He made his Triple-A debut Thursday night, Aug. 24, pitching four shutout, one-hit innings while walking two and striking out six. He got no decision in a 3-2 Gwinnett loss.

He’s likely to be called back up when major-league rosters expand in September. Before his reassignment, Fried talked to the AJT about his call-up to the big leagues and getting settled in Atlanta.

AJT: How have the big leagues been treating you so far?
Fried: It’s been an incredible experience. All the guys on the team have been really good to me so far.

AJT: What was your Jewish background like growing up?
Fried: I grew up fairly observant. We went to synagogue on High Holidays, and I had my bar mitzvah. So all that good stuff.

AJT: You played in the Maccabiah Games in 2009. How many times have you been to Israel?
Fried: That was my only time. I need to go back. I actually got contacted for Birthright recently, so I need to follow up on that. But it was a really cool experience, and we traveled all over Israel. Being able to go to the Wall and see the Holocaust museum was really moving. I need to go back because at the time I was 14. It’s definitely something I’d like to do.

AJT: You started wearing Sandy Koufax’s No. 32 in high school. Is he a hero of yours?
Fried: Growing up in L.A., being left-handed and also Jewish made Sandy Koufax a really good role model. It didn’t hurt that he was also one of the best pitchers of all time. Those are some big shoes to fill, though.

AJT: So if your turn in the rotation came on Yom Kippur, what would you do?
Fried: I haven’t really given it that much thought yet, mainly because I haven’t ever played baseball that deep into the year, but it would definitely be a very tough decision. I’d have to consult my family and everyone else to see what the best decision would be.

AJT: Have you gotten settled in town yet? Any plans for the High Holidays this year?
Fried: I just moved in to my new place near the stadium, so it’s been a little crazy, but when it comes around, it’s something I’ll be looking for.

AJT: What do you think of the extra attention you get from media outlets like the AJT just because you’re Jewish?
Fried: It’s special because there aren’t very many Jewish players in the majors. I’m happy about it, I guess.

AJT: How do you feel about your pitching performance since you’ve been up at the major-league level?
Fried: Well, it’s definitely been an adjustment because I’ve never pitched out of the bullpen before. But I’m doing my best to learn every day and implement it into my game. Once you get out there, it’s still pitching.

AJT: Has anything changed about your game preparation since you’ve moved into the bullpen?
Fried: It’s just being more locked in, stretching throughout the game and gauging what my role is as the long reliever. When you’re starting, you have four days to prepare and the day of the game to go out there and go through a routine. In the bullpen, it’s more condensed and on the fly. You just get going.

AJT: You and Lucas Sims were both drafted in the first round of the 2012 MLB draft. What do you think about playing for the same team now?
Fried: It was really cool. I played with Lucas a little bit in high school going into our senior year. So I had met him, and we kind of kept in touch through the years. Then when I got traded to the Braves, he was one of the first people that I contacted.

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