Gelof Brothers Ascend the MLB Ladder

Gelof Brothers Ascend the MLB Ladder

The pair of Jewish brothers, Zack and Jake, play out west, with Zack on the Oakland A’s and Jake in the LA Dodgers’ farm system.

In just his brief time in the majors, Oakland’s Zack Gelof has established himself as one of the most productive rookie hitters in the American League // Photo Credit: Oakland A’s
In just his brief time in the majors, Oakland’s Zack Gelof has established himself as one of the most productive rookie hitters in the American League // Photo Credit: Oakland A’s

If things were slow at the Delaware-based law firm of Tunnell & Raysor, P.A. this past July, it was understandable. For a good portion of the month, the 130-year-old practice was missing Kelly Dunn Gelof, its managing partner who serves as lead counsel for the litigation department, and her husband, Adam Gelof, one of their most senior attorneys.

The powerhouse couple was out west for a few weeks, first watching their older son, Zack, 23, make his major league debut with the Oakland A’s on July 14 before heading down south to Glendale, Ariz., to accompany his little brother, Jake, 21, to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ spring training home, where he signed his first pro contract.

It was a dreamy scenario for parents of aspiring pro ballplayers: On the evening of Sunday, July 9, Jake heard his name called at the end of the second round of the MLB Draft. The next morning, Zack, at that point still playing for Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas, flew home from El Paso to celebrate with his brother during All-Star break. On Wednesday, Zack was informed he would be getting called up to Oakland at which point Jake and his parents made plans to attend the upcoming weekend series against the Minnesota Twins – one in which Zack started at second base and went 4-for-12 with three runs, two RBI, and a pair of stolen bases.

“It was pretty cool to go from wearing Dodgers stuff and supporting him to getting the call and living my dream of being a major leaguer, but then also him being able to share that moment with me,” Zack Gelof reflected when speaking to the Atlanta Jewish Times.

The highly touted Gelof brothers, who will likely be the first pair of Jewish brothers to play in the big leagues since Norm and Larry Sherry were donning Dodger Blue in summer 1959, followed an eerily similar path to joining MLB organizations – both were standouts for the University of Virginia who, following their respective junior seasons, went on to get drafted with the No. 60 overall pick (Zack in 2021, Jake this July).

It’s only a matter of time before Dodgers farmhand Jake Gelof gets called up to join his brother in the big leagues. When that happens, the Gelofs will be the first Jewish brothers to play in the majors since 1959 // Photo Credit: Larrissa Hernandez

This past spring Jake, who was recruited by his big brother to join UVA (they overlapped one season) after undergoing a massive growth spurt and enrolling at IMG Academy, a sports-focused prep school in Florida, became the school’s all-time home run leader (38 career long balls) while establishing himself as one of college baseball’s most lethal sluggers. The Dodgers jumped when he was still around in the late second round before giving him a seven-figure signing bonus.

Though he’s off to a slow start at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga, Jake projects as a power-hitting third baseman who can one day hold down a spot in the heart of Los Angeles’ lineup.

Ironically, Zack, who does not fancy himself as a power hitter, made a splash right away for Oakland by belting 10 homers in his first six weeks of big-league action.

“Definitely a power surge,” said Zack. “I don’t think I will be that type of player at first. I think I’m going to be really athletic, playing in the middle infield, stealing some bases, hitting a lot of doubles, and then if I hit homers, I hit homers. For me, I’m going to be a guy that brings a lot of energy, hits the ball gap to gap, plays good defense, tough out. I feel like that’s the kind of impression I want to leave in this first half of my career.”

Following a four-hit performance in an 8-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals last month, the elder Gelof became the first player in Oakland history to record 20 extra-base hits and score 20 runs through his first 28 career games played. Still, he dismisses the notion that it’s been a seamless transition to the big leagues, something that precious few prospects experience amidst the seemingly never-ending shuttling back and forth from the minors to the majors.

“I wouldn’t say it was an easy transition,” said Zack, who played for Team Israel during the recent World Baseball Classic and, along with Jake, went to Hebrew school while growing up in Rehoboth Beach, where the touristy boardwalk scene flashed in the background. “I’m still going through the ups and downs of baseball, especially lately. I’ve always had confidence in myself, especially this year – what type of player I can be and the person I am.”

The A’s, who will likely be playing in Las Vegas by decade’s end, have had the worst record in baseball this summer and, at their nadir, were threatening to finish behind the 43-win 2003 Detroit Tigers for the worst record in MLB history…all while averaging under 10,000 fans on a nightly basis (league average attendance is more than 25,000 per game). Has playing in games without postseason ramifications in front of sparse crowds helped alleviate the inevitable pressure of joining a big-league team mid-season?

“I think it’s made it harder for me, honestly,” responded Zack, who was quickly promoted to the top of Oakland’s lineup amidst his hot start. “When the emphasis is on winning in the big leagues, it’s not really about individual results. If you’re not winning, it’s tough.”

Albeit in a vastly different context, the word “tough” also conjures up thoughts of the brothers’ late paternal grandparents who passed away when the boys were very young. Their grandfather earned a Purple Heart as a tank commander in the European theater of World War II while their grandmother long served as the president of Dover’s Congregation Beth Sholom.

“I always knew my grandfather and grandmother were just two really tough individuals,” said Zack. “Really just passionate about what they did and very loving.”

And as for Adam and Kelly Gelof, how has it been for them this summer balancing their high-powered careers while traveling around the country to experience what millions of parents can only fantasize about?

“I don’t know,” admitted Zack. “It shocks me every time because they’re always so supportive, following our games even when they’re not here but then ultimately coming out to see our games, too, and then also be successful in their jobs, too. It’s pretty crazy, but nothing but love for them.”

read more: