As players on Jewish Heritage Night: Shine a light

Boasting one Jewish player is rare for a Major League Baseball club. Two Jews? It’s almost as if the general manager would have to be a rabbi.

The Oakland A’s, however, have first baseman Ike Davis and outfielder Sam Fuld. Undoubtedly, the two will have the spotlight on Tuesday, Aug. 4 when the club hosts the Baltimore Orioles on Jewish Heritage Night at Coliseum in Oakland.

Sam Fuld calls Sandy Koufax “a role model”

“Obviously, being of Jewish heritage myself, it’s good to shine the light” on the Jewish community, Davis said of the team’s fifth annual Jewish heritage event. “It’s good to see people get together as a group and come out and enjoy a baseball game together.”

Isaac Benjamin Davis and Samuel Babson Fuld talked about Jewish Heritage Night and growing up Jewish (or “half Jewish”) in interviews at the A’s clubhouse before a recent game.

Formerly with the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates, Davis said Jewish Heritage Night was a huge event in New York. While things are on a smaller scale in Oakland, he’s at least happy the A’s host such an event, as not all teams do.

“Having Jewish Heritage Night is nice to see,” Davis said. “And there might be some people I might be related to. You never know — I could meet my 15th cousin,” he cracked.

Davis said he, “for sure,” heard his name shouted more on Jewish Heritage Night than at regular games while playing for the Mets from 2010 through last year.

“I don’t know about here,” he said. “If they know I’m Jewish, they might yell a little more. It is a lot different on the West Coast than the East Coast.”

Fuld, who is in his second season with the A’s, proudly caught the ceremonial first pitch from former A’s first baseman Mike Epstein at the 2014 Jewish Heritage Game.

Ike Davis says he was bullied for being Jewish when he was a kid in Arizona.

The two-time All-American at Stanford, where he played four seasons and set the school record for runs scored, graduated in 2004 with a degree in economics.

The Jewish athlete Fuld admired as a kid was Sandy Koufax. “He was a role model for many, including myself,” he said.

Growing up in Arizona, Davis admired Shawn Green, arguably the best Jewish player since Koufax. In his career from 1993 to 2007, Green blasted 328 career home runs, second only to Hank Greenberg’s 331 on the all-time Jewish list.

“He was someone I aspired to be like,” Davis said. “Similar body types as skinny lefties. And he had a pretty swing. As far as Jewish athletes, it would be Shawn. He might have been the only one of that generation. I didn’t have a lot to pick from. It’s not like it was a bad option. He was a damn good ballplayer.”

Davis, who now stands a formidable 6-foot-4, was often bullied about his Jewish roots while growing up. “My whole life, for sure,” he said. “The talk would be about going to hell. That was a big one. Or they made fun of my nose. I just got used to it. Mainly teasing. You grow up and learn how to handle things and don’t let the little things affect your life. When you’re a little kid, you don’t understand why they don’t like you. I was like, ‘I’m not mean. Why are you saying that?’ ”

Davis’ mother is Jewish and his father (former major league pitcher Ron Davis) is Baptist. When he was growing up, his family celebrated both Christmas and Hanukkah, though he admitted that he preferred his Christmas gifts to the less-expensive items his mom would buy to cover the eight nights.

“My mom sucked at Hanukkah gifts,” Davis said with a smile. “I blame it on her. She’d give me an inhaler, a pencil, an eraser.”

Fuld, the son of a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, also celebrated both winter holidays as a youth.

“I would get gelt. That would be the extent of our [Hanukkah] gifts,” said Fuld.

Though he stands only 5-foot-8, small by pro ballplayer standards, Fuld was actually taller than most of his classmates — at least until eighth grade. “I was a big Jewish kid with a mustache,” he said. “Then everybody shot by me.”

Fuld and Davis, who came to the A’s last winter in a trade with the Pirates, have become friends this season. “I’ve really enjoyed getting to know him the last few months,” Fuld said.

Fuld said moving around to different teams is “an opportunity to meet a lot of people.” In addition to the A’s, he has played for the Chicago Cubs, Tampa Bay Rays and Minnesota Twins during his eight years in the majors.

“We’re likely to move around quite a bit in this game,” he said. “Those close to you remain close. It’s always in the back of your mind. You’re aware of the possibility you’ll never see somebody again. It’s part of the game. You get used to it.”

Oakland A’s Jewish Heritage Night, 7:05 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4 at Coliseum vs. Baltimore Orioles. $32 special ticket required for souvenir item, food voucher, pregame party admission. At press time, tickets were still available.