Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Teaneck native Joey Goffstein, 17, who is currently heading into his senior year at YUHSB, has loved baseball since he was two years old. His father often relates a story that in 1998, during the famous “Home Run Chase” between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, two year old Joey – often only wearing a diaper – would stand with his face glued to the TV set (almost literally), while holding a giant Mark McGwire bat and would bang it on the ground every time McGwire or Sosa appeared on TV. His father thought he looked like “Bam-Bam” from the Flintstones cartoon.

Joey nurtured his love of the game and realized at a young age the best way to access baseball on a professional level was through minor league and independent baseball. As he got older, he began attending baseball games more frequently, both major league and minor league. The Newark Bears, a formerly Atlantic League (now Can-Am League) Independent team, was a team Joey first saw play with his family, and then with his school. After that, Newark became a place where Joey found himself spending more and more time as he loved the easy access one could have to the players, some of whom had played major league baseball. Before long Joey offered his services to the team and was thrilled when he was offered a job as a bat-boy while still in elementary school.  Now five seasons later, Joey is the head bat-boy and assistant clubhouse manager. Working for the Newark Bears has provided Joey with great enjoyment, as well as knowledge of the sport only known to insiders. He continues to cultivate his passion for baseball and is considering a career in sports management. This may perhaps include working in professional baseball one day in a management capacity.

At the recent Jewish Heritage Night at Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium, Joey could be seen helping out kids with autographs –and even getting official baseballs for them.  He is admired by fans, umpires, players and management alike. While Joey maintains relationships with current players both on Newark and other teams in the league, he has spent off days in the summer visiting former players and was recently in Wilmington, DE to see his old friend and ex-Bears player, Paddy Matera, now playing for the Carolina MudCats - a minor league affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. Although Joey has looked up to many players and coaches, including former Major League player Ron Karkovice who developed a teacher-student like relationship with Joey, his true mentor is a former third round MLB draft pick Anthony Pluta who took in Joey as a little brother and taught him priceless life lessons both on and off the field. Joey is also known to have a close relationship to ex-Bears manager Tim Raines, a former major league all-star and potential Hall of Fame candidate.

Joey has always displayed his Judaism proudly and represents the Jewish community well as a Bears employee. Once he had one of his Rebbeim – Rabbi Aharon Ciment of Cong. Arzei Darom in Teaneck- give a pre-game spiritual pep talk to the players, which was received warmly. Joey relates how he has taught many of the players about Judaism, some of whom come from other countries and even other parts of this country where they may never have met an Orthodox Jew before. In addition to his official job with the Bears, he has become the unofficial “go to guy” when it comes to outreach in the Jewish community.

It is clear that this job has been much more than a job for Joey, it has given him the opportunity to learn about baseball, but also be a source of Kiddush Hashem to all those who interact with him.  We at JLBC wish Joey the best, whether his future takes him through professional baseball or some other path. We know he will make his community proud and be successful, regardless of what he ends up doing!

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