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April 17, 2015     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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PAGE 12A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, APRIL 17, 2015 exec says Hillel Kuttler Joel Mael, seen at Marlins Park in Miami, sees long-term success for his club with its new money philosophy. By Hillel Kuttler MIAMI (JTA)--For Joel Mael, the Shabbat-observing vice chairman of the Miami Marlins, the team's free spend- ing in the offseason was wise from a financial perspective. Signing Giancarlo Stan- ton, 25, to a record 13-year, $325 million contract and fellow outfielder Christian Yelich, 23, to a seven-year, nearly $50 million deal were parts of a plan to retain the club's budding talent and vault the club into playoff contention while saving money down the line. But this was the Marlins, who had a track record of dumping high-salaried play- ers or those about to reap riches. The Stanton contract stunned the Major League Baseball community. The. Marlins' offseason also included hefty contract offers to such young stars- in-the-making as pitcher Jose Fernandez, 22, outfielderMar- cell Ozuna, 24, and infielder Adeiny Hechavarria, 25. "We assembled a group that we think has real all- star talent on it, and the way salaries have been going and the Way the market has been going, some of these numbers will get even higher as you go down the road," Mael said dur- ing an offseason interview in the spacious office he shares at Marlins Park with team president David Samson, "We're willing to take the risk of buying them out of a couple of years of free agency and their arbitration years." Mael, 57, is neither a lifer in the game nor a raw finance- industry professional recruit- ed for the sport's analytics revolution. He brings a Wall Street sensibility as a partner in two investment companies anda career in the junk bond business. The Marlins' new philosophy involved input throughout the franchise, he said, "primarily the baseball department." HELP WANTED EXPERIENCED ELECTRICAL SERVICE TECHNICIAN 10Yrs. Min.Exp. 10Yrs.Customer Service Oriented Clean Drivers License Must Know Greater Orlando Area Great Communication/Handwriting Skills Great Pay (3) Immediate Hires Fax: Resume:407-298-7126 or call 407-298-1412 Mael spoke while visiting Miami, which he gets to twice monthly, staying in hotels, which he prefers to having a second home here. He lives with his family in suburban New York City and serves as deputy mayor of Lawrence, a neighborhood on Long Island in the heavily Jewish cluster known as the Five Towns. Mael is an active member of the Young Israel of Lawrence synagogue, and his four chil- dren graduated from a local Jewish school. Shabbat observance kept Mael from attending the 2009 groundbreaking for Marlins By Beth Kissileff (JTA)--On April 1, Naomi Firestone-Teeter became ex- ecutive director of the Jewish Book Council, which pro- motes the reading, writing, publishing and distribution of English-language Jew- ish books. Firestone-Teeter, whose predecessor Carolyn Hessel has been called "the Jewish Oprah" for her success at promoting books, has been working her way up in the organization since graduat- ing from Emory University in 2006, serving most recently as its associate director. JTA recently caught up by email with the 31-year-old exec. The Park and from watching key games on television over the years. Nor will he walk to games, at home or on the road, from nearby hotels doing so "is not in the spirit" of Shab- bat, he said. "Since I've been [Shabbat observant] my whole life, I don't find it a challenge at all," the Boston-raised Mael said. "It's a red line I don't cross." Last summer, his passion for bicycle riding--Mad es- timates logging 3,000 miles in 2014--included a 185-mile overnight trek from New Jersey to the Pennsylvania camp of Chai Lifeline, a Jew- ish organization that assists seriously ill children. He raised $41,888 in the charity ride in which more than 300 bicyclists participated. That effort--his daughter had worked at the camp and the Marlins' charitable efforts, Mael said, are "something we need to do" as Jews and as involved citizens. "He's a solid community guy, with a good reputa- tion-and he has a World Series ring and I don't," remarked Stuart Mehl, a neighbor who rides occa- sionally with Mael. On this day, Mael wasn't wearing that Marlins' 2003 World Series championship ring, earned soon after Jeffrey Loria bought the team and brought Mael with him from Montreal, whose Expos Loria had owned. But Mael enjoyed discussing his team's quest for additional jewelry. With Fernandez, the Na- interview has been condensed and edited. What interested you in this kind of work? I studied literature in col- lege, a passion of mine from as early as I can remember, so the importance of both having literature in my own life as i moved forward, and helping to cultivate that in- terest in others has been one of my key drivers. In academic environments, reading and literature area natural part of the culture, but beyond these institutions it often requires effort to both keep upwith one's reading and also create situations in which one can engage with others about what they' e reading. On the Jewish side, I grew up in a family that took Judaism very seriously andwas surrounded (literally, wall to wall in some rooms) by both Jewish and secular texts. I know that you have done a great deal with using the Web and social media to create a presence for Jewish books. How does the Internet affect reading habits? I think the Internet is a very exciting place for the literary community and has created many new paths for discovery for readers and many new opportunities for authors to find their readers. Essentially, in away, it mirrors what has always existed-- mega-sites servitlg a similar function as big-box stores that sell books and smaller, literary Sites serving a role that's similar to independent tional League's 2013 Rookie of the Year who made just eight starts in 2014 before suffering an elbow injury re- quiring Tommy John surgery thatwill sideline him into this season, "what you're risking you're making up with the [character] of this kid," said Mael, speaking admiringly of Fernandez's escape from his native Cuba. "The kid is just a very, very special person," he remarked. As to locking up Stanton, runner-up in the N.L.'s 2014 Most Valuable Player Award voting, Mael said, "We needed to gain credibility back in the market. He is going to be the main piece we are putting into place, and then we're going to sign around him." Following the Marlins' championships in 1997 and 2003, though, the organi- zation unloaded their best, high-salaried players. Fans were miffed, and the lower attendance accentuated a self-fulfilling prophecy of Florida not being a baseball region. Then, within months of its 2012 move to the new, publicly funded Marlins Park, Miami did it again, jettisoning stars like shortstop Jose Reyes and starting pitcher Mark Buehrle. Butyoungsters like Hecha- varria, obtained from Toronto in the Reyes-Buehrle trade, have returned the team to respectability. Despite open- ing this season with two losses--the opener attracted a sellout crowd, and that was followed the next night by a bookstores (with both usually working in tandem with their physical counterpart). But it has expanded opportunities across the board. People have more access to authors and more opportunities to en- gage with others about their ideas--even if they're not geographically in the same area--including publishers. What literary sites do you recommend? For all things Jewish and literary, obviously everyone should be using Jewish Book Council's online resources, but for more general literary resources, some of my favorite sites include Electric Lit- erature, PEN American Cen- ter, Largehearted Boy, One Story, MobyLives! and Words Without Borders, among others! Who are your favorite Jew- ish authors? My list is constantly chang- ing, and I work with so many incredible authors, that this is truly an impossible question to answer! I can say, though, that in the current crop of writers, I'm very excited about the most recent batch of Sami Rohr Prize winners and final- ists: Ayelet Tsabari, Kenneth Bonert, Molly Antopol, Boris Fishman and Yelena Akhtior- skaya. And of course, I'm over the moon about the nine au- thors who are participating in JBC's literary series Unpack- ing the Book: Jewish Writers in Conversation. You can find all of their names here. Do you have time to keep up with all the required reading, Passover at the Park promo- tion featuring a pregame per- formance by the Maccabeats a cappella band--the Marlins now appear ready to contend. Last year they finished second in the N.L. East with a 77-85 record, 15 wins more than in 2013. The Marlins' latest rebuild- ing plan is "brilliant," veteran baseball journalist Mel An- tonen said. "They potentially have one of the best teams in the National League," Antonen said. "I think there should be renewed excitement in southern Florida because it's fun to watch a young team grow." Mael sees things similarly. The off-season moves were "a financial decision as [much as] a credibility decision," he said, adding that signing up-and-comers to long-term deals carries risk, but could be "much more economic" over time. With that, Mad led avisitor downstairs. The late-after- noon sun shone through an open roof and onto grass being irrigated by sprinklers. Mael lifted the cover of an enormous tank near home plate and peeked at the swimming fish. He ducked into the dugout, strolled past an indoorbatting cage and arrived in the Mar- lins' clubhouse. Mael turned on the lights, darkness giving way to empty lockers whose occupants could soon fill the room with more victory cheers than the Marlins have recently known. and do you have time to read any non-Jewish authors? It's definitely difficult to keep up, as I'm also in two book clubs, both of which started about a year after college and are still going strong. I do the best I can though and always have a towering stack of books at my bedside, much to my husband's chagrin! I don't have time to read books by non- Jewish authors, but I make time! I think it's important for me both personally and professionally to be in tune with what's happening in the literary scene in general aswell as filling in classics, Jewish and non-Jewish, along the way. What Jewish literary trends have you been noticing lately? One of the most obvious trends has been the influence of immigrants. Both as Ameri- cans and as Jews, we are a nation of immigrants and this is represented in our litera- ture. We're also seeing more about great works by Jewish authors from around the world that have been trans- lated into English, and new publishers that are devoted to bringing these works to the United States. And in conjunc- tion with these trends, we're seeing more books that reflect the experience of Jews in English-speaking places like South Africa, England and Australia. All of these works create a greater understand- ing of the breadth and variety within the Jewish experience as well as the links and tradi- tions that connect Jews across the world.