2019 was a good year for Jews playing in Major League Baseball.
Joc Pederson, a young outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers, cracked 36 home runs and posted a career high batting average; Alex Bregman, already a World Series winner with the Houston Astros, finished second in AL MVP voting. Even aging Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun had a bit of a renaissance.
Chaim Bloom, however, might have them all beat.
On Oct. 25, Bloom, 36, was hired as the new chief baseball officer of the Boston Red Sox, who hired him away from the Tampa Bay Rays. Bloom will leave one of the quietest MLB towns for one of the brightest spotlights in baseball, where playoff success is expected, and not even a guarantor of a content fan base. But for Bloom, a Philadelphia native, it’s an amazing opportunity to keep doing what he loves most: trying to put together a winning baseball team.
“I spent the last 15 years working for a great organization and now to join another one is a real privilege,” he said. “The culture here, from top to bottom, is special. People care about each other and they’re in this together to win more championships for our incredible fans. When you add the culture inside the organization to the passion of Red Sox Nation, that makes for a very exciting combination.”
Bloom is the son of Benjamin Bloom, an eye doctor, and Esther Stern-Bloom, a retired French and Hebrew teacher. Just as he would go on to join the Tampa Bay Devil Rays before the team’s name change, he attended Solomon Schechter Day School and Akiba Hebrew Academy prior to their adjustments.
Wendy Smith, principal of the Stern Center, remembers Bloom from his days at Solomon Schechter. She said he was a strong student, and friendly, who came back to speak to students in 2008 when his Rays took on the Phillies in the World Series. Bloom, she said, was “the kind of the kid that it’s not shocking to any of us, or surprising to any of us, that he’s found such success so early in life.”
Rita Schuman, an English teacher at Akiba (now the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy), remembers Bloom’s love of baseball, among other qualities.
“He was super smart, very philosophical and a respectful human being. He had a quiet wit I enjoyed as well,” she said.
“The Jewish values I was raised with, and the mandate to impact the world and the people around me positively, are really important to how I approach my job,” Bloom said of his Jewish education and upbringing. “I’m sure that I am far from perfect in how I apply them, but I try every day to do that well.”
Even back then, he nurtured a love for baseball. “I can’t remember exactly when it started,” Bloom said, “but I know that I’ve been passionate about baseball from a young age.” At the time, however, it was not apparent to young Bloom that there was a way into Major League Baseball besides playing the game. And, well…
“My playing ability made it perfectly clear that if I was going to make a living in baseball, it would not be on the field,” he said.
He attended Yale University and studied classics, still figuring out what he wanted to do. But as he started to learn more about the dynamic, challenging work of baseball teams’ front offices, he became further convinced that baseball would be his path. He graduated from Yale and went to work as an intern for the San Diego Padres in 2004; the following year, he was hired by the Rays as an intern, where he was eventually hired full-time. When General Manager Andrew Friedman (also Jewish) left for the Dodgers in 2014, Bloom, who had been steadily moving up the ranks, was promoted to vice president of baseball operations.
Along the way, the Rays, with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, have found a significant measure of success using analytics. They were early in the current trend of increased shifts, and were at the forefront of the “opener” phenomenon, where teams will let a reliever begin the game, rather than just hand the ball over to a starter. They’ve won at least 90 games two years in a row, and made the playoffs this year, falling to the Astros, the eventual pennant winners.
Though a focus on analytics may mark a front office member as bloodless, or somehow less connected to the game, Bloom doesn’t see it that way at all.
“While I do think math can help us with new insights about the game, my passion for baseball has nothing to do with math and everything to do with how wonderful the game is, and how rewarding it can be to work together with great people to accomplish amazing things,” he said.
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