Strike 3 Foundation

The Strike 3 Foundation heightens awareness, mobilizes support, and raises funding for childhood cancer research.

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Athletics’ Craig Breslow Pitches in to Battle Childhood Cancer

NEW YORK — Craig Breslow pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings Wednesday night for Oakland at Yankee Stadium but he compiled a more impressive statistic a few hours earlier.

"We raised about $12,000," Breslow said before the Yankees beat the Athletics, 4-3. "It’s pretty unique to offer a fundraiser on the road at a visiting stadium. To put the Yankee name on anything kind of drives up interest."

Breslow sponsored a luncheon in a Stadium steakhouse for his Strike 3 Foundation to battle cancer in children. His older sister overcame it when she was young and Breslow still entertains thoughts of medical school. To stage a charity event in a rival’s stadium before a game is unusual but Breslow is hardly a stereotypical athlete.

A Yale graduate with a single degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry, Breslow is, among other things, the archetypal "Moneyball" player sought by A’s general manager, Billy Beane.

Breslow was undervalued by other teams and got away from Milwaukee, San Diego, Boston, Cleveland and Minnesota. He paid dues in the minor leagues. But the 30-year-old lefthander who works out of the bullpen is having his second consecutive good season in Oakland.

Opponents are batting .202 against him, the lowest individual mark on an A’s staff which is, as a group, best in the American League in earned run average at 3.55. Breslow’s 61 appearances lead his team.

He read "Moneyball" and said his college background "kind of fits the billing" outlined in the book for the A’s type of pitcher. "I don’t walk a lot of guys," he said, "and I’m affordable, too."

The last comment came with a smile. Breslow’s salary of $425,000 barely exceeds baseball’s minimum of $400,000.

"I guess the basis of ‘Moneyball’ — and, really any business philosophy — is to kind of find market inefficiencies and kind of take advantage of them," Breslow said.

Breslow said the security of his Yale degree allowed him comfort while struggling. He did not worry, he said, in the manner of an 18-year-old prospect with only a high-school background.

"I was not playing baseball because my life depended on it," he said. "I had some viable contingency plans."

Someone put a picture of Albert Einstein on Breslow’s locker and teammates razz him about being "The Smartest Man in Baseball." But Breslow said he has learned not to think too much.

"Less is more," Breslow said. "I get myself in trouble when I’m overly analytical. I’m most effective when I can kind of dumb down baseball. Just change speeds, move the ball around the plate and get guys out."

Breslow said his comfortable, middle-class background in Fairfield County, Conn., sheltered him but that Yale prepared him for baseball’s multi-cultural blend.

At college, he said he encountered "different sets of beliefs, different religions, different nationalities, different cultures. I was exposed to ultra-conservatism and ultra-libertarianism and to foreign students who had English as a third or fourth language. It was eye-opening."

Breslow’s ethnicity and culture also draw notice. As one of baseball’s few Jewish players, he gets asked if he would refuse to play on Jewish holidays like Rosh Hashanah, which starts Wednesday evening.

He has never asked for the day off, Breslow said. "Obviously, Sandy Koufax was in a position where he was the elite player in his period and he could definitely create a statement by not playing," Breslow said, adding that he did not fear repercussions if he were to sit out.

"It would be accepted," he said, "but Craig Breslow’s not Sandy Koufax. If I was the best player in the game right now — and I know the argument is that it shouldn’t matter, right? — but it’s a lot easier for Sandy Koufax to sit out a game than it would be for me."

Breslow was born 14 years after Koufax retired but Breslow said the left-handed Hall-of-Famer from the Dodgers is "definitely my favorite player."

For a long time, Breslow and his family tried to get a Koufax autograph.

"Years and years and years," Breslow said. "We had to back-channel and network and go through contacts and, ultimately, my prized memorabilia piece is a personalized autographed photo of Sandy that says ‘To Craig, Best Wishes.’"

Breslow is gaining a few fans of his own among his peers. One is Joba Chamberlain, the Yankees’ relief pitcher, who donated some memorabilia for Breslow’s auction and asked what else he could do.

Why not come to the luncheon? Chamberlain was told. So he went.

"Craig’s tremendous," Chamberlain said. "Sometimes, baseball players get a skewed perspective of being intelligent or not. Craig kind of exudes smartness."

By Joe Lapointe

September 2, 2010 · Reprinted from © 2010

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The Strike 3 Foundation heightens awareness, mobilizes support, and raises funding for childhood cancer research.

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