Local teen couple makes All-American list


It is simple story: two youngsters in love who also love one of America’s favorite pastimes.

Twenty year-old Greg Schwartz, a sophomore majoring in Sports Management at Maryville University, and nineteen year-old Julie Silver, a sophomore pursuing a degree in Industrial Engineering at University of Missouri in Columbia, are building successful parallel careers in college baseball. The two, who have been dating almost a year, are integral parts of their university teams with Greg serving as a relief pitcher and Julie playing a key role as a batter and outfielder.

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Their twin success has earned them the unique honor of being selected to the All-American Team by the Jewish Sports Review. Schwartz was chosen in baseball and Silver was selected in softball. According to Sheldon Wallman, editor of the Jewish Sports Review, athletes are selected based on their averages and their contributions to the sport. Greg and Julie are the only two Missouri athletes chosen in their respective sports. The selection team of the publication did not know of the relationship between the two. The awarding of the honor is more fitting given the history of the pair.

They have known each other since the third grade when their lives intertwined through worship and the meeting of their families at United Hebrew Congregation.

Their love for baseball is almost as old as they are.

For Greg, it began at four years old, playing catch with his father. Even now, there is a batting cage in his backyard.

“It wasn’t a ‘have to do’ for me,” said Greg in describing his insatiable thirst for the game, “It was a ‘must do, want to do’ every single day. I would go out every day.”

Julie fell hard for the sport in middle school, then full force when she started playing competitively in high school.

“It was around the sixth grade,” she remembered. “I had a couple of friends who were playing and it was just all fun. We just enjoyed it.”

Greg’s now chosen position didn’t manifest itself until high school when his coach pointed out there weren’t really any left-handed catchers and outfielders.

The switch brought the realization he had a pretty good throwing arm, so much so that he made varsity his sophomore year.

Julie racked up the awards as both an athlete and as an academic, including as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Scholar Athlete.

In Greg’s case, his high school coach, who later joined Maryville University’s baseball program and didn’t forget his talent, recruited him to the school.

Julie’s road was very different. Other teammates gained access to elite baseball teams and scholarships but she didn’t.

Despite having the brains and the talent, despite hitting a stratospheric .600 batting average, scouts suddenly went blind. It seemed no one could see past her small stature and open their eyes to the power she packed. She chalked it up to one of the lessons she got from the field –winning and losing is a part of life — except, she didn’t plan to lose this one.

Instead of giving up, she decided to try and make the team as a walk on. Others tried to do the same, but she was the only one who made it.

“She really has taught me never to give up,” Greg explained. “It took a lot of guts to do what she did. She watched everyone else get scholarships and make teams and she didn’t get any of that. She goes from no scholarship and lowest place on the team to a earning a scholarship and being a team player on one of the better teams in the country.”

Julie’s coach concurs.

“She’s my hero,” said Mizzou softball coach Ehren Earleywine. “When she said she wanted to try out and I explained our roster was already full, she said she wanted try anyway. You saw she was the type of person you take notice and now she’s an important piece of our team.”

Greg isn’t the only one to get a message.

“He helps me all the time with my throwing and I try to help him with his batting, but he’s better than me,” she laughed before revealing the essence of their relationship.

“We understand what each other is going through and we are there for each other. He is my biggest fan after a game and I am his,” she said.

She wears a constant reminder every game, a special necklace from Greg honoring her faith and her heritage.

And if you pay attention to Greg’s chosen baseball idol, Minnesota Twins Johan Santana, a man most likely not known to a baseball novice, it shows a window into Greg and Julie’s determination.

“He isn’t the best known, but he’s short like me. He’s only 5’9′. I’m only 5’8. It’s been something for him to overcome to become one of the more dominant players in the sport. You’ve got to do the best with what you’ve got.”

Through their words, it clearly surfaces how they’ve used the lessons taken away from the field to bolster them on and off the field.

“It’s a lot like life,” said Greg. “There may be three guys on base that I didn’t put there, but I have to get us out of it. Sometimes there are messes that you don’t make, but you have to help clean them up.”

“Baseball taught me how to win and how to lose,” explained Julie. “You learn how to get along and understand your teammates. It teaches you a lot of things.”

And both find solace, guidance, and strength within the walls of their congregation depending upon their teachings to lead them.

“The cantor has always been supportive. It’s nice having someone in the temple who understands both parts of my life,” said Julie.

“I’m fortunate the temple is not far from my school so if I feel disconnected at school I don’t have far to go. I hope I’ve taught my teammates to understand more about the Jewish faith. If they are willing to learn, I am willing to teach,” replied Greg.

In particular, Julie, who is the only Jewish person on her team, has found her teammates to be very supportive, so much so they stopped having a team prayer when they realized it made her uncomfortable.

“I didn’t participate in the team prayer. The first time they were on the field having prayer I was in the dugout. They even offered to change the language to say Lord instead. They respect me with my religion and I respect them with theirs.”

Greg and Julie agree what they share together within their sports make for a better personal team.

“It’s been an easy relationship and it just came together. We’ve always been good support for each other in athletics and school.”

Wallman made one prediction of this team that carries some pretty good odds:

“If they ever have kids, they should have base/softball talent,” he quipped.