When you’re a beat reporter, it’s crucial to have encyclopedic knowledge of each and every player on the team you cover. In my case, that’s the Washington Nationals. But it’s just as important, if not more, to have in-depth intel on your team’s most hated rival. For me, that’d be the New York Mets.
With that in mind, I decided it was high time to familiarize myself with young lefty Steven Matz. After all, he’s a highly touted rookie and it’s my journalistic duty. Not to mention, we have the same weird last name.
According to the website forebears.io, “Matz” is the 30,312th most common name in the world. Growing up, the only time I ever met anyone who shared my last name was at our annual Passover seder, where approximately 100 Matzes would eat matzo. So imagine my astonishment when Steven Matz first got called up.
Were we related? Was he Jewish? Did people constantly mispronounce his last name as though it were a popular brand of apple juice?
I recently caught up with Steven Matz -- the pitcher, not my first cousin once removed who’s a well-known Baltimore orthopedist -- to find out just how much we have in common. Ya know, besides an extremely rare last name.
His first question upon meeting me: "Are you Jewish?"
Me: "Yeah, why -- you’re not, are you?" (Sidebar: Jews tend to keep a running tab on which pro athletes are and are not Jewish, and my diligence had indicated that he was not a member of the tribe.)
Him: "I’m not, but it’s always the first question people ask when they meet me."
Me: "Really? Why?"
Him: "Because I’m from Long Island and it sounds like Katz."
Having confirmed that this Matz was not a matzo-eater, I carried on with the rest of the interview, interrogating him with a series of hard-hitting questions. Again, because it’s my journalistic duty. Here’s the tale of the tape.