Mike Rothenberg hit 24 home runs during his Duke career.
Mike Rothenberg hit 24 home runs during his Duke career. (Duke University)

Mike Rothenberg is a 6-foot-3, 215-pound switch-hitting catcher from Boca Raton, Fla., who just finished his senior season at Duke University.

Mike Rothenberg would love to add his name to a lengthy list that includes Hank Greenberg, Joe Ginsburg, Brad Ausmus, Gabe Kapler and Ian Kinsler.

The list is Jewish ballplayers who played for the Detroit Tigers.

Mike Rothenberg
Mike Rothenberg Duke University

Rothenberg took his first step toward joining the list July 13 when he was selected by the Tigers in the 12th round of the annual Major League Baseball Draft.

The 345th pick overall, he was taken on the third and final day of the draft.

Rothenberg is a 6-foot-3, 215-pound switch-hitting catcher from Boca Raton, Fla., who just finished his senior season at Duke University.

“I’m proud to be a Jewish ballplayer, and I’ve always appreciated the support I’ve gotten from the Jewish community,” he said.

Rothenberg headed to the Tigers’ complex in Lakeland, Fla., after he was drafted. He’ll probably be joining the Lakeland Flying Tigers, the organization’s Low-Class A affiliate.

Rothenberg said he was in communication with the Tigers prior to the draft and attended the organization’s pre-draft camp July 9 in Lakeland, so he wasn’t surprised the Tigers selected him.

There haven’t been many switch-hitting catchers in the major leagues. A recent survey listed only 82 among more than 1,650 major-league catchers in history.

Rothenberg, 22, said he began switch-hitting when he was 9 or 10 years old on a recommendation from his hitting coach.

“I’m a natural right-handed batter. I struggled batting left-handed when I was 10, 11 and 12, but I stuck with being a switch hitter and it’s worked for me,” he said.

The 2020 college baseball season was canceled by the NCAA because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rothenberg used the unexpected time off to modify and hone his catching skills.

Duke catcher Mike Rothenberg tags out a Boston College runner during a game this spring.
Duke catcher Mike Rothenberg tags out a Boston College runner during a game this spring. Duke Uni

“I switched from the traditional catching style of two feet down to the new age style of catching on one knee,” he said. “The new age style is beneficial for a tall catcher like me. It makes it easier to block low pitches.”

Rothenberg has been a catcher throughout his baseball life. He likes the cerebral part of the position.

“I enjoy the chess match with each opposing batter, calling pitches and the sequence of pitches,” he said.

The Tigers drafted Rothenberg after taking another catcher — Josh Crouch from the University of Central Florida — in the previous round. It wasn’t a coincidence.

“You always need catching and we’ve had our eye on those guys (Rothenberg and Crouch) for a while,” Scott Pleis, the Tigers’ top amateur scout, told the Detroit News.

“Rothenberg has good size and arm strength. He was a little up and down offensively this past season (at Duke), but we saw in the past how he swings,” Pleis said. “Both guys (Rothenberg and Crouch) are interesting. If they uptick a bit, they’ll turn themselves into good players.”

Rothenberg had a great career at Duke, where he appeared in 166 games in four seasons, starting 157.

The Blue Devils achieved unprecedented success with him behind the plate, playing the NCAA tournament three straight times (2018, 2019 and 2021), making the super regional round twice (2018, 2019) and winning their first ACC championship (2021).

Rothenberg had a career .266 batting average at Duke with 24 home runs (13th in program history), 128 RBIs (17th in program history) and a .479 slugging percentage (24th in program history). He was hit by a pitch 36 times (fourth in program history).

A star off the diamond, he was named an Academic All-American in 2020.

He graduated from Duke with a bachelor’s degree in political science, but he said he hopes to be a baseball executive after his playing career is over.

Before going to Duke, Rothenberg set the school record for career home runs (19) at Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where he was an honor roll student.

Rothenberg is the son of Mark and Susannah Rothenberg. He has an older brother, Matt, and a younger sister, Arielle.

Matt Rothenberg played baseball at Harvard University from 2015-18. The 6-2, 195-pound right-handed hitting second baseman, third baseman and left fielder batted .307 in 128 games for the Crimson over four seasons with five homers and 53 RBIs.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard and is now the national trade marketing manager for Anheuser-Busch’s Michelob Ultra brand. He works in New York City.

Mike Rothenberg was part of a historic MLB draft for Jewish ballplayers.

Observant Orthodox Jews were selected for the first time since the draft began in 1965.

The Arizona Diamondbacks drafted 6-5, 220-pound pitcher Jacob Steinmetz, 17, from Woodmere, N.Y., and the Washington Nationals picked catcher Elie Kligman, 18, from Las Vegas, Nev. 

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