Considered one of the greatest defensemen in Johns Hopkins University lacrosse history, Mark Greenberg will come full circle at Martin’s West on Nov. 8 with his induction into the Maryland State Athletic Hall of Fame.
It’s a tight circle, he says.
“My whole life has been within a 15- to 20-minute drive,” says Greenberg, 60, a four-time All-American who led the Blue Jays to national championships his last three seasons in 1978, ’79 and ’80. “I was born and grew up in Pikesville. Then I went to Hopkins, which was 15, 20 minutes away. Afterward, I moved a few miles from Hopkins. Then when I got married, we moved to Owings Mills.”
The announcement of Greenberg’s induction was made this morning, Aug. 28, at a Hall of Fame press conference at the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum in Baltimore.
A 1976 Pikesville High School graduate who missed his senior season of lacrosse after breaking his wrist playing for Pikesville’s basketball team in the state playoffs, Greenberg made a name for himself outside the Baltimore area with Hopkins.
Anchoring the team to 11-2, 13-1, 13-0, and 14-1 seasons, he won the William C. Schmeisser Award as the nation’s outstanding defender in 1979 and 1980, and was the first defenseman to capture the Lt. Raymond Enners Award as the nation’s outstanding lacrosse player in 1979.
A physical defender assigned to shut down the opponent’s leading scorer, Greenberg — at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds — says he also dispelled a common myth. “I think there is a stereotype of a Jewish man who’s short and frail,” he says, “and I did not fit that characteristic at all.”
He points out the Hopkins lacrosse record book is full of Jews from the Baltimore area, including former team captains Gary Handleman and Jerry Schnydman.
“There were Jewish All-Americans that played at Maryland, that played at Hopkins, and played throughout Division III schools as well as Division I schools,” he says. “There have been a lot of great Jewish lacrosse players.”
Now, Greenberg — who garnered All-World honors in leading the United States to win the 1982 World Championships and was part of the NCAA’s 25th anniversary team in 1996 — is assisting the next generation of Jewish players to make their mark through Israel Lacrosse.
In 2011, Greenberg helped found the program that brought lacrosse to the Middle East. He served as an assistant coach for Israel’s entry in the 2012 European Lacrosse Championships and the Israel National Team in 2014.
He was proud to be on hand July 11-21 when the 2018 Federation of International Lacrosse World Championships were held in the Israeli town of Netanya, the first site where English is not the native language. Some 48 countries from six continents competed for global supremacy.
“For years, we’ve recruited Jewish lacrosse players from here to move to Israel and teach the game and grow the game,” says Greenberg, who is still on the Israel Lacrosse board. “This culminated in hosting the recent World Games, which many say were the best ever. Israel being the host country allowed people to see for themselves that it is a safe and modern country with state-of-the-art technology, along with the history that forms many religions today. Having people experience sites like Yad Vashem [Israel’s Holocaust museum and memorial] and walking in the places our faiths are based on was emotional and transformative.”
Greenberg will follow his Hall of Fame ceremony in November with his induction into the Jewish Sports Heritage Association next April in New York.
“It’s great to have those accolades but when you’re playing, the only thing you want to do is win championships,” says Greenberg, who played in four NCAA finals, winning three. “My freshman year, they handed me a letter after the championship game before we got on the bus, and I didn’t open it. Somebody later asked, ‘Did you get a letter?’ I said, ‘Yeah, didn’t everybody?’ They said, ‘No, those were the All-American letters.’ I only focused on the loss.”
Now, in addition to Israel Lacrosse, his focus is on the mortgage banking business he started in 1986, Equity Mortgage, and his family — his wife of 35 years, Saralee, their son, Sam, a financial advisor, and daughter, Rabbi Ariel Greenberg Platt.
Rabbi Platt teaches classes at Krieger Schechter Day School and other organizations as a Jewish Connection coordinator. A public speaker, she demonstrated her oratorical skills at a young age. At 12, she spoke at her dad’s National Lacrosse Hall of Fame induction in 1998.
“She said ‘Dad, I need to go up there and talk,’” Greenberg recalls. “I said, ‘Well, first of all, how many 12-year olds want to get in front of a crowd of a thousand people at a black-tie event?’ But she would not be denied. People still tell me they remember that.
“She’s a sermonizer now, and she does it in front of crowds all day,” Greenberg says proudly with a laugh, “but at 12 years old, at that time, who would’ve known?”
Greenberg says the Hall of Fame induction will be quite meaningful to him. “Being recognized across all the sports is a pretty special thing for me,” he says. “It’s holding me in a whole different category, not just as a lacrosse player. This state has had great basketball players, football players, swimmers — you know every sport there is. To be put into that category, it’s pretty neat.”
The Maryland State Athletic Hall of Fame will induct Mark Greenberg on Nov. 8, at Martin’s West. Doors open at 6 p.m. For tickets, visit mdsahof.com.
Chris Zang is a Baltimore-based freelance writer and copy editor for Jmore.