Israel’s National Baseball Team Aims to Inspire Next Generation of Athletes
by Shiryn Ghermezian
Members of Israel’s national baseball team, which on Sunday won the qualifying tournament for the 2017 World Baseball Classic (WBC) in Brooklyn, NY, said their aim is to inspire the next generation of athletes around the world.
“We all come here for a common goal,” ex-Mets player Ike Davis told the New York Post. “[We want] young kids in Israel to start picking up a bat and a ball and getting out in the field playing, so we can spread the greatest sport on earth to other countries.”
Former San Diego Padres player Cody Decker said there was a 30 percent increase in baseball participation in Israel when his team, which represents the Jewish state in international competitions, competed last time in the WBC, even though it did not win the tournament. He added, “If we keep playing the way we’re supposed to and the way we can, who knows what that number will rise to?”
Only a few of the players on Israel’s 28-person team have ever been to the Jewish state, and all but two of the athletes are Jewish-Americans, according to the New York Post. The WBC allows athletes to compete on behalf of countries in which they qualify to be a citizen. Anyone who either meets the criteria for Israel’s Law of Return (Jews or those with a Jewish parent or grandparent), or someone whose spouse does, is eligible to compete in the tournament as a member of the Israeli team.
Team Israel’s 9-1 win on Sunday night against Great Britain advanced them straight to the WBC, which will begin in South Korea in March. The Jewish state is the final team to compete in the WBC, along with Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, Korea, Kingdom of the Netherlands, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the United States and Venezuela.
Israel’s national baseball team consists of 19 players with experience in the major or minor leagues, including former Boston Red Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway; ex-Mets player Josh Satin; former Chicago Cubs pitcher Jason Marquis; and Craig Breslow, ex-pitcher for the San Diego Padres. Dean Kremer, who recently became the first Israeli to be drafted by an MLB team, is also on the roster and former MLB manager Jerry Narron is helping to coach the players, according to the website FromtheGrapevine.com.
Satin, who retired from the MLB in June, said that throughout his entire career with the Mets, he and David were the only Jews on the team. He explained that it made him feel “special,” particularly in New York, because its a “very Jewish city.” Satin, 31, added, “I was a two-year utility player. … I didn’t do that much on the field, but the city gravitated towards me and I felt like it was because of that.”
He explained: “I’d see Jewish kids on the street that’d come up and say hi to me. I’m like, ‘How do you recognize me? I play once a month.’ But that had a big part of it. I always embraced it because for me growing up there weren’t many Jewish baseball heroes. So if I could help a kid want to play because of that, I was all for it.”