Jews and Baseball
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Jews and Baseball

Baseball is about respect. It is about dealing with failure and getting dirty. Can’t be much more Jewish than that

Nate Fish is the Head National Team Coach for the the Israel Association of Baseball.
Nate Fish is the Head National Team Coach for the the Israel Association of Baseball.

Chris Rock recently started a controversy when he said African-Americans no longer care about baseball, and that baseball no longer cares about them. Rock, whose comments appeared in a segment for HBO’s Real Sports, finished his monologue by saying blacks do not need baseball, but that baseball needs blacks

I love Chris Rock. He’s said a lot of things I agree with. But not this time.

First, Major League Baseball has made an extraordinary effort to promote baseball in traditionally black communities in America through its RBI program and Urban Youth Academies. More notably, though, Rock failed to notice baseball is not only becoming less black, it is also becoming less white. Accurately stated, baseball is becoming less American. In 2015, roughly 30 percent of Major League Baseball players were not born in the United States. The game is becoming less popular in America, and more popular around the world.

Nate Fish is the Head National Team Coach for the the Israel Association of Baseball.
Nate Fish is the Head National Team Coach for the the Israel Association of Baseball.

Rock is correct about one thing though: Baseball does not care about blacks. Owners of Major League teams made more money last year than ever before, despite the empty seats I see every time I turn on a game. Baseball does not need blacks. It does not need whites. It does not need any of us. It’s the other way around. We need baseball.

Nate Fish is the Head National Team Coach for the IAB of the Israel Association of Baseball.

Baseball is an alternative to basketball, American football, and soccer. These are all great games, no doubt, but when I attend Hapoel Tel Aviv games at Bloomfield Stadium in Jaffa, I am distracted by the way the players behave and can’t enjoy the game. As a baseball player and coach, I focus mostly on their shoulder shrugging and flopping about. Baseball is not about that. Baseball is about respect. It is about dealing with failure and getting dirty. It’s a sport that has a different set of principles than the other major sports. There is no room for excessive celebration in baseball when the best players in the world — those with a .300 batting average — still fail to get a hit seven out of ten times. It is a sport that demands self-control and discipline. It is self-policing. And respect is something we could all use an additional dose of — the African-American community, the white community, here in Israel, and this entire generation of athletes.

Next year, the Israel Association of Baseball will begin a program to bring groups of American baseball players to Israel as part of the new Masa Israel Sports Initiative. They will coach youth teams around the country and play in the IAB’s Premier League.

As the person who will be responsible for overseeing the baseball operations of the program, I wonder what the American players will be like. If they have a sense of entitlement, it will be beaten out of them, as they used to say, by Israel and by the charms of international baseball. They will sleep on smaller beds than the ones back home and play on one of only four teams in the Premier League. There will be few fans but plenty of bad hops. The umps will miss calls. They will go from the groomed college baseball fields of America to the somewhat bumpier surfaces of Israel, a transition I have made as well. They will take long, hot bus rides across the country to join their teams for practices and games. Israel is like baseball in this way; it’s a hard game. But sometimes that is where good things happen — when you’re young, adventurous, and a little bit uncomfortable.

The players who come on the program, called the Israel Baseball Experience, will learn how good it feels to receive free gear and tell people they’re athletes, but they will also learn how good it feels to sacrifice a little and serve others, and to lead by example. And as they try to teach Israel about a game that is all about respect, Israel will be glad to return the favor.

Learn more about our new baseball program by visiting Athletics.MasaIsrael.org and submit your application to play ball in Israel!

Masa Israel is a proud beneficiary of the Jewish Agency for Israel.

Learn more about our new baseball program by visiting Athletics.MasaIsrael.org and submit your application to play ball in Israel!