Team USA

The 18 players and two coaches of Team USA were practicing in the early morning heat of Tel Aviv, and took a few moments out of their hectic Maccabiah schedule to talk to us ahead of the Maccabiah Baseball Tournament.

The heat wave that struck Israel in early July did little to stop the excitement of the members of the Team USA baseball team, fresh off the plane for the Maccabiah Baseball Tournament. At an early morning practice at the Sportek in Tel Aviv, they shrugged off the sweltering heat and some of them were even quick to point out that the previous day, in even more brutal temperatures, they had toured Masada and the Dead Sea, two of the hottest spots in the country. In addition to the sizzling South, the team had also toured Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem, and were loving every minute of it. AugustBiben
“I love being here,” said 16-year-old catcher-pitcher August Conner Biben from New York, (pictured left) who is in Israel for the third time. “I love this country for the idea for which it stands, and for the food! I also love playing baseball so the opportunity to experience my identity as a Jew and a baseball player wasn’t one I could pass up.”

“This is a great group of young men who have bonded in a very short time,” says head coach Eric Holtz, also from New York. “They are respectful and love learning about Israel as they mix their two loves – Israel and baseball.” Eric also coached Team USA at the 2013 Maccabiah, and is a great friend of Israel Baseball.

“Everyone here is Jewish,” adds Mark Abramovitz, 18, from New Jersey (pictured right taking batting practice), who plays catcher and plans on attending Princeton University next year where he’s thinking of studying engineering and playing baseball. “I’ve been told that the opening ceremony of the Maccabiah will be the first time in my life that 40,000 people will love me because I’m Jewish.” MarkAbramovitz

For Coach Eric, it’s not just the opening ceremony he’s looking forward to. “This team has been two years in the making, from tryouts to first pitch, and I’m looking forward to the competition getting started and getting the guys in the field. I’m also looking forward to the Senior National Team trip,” he says, a nod to the fact that he will be staying on in Israel after the games to coach the Israel Senior National Team that will be playing in the European Championships B Pool in late July in Belgrade, Serbia. “I am already figuring out pitch rotations and line ups in my head, and getting scouting reports,” he says of his next gig as a Team Israel coach.

Eric was a playing in the short-lived Israel Baseball League, where he met Daniel Kaufman, who he recently brought on as his assistant coach for Team USA. Atlanta-based Daniel coaches at the local JCC and this is his first Maccabiah experience. Asked about the team, he keeps his cards close to his chest. “We’ll be OK,” is all he’ll say about the team that’s won every Maccabiah baseball tournament since baseball was introduced to the games in 2005. What he will say though is, “we want to leave here with people saying that Team USA is good people.”

What is certain is that they will be part of an outstanding baseball tournament, along with Team Israel and Team Canada.

Game 1 will be played on Wednesday, July 5 at 11:00 at the Baptist Village in Petah Tikvah when Team USA will take on Team Canada.
The rest of the schedule:
July 6, 10:00 Israel @ Canada
July 9 11:00 USA @ Israel
July 10 11:00 Canada @ Israel
July 12 11:00 Israel @ USA
July 13 11:00 USA @ Canada
July 14 11:00 Championship Game

All games are played at the Baptist Village in Petah Tikvah. Entrance is free. Come and support your team.

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