Robinson Cano, second baseman for the Seattle Mariners, paid a surprise visit to our Enrichment Program practice during a short private family visit to Israel.
Robinson arrived at the Baptist Village Field in Petah Tikvah where nearly 100 players ages 9-17, who had no idea he was coming, welcomed him warmly. Wearing an Israel Baseball hoodie, he gave the players an inspirational talk. He recalled his early beginnings in Dominican Republic, and his hard slog to get to the top. “It’s a lot of hard work and dedication, but the best thing is to listen to your parents and your coaches - they are always right,” he advised.
He was impressed by the size and extent of Israel Baseball. “I hope that all of you make it to the big leagues,” he told the players. “Before I came here, I thought maybe there would be about 200 people playing baseball, so it’s great to see all of you here,” he said, hinting at the nearly 1,000 players in Israel today. “I was also very impressed with Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic this year.”
Robinson boasts a significant list of achievements in his 12-year major league baseball career that began with his debut with the New York Yankees in 2005 at age 22. He has been an eight-time All Star, was the 2017 All Star MVP, won the Home Run Derby in 2016, is a two-time Gold Glove and five-time Silver Slugger winner, was MVP in the Dominican Republic's 2013 World Baseball Classic championship winning team, and he was a member of 2009 World Series championship team.
After chatting with the players, Robinson, along with his father, Jose, who pitched for the Houston Astros in 1989, his younger brother Joselito, a pitcher in the Mariner’s organization’s Everett AquaSox, and cousin, Burt Reynolds, an outfielder for the Mariners’ Clinton Lumber Kings, took batting practice on the field. After they all put up an impressive performance, Robinson requested to see some of our players batting skills. Assaf Lowengart, a member of the Israel Baseball Senior National Team, who had hit an impressive home run the previous week during the Premier League championship game for the Ra’anana Raiders, impressed the visitors with a strong performance, topped by a final effort that sent the ball over the fence. Next up, Noam Calisar, also a member of the Israel Baseball Senior National Team, put one over the fence as well.
Senior National Team member Alon Leichman, who is the Coordinator of Organizational Learning for the Seattle Mariners' player development program, was home in Israel for a visit and was on hand to throw BP for the Cano family.
When he first arrived, Robinson promised to be with us for up to half an hour, but over an hour later, he was still happily signing autographs for every player and smiling for a barrage of selfies. He and his family left after spending nearly an hour and a half with us. Immediately after leaving, he posted video clips of his visit to the practice on his Instagram page, and sources close to the family report that he had a great time with the players.