As head coach of the Israel Senior National Team, in the run-up to the qualifying tournaments for the 2020 Olympics Games in Tokyo, Eric Holtz has a lot of work ahead of him getting the team ready for one of the greatest challenges any Israeli baseball team has faced. He’s not daunted. The White Plains, New York native takes it in his stride. He’s currently on a visit to Israel where he is coaching the National Team.
Eric led the Senior National Team to a second-place finish in the 2017 B Pool of the European Championships in Serbia. Now, with the addition of 14 new olim from the US, and a higher level of local baseball in Israel, he’s looking to move the team further ahead with a win in the B-Pool in July, and a high placing in the A-Pool in September, which will earn Team Israel a spot in the Olympic Qualifiers.
He’s clear on how Team Israel will make it to the Olympic Games. “I don't want to sound cliché, but our pitchers need to dominate on the mound, we have to defend the ball, and score runs in bunches,” he notes. “The game doesn't change ever, only the level of play in the speed of the game that changes.”
His deep connection to Israel goes back many years. He was bar mitzvahed in 1978 at the Western Wall. He played in the now defunct Israel Baseball League (IBL) in 2007 as a 41-year-old rookie player/coach. Six years later, he was back as the coach of the 2013 Team USA Maccabiah baseball team. His current position as head coach of the Senior National Team has created an even deeper bond with Israel Baseball, one he juggles with his full-time job as owner and operator of the Game on 13 baseball academy in New York. “It gives me an incredible sense of pride to be involved with both the board of the Israel Association of Baseball and the fine young men that I have the opportunity to work with as well as coach,” he enthuses. “I am thrilled to keep roots in Israel through baseball and help build the sport that I love so very much, and I am very optimistic.”
On arriving in Israel, Eric was ready to get to work. “I look forward to being able to work with some of the up-and-coming, aspiring baseball players during my time in Israel,” he says. His focus will not only be on the Senior National Team while he’s in Israel. “In addition to seeing, scouting and evaluating the players for the Senior National Team and I am also truly looking forward to working with the younger teams to see what the future holds for the 12, 14, 16, and 18 and under national teams as well.”
He has already proven himself to be an inspirational coach and mentor to scores of Israeli baseball players. His sage advice to them: “Work hard to challenge yourself every day. If things are coming too easily, then you have to make your workouts harder play against better competition and figure out what you can do to get better every day. This is not only about aspiring baseball players, but this is about life and my approach and outlook on life. If you aren’t getting better, then your competition is. I've got a wake up every day and figure out what I can do to get myself better which in turn helps my team get better. Don't rest, figure out how to push yourself one aspect of your life every day. Get bigger, stronger, faster. Spend time in the gym. Ask questions of your coaches, go onto YouTube and see what else you can be doing to get better.”
Once the Olympic effort is over, Eric will continue being a valuable member of the Israel Baseball family. “I am incredibly excited that the IAB has already requested that I stay on and try and help develop the game way after the Olympics is over,” he notes. “I'm looking forward to an incredibly bright future.”