Raanana Field 1

A group of Team Israel Olympians were on site for the dedication of the new Ezra Schwartz Z"L Baseball to be built in Ra'anana. The Mayor of Ra'anana, Chaim Broide, Team Israel General Manager Peter Kurz, Team Israel Head Coach Eric Holtz, members of the Ra'anana Field committee Yoav Schwartz, David Levy, Mel Levi and Ruby Schechter, and other were on site for the dedication ceremony. The field will be built behind the Amphi in Park Ra'anana. The artificial turf facility will be multi-purpose and used for both baseball and soccer. Dugouts, batting cage, scoreboard and lighting are included in the plans. The field, being built in partnership with the Ra'anana Municipality, is slated to be available for use in the Fall of 2020. JNF-USA through Project Baseball is also a sponsor, through their initiative that gives the children of Israel an opportunity to learn life lessons while building lasting friendships.

The field is dedicated to the memory of Ezra Schwartz Z"L, who was killed in a terror attack in 2015 while on a program in Israel after he had finished high school in the US. His uncle, Yoav Schwartz, a coach in Ra'anana and a member of the field building committee, read a moving speech that Ezra's father Ari, Yoav's brother, sent for the ceremony. Please read the text of the speech below.

The IAB is honored to be able to be part of memoralizing the life of Ezra Schwartz Z"L, who was an avid baseball player and had planned on joining the league in Israel before he was tragically murdered. May his memory be a blessing to all of us. 

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Dear Friends and Family,

Welcome to the Ezra Schwartz Baseball Field!

Before I tell you a little about Ezra, the schwartz family wanted to thank the Israel Association of Baseball, The city of Raanana, and Mayor Chaim Broide, and especially Yoav, my brother for spearheading this project along and my mother Heni Schwartz for her fundraising efforts.

I also wanted to acknowledge the presence of one of our baseball players, Jeremy Bleich, who our family has become close to over the past year back in Massachusetts.

In less than a year, we will have a beautiful baseball field named after Ezra Schwartz. Who was Ezra? Ezra was killed in a terrorist attack in Israel on Nov 19th 2015. He was 18. He was not a martyr. He was not a soldier. He was just a boy… A boy who loved baseball… A boy who loved being in Israel for the year with his friends before he was to start college at Rutgers University in the fall. His life came to an end but his passion and love for the game will live on in this field. Nothing is more fitting as a memorial than a baseball field named for Ezra.

Nothing made Ezra happier than being on a baseball field. I can’t imagine Ezra’s life without baseball and I can’t imagine growing up and not having a field to play on.

Now these boys and girls In Israel will have that. This field is a gift from Ezra to all the kids who will laugh and scream after a big win. This field is a gift so kids can pitch and catch and run and hit for many years to come. This field feels like Ezra is sharing his passion with all those kids who will create memories here that they will never forget.

Ezra used to struggle in school. He would misbehave, he would forget to do his homework, he would often get himself in trouble and he had a hard time concentrating on his school work. But,….when he was on the baseball field it was like he put on his Superman uniform. He was a star in little league. He transformed himself. He would listen and focus and be respectful to his coaches.

I loved watching him be proud of himself. His team won the championship in 4th, 5th and 6th grades and he talked about those teams and those playoff wins all the time. Ezra loved to come home after big games and we would sit around talking about the game, the great plays and the errors, the kids who overachieved, and the great kids who would struggle under pressure.

Ezra’s passion for the game continued into high school. In his senior year at Maimonides school, a division four team in Massachusettes, he had a fabulous year. He hit .457 with an OBP of. 590. In 14 games he had 29 runs and 28 RBI’s. With 61 Plate appearances, he had 2 strikeouts. But one thing stood out through his whole life as a baseball player. He rarely blamed others or badmouthed teammates for errors or bad play. It was not because he was an inherently calm person. He was particularly hard on himself and was utterly unable to control himself when it came to a Yankee or Patriot loss. But when teammates made errors he just genuinely felt bad for them and didn’t want them to feel bad about themselves.

I was always so proud of his attitude. He had a great “team first” attitude. In high school his coach asked him to play outfield despite being an infielder. He did it without a thought because that is what the team needed. In his senior year he was switched to shortstop when they were struggling at that position. He so rarely made errors in games. He just had that knack. That year he made only 4 errors at a position when you might see 2 or 3 by a shortstop in one game.

Baseball taught him a lot. It taught him not only self-confidence and pride but also how to fail and that it’s OK to fail. It taught him that, hard work matters - that practice matters. It taught him to cheer for your teammates and listen to your coaches. He became a great teacher and passed on what he learned not only to his teammates and brothers but also to me. I became a better coach and better father by learning from Ezra.

I may be a better coach because of Ezra and I may be a better father because of all the things I learned from Ezra but I am a father in pain. It hurts every day and every moment and it hurts that Ezra can’t be here to see his brothers succeed on the baseball field. He would be so proud. He would be proud to watch his cousins play on this field. He would be out on the field with me day after day helping to make his brothers better but terrorism has taken Ezra’s beautiful spirit from us - that beautiful face that would light up as he ran out to his spot on the diamond.

But, terrorism can take a life but it cant break the spirit of the Jewish people and it cant break the spirit of Ezra’s family, his schools Maimonides and Striar Hebrew Academy, his camp Yavneh, his Yeshiva Ashreinu, and his friends and it can’t break the spirit of the this beautiful country of Israel. So how do we respond to such an unspeakable tragedy? We stand back up and we build a field. We build a field together and we honor and celebrate Ezra’s life.

This will not be a field of dreams like in the movies. I will never be able to have a catch with my son again.

But so many dads and hopefully a lot of moms will be out here having a catch with their kids and everyone who has worked on this field will look on with pride and happiness and knowledge that we have overcome evil by creating something beautiful.

Thank You
Ari Schwartz

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://www.baseball.org.il/news-blogs/news#sigProId20567f8ffe

Yaniv Rosenfeld

Meet Yaniv Rosenfeld, who recently took on the role of the Israel Association of Baseball’s Operations Manager.

Age: 35

Hometown: Misgav in northern Israel. His parents made Aliyah in 1982 from Baltimore

Position: Short stop, 2B

What is your baseball history?

I started playing from the age of  8 on Moshav Shorashim where there was an American garin. I played on myfirst baseball national team at 11. I traveled to Prague with the team in 1995, to one of the first tournaments in Czech Republic after the fall of the Soviet Union and communism. I played in junior world softball championships in Australia, and played in three Maccabi Games for Israel Softball, as well as two junior European Championships and four adult European Championships. I established the Misgav Baseball club in 2013. 

Your Baseball Highlights 

Getting a Misgav team into the Premier League of the IAB. Another major highlight was building a field in Misgav, which was a huge achievement.

The biggest challenge

Our biggest challenge is that we’re the lowest on the Israel sports totem pole with the least amount of political power. Being in the Olympics is a great way to get us on the map. We need to increase our numbers, and we have to work on setting up more and better quality programs throughout the country.

The Misgav Baseball Program

The baseball program in Misgav started in 2013 when we started our own non-profit. We became part of the Misgav sports system, where we were a top to bottom program but wanted to become a bottom up program – we had started with an adult team but now we are working from minors upward. We now have over 200 registered members in Misgav. We have 20 baseball and softball teams, with 130 players in baseball and 70 in softball. Our oldest player is 77 and the youngest is six-years-old. Our players have to be brave and respect the sport because they have to work hard to be players here – my players take 1.5 hours to get from Misgav to games in the Baptist Village and 2.5 hours to get to Gezer.

What is unique to Israeli baseball?

The players appreciate the simplicity of baseball in Israel. There are no fancy fields or fancy uniforms. They play in spite of not have major facilities, sponsors, equipment, etc., and have no winter facilities.

You vision for Israel Baseball

My medium term goals are to have 3 leagues  for every age group in the north, south and national, from U12s till adults. Our national teams should be in the A Pools in Europe from U15 to adults. In the long term I’d like to see a baseball club in every city in Israel with a baseball field in every club.

Favorite MLB team and player

The Boston Red Sox; my favorite player is Justin Pedroia because he reminds me of myself. For me it’s all about baseball in Israel. The MLB is something to look up to. But baseball is one of the best educational sports out there, and I try to put a big emphasis on baseball and education more than baseball and professional sports.

Ophir Katz 2015

Ophir Katz took on the role of Head National Team Coach at the start of the baseball year. A few facts about Ophir...

Age: 32

Home town: Tel Aviv

Position: Catcher

What is your baseball history?
I started playing at the age of 10 in Tel Aviv. At 12, I was selected for the U12 national team. When I was in the army I was a Sportsman (Sportai) and when I was released from the army I traveled to California to study and play for Cyprus Community College. In 2006, I joined the Senior National Team for the first time, and I played on that team until 2019. Over the years I have coached various teams in various countries.

What have been your baseball highlights?
Almost every summer, to travel to some hole in the wall town in Europe (because for some reason European baseball fields don’t seem to be located in large cities), and to spend a week there as if nothing else exists in the world besides the next game and the people around me.

What are the main challenges facing baseball in Israel?
I think that the biggest difficulty we have is to make baseball accessible to the local population, in order to grow significantly. In order to achieve this, we have to adapt the game to the environment of soccer fields and basketball courts.

What is your vision for Israel baseball?
I would like to see major growth among the 6-10 age group and have them play8ing on a weekly basis throughout Israel. We would like to have local leagues in every town and regional leagues on a higher level. The growth of younger players will lead to the creation of a higher quality program for the older players. And I believe that our national teams will be able to place in the middle of the European rankings.

Your favorite MLB team?
The Pittsburgh Pirates

PeterKurz 2016

The Israel Association Baseball (IAB) has announced that effective immediately, Peter Kurz will step down from his role as President of the Board of Directors of the IAB in order to focus fully on his role as General Manager of Team Israel ahead of the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. Jordy Alter, who is Vice President of the IAB replaces Kurz until the next elections for office holders is held in 2021.

Kurz elected to step down because of the intense demands facing him as Team Israel General Manager in the run-up to the Olympic Games. Team Israel secured a place in the 2020 Olympic Games when the team won the Europe/Africa Qualifier in Italy in September.

“Peter dedicated himself to making the vision of sending a baseball team from Israel to the Olympic Games in 2020 a reality, and achieved what most would not believe possible,” says Alter, the incoming IAB President. “The task of Team Israel General Manager in the coming months will be immense and we respect the decision that Peter has made to place his full focus on this crucial role, and hopefully bring home the gold. His contributions to Israel Baseball over the past years have been innumerable, and he will continue to play a major role in his new position.”

“It has been my honor to have served over the past six years as President of the IAB,” says Kurz. “As president, I was able to expand Israel Baseball into the global arena, reaching number six in the world at the World Baseball Classic in 2017 and now, earning a place at the 2020 Olympic Games, which have been great accomplishments. I now look forward to fully investing my time and energy in ensuring that Israel is represented at the Tokyo Olympics by the best and most well-prepared baseball team possible.”Jordy Alter 2

Baseball Plus E

Introducing Baseball Plus for Juveniles and Cadets, starting  Wednesday, November 6 at the Baptist Village from 18:00-20:00.

Baseball Plus offers registered members of the IAB an additional practice a week with the top coaches in Israel, an excellent way for them to raise their level of play.

All levels welcome.

The program will run through February 2020.

Cost: 750 shekels 

Registration and payment on our website under "Baseball Plus"

Don’t miss out on this great new program launched for the Israel Baseball Olympic year

Please Note: Baseball Plus is NOT part of the national team program.

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