Ra'anana Field Dedicated in the Name of Ezra Schwartz, Z"L
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.
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.