Team Israel begins its WBC Tournament in Seoul, South Korea on March 6, facing the Netherlands, Korea and Taipei. We spoke to pitcher, Dylan Axelrod, 31, of Miami Marlins’ New Orleans Zephyrs, about being on Team Israel.
Tell us about yourself
I was born and raised in Santa Barbara, California and attended Santa Barbara High School, Santa Barbara Community College and then went on to UC Irvine.
What are your personal baseball highlights?
My favorite baseball moments must be playing in the College World Series with UC Irvine in 2007; my first career MLB start where I pitched very well for the White Sox in Chicago against the first place Detroit Tigers in front of my family; and having the opportunity to start games and pitch well in Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park.
What defines you as a baseball player?
My will to succeed defines me as a baseball player. I have no great physical gifts. I have tried to create the best version of myself possible on the field through lots of training, treating my body right, and a quest for knowledge. I like the Japanese philosophy Kaizen, which means constant daily improvement. I try to live my life in that mindset.
How do you feel about representing Israel at the WBC?
I feel very blessed for this opportunity. I am also happy that I can represent and honor my grandfather, Sol, who passed away before I was born.
What do you think is Team Israel’s main advantage?
This roster is really talented. We have a good mix of MLB veteran experience and young talent. I think we are an under-the-radar team that can do some damage in this tournament and we have a great baseball mind in Jerry Weinstein leading us.
What connection do you have with Israel?
My Grandfather was Jewish and that allowed me to play. I have never visited Israel but it is certainly on my bucket list.
What are you most looking forward to playing for Team Israel and being at the WBC?
I am most excited for the competition. I think it’s always a special thing when you can represent your family and play and bond with your teammates based on heritage.
What do you feel you bring to the table?
Being one of the older guys on the team, I feel I will bring some experience. Hopefully I can perform well on the field and provide some leadership as well.
How do you rate the chances of Team Israel in the tournament?
I think this team is underrated. We have some very good and proven players and some young guys that are hungry as well. Anything can happen in these tournaments and I like our chances of making a run in the tournament.