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Israel’s baseball team brings together American players of Jewish heritage | CPT PPP Coverage

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Israel’s baseball team brings together American players of Jewish heritage appeared on by Religion Unplugged.

NEW YORK — While spring training is underway in Florida and Arizona, many of baseball’s biggest stars and prospects are playing in the World Baseball Classic. It’s a chance for fans of international competition to enjoy watching teams like the United States, Japan and the Dominican Republic fight for global supremacy.

Modeled after soccer’s World Cup and organized in large measure as a response to the International Olympic Committee’s decision in 2005 to remove baseball from the Summer Olympics, the World Baseball Classic is contested every three years. The 2021 edition was scrapped because of the pandemic. The WBC returned this month with 20 teams that includes Israel.

Team Israel is made up largely of Americans of Jewish heritage since WBC rules state that any player eligible to be a citizen of a country is entitled to play for that nation’s baseball team even if the player has not obtained citizenship. The team is coached by Ian Kinsler, who played in the majors for 14 seasons as a member of the Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres. He won the 2018 World Series as a member of the Red Sox.

READ: Sports, Passion And How North American Team Games Connect To Religion

Israel’s Law of Return gives anyone with a Jewish parent or grandparent — or anyone who is married to a Jew — the right to be an Israeli citizen. In 2017, the team finished sixth, a remarkable feat that earned them the nickname of the “Jamaican bobsled team of the WBC.” A 2019 documentary called “Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel” detailed that amazing run.

Israel’s roster at the current edition of the WBC includes 34 players and all but one holds a U.S. passport. There are nine players who spent at least a little time in the big leagues last season, including two-time All-Star Joc Pederson of the San Francisco Giants.

But two players stand out on this Israel team — and not just for their playing abilities. Both players represent the diversity of Judaism on this team and what it means to be an Israeli. The country’s national baseball federation has a motto — “where traditions meet” — and that couldn’t be truer with this team.

In addition to an ace like Pederson on the mound, Israel also featured hurler Jason Steinmetz. A native of Long Island just outside New York City, the 19-year-old pitcher is famous for his fastball and for being and the first Orthodox Jew to be drafted into Major League Baseball. He’s yet to play in the majors, but has pitched in the Arizona Complex League with the Arizona Diamondbacks organization.

Although Israel lost 10-0 to the Dominican Republic on Tuesday night in Pool D, Steinmetz struck out three batters, including six-time All-Star Manny Machado and Jeremy Pena, the 2022 World Series MVP. He gave up just two hits and a run before a loud crowd at Miami’s Loan Depot Park.

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