Peter Kurz

Original Article Published On The JNS

Israeli-American pitcher Dean Kremer, 25, took to the mound in an Orioles-Yankees game that ended with a 7-2 win for the home team. Still, he now holds a place in the record books.

Baltimore Orioles pitcher Dean Kremer holds the distinction of being the only Israeli to pitch at “The House That Ruth Built.”

After Tuesday night’s start against the Yankees in New York City, he reported that “pitching at Yankee Stadium felt pretty good. This time, it was better because there were fans. It was definitely an experience.”

After giving up a leadoff single to DJ LeMahieu, Kremer—the 25-year-old Israeli-American starting pitcher for Baltimore Orioles—was just as quickly knocked off the mound by an Aaron Judge line drive, which Yankees’ radio announcer John Sterling described as a “bullet up the middle” that “drilled him.” Announcer Suzyn Waldman observed that Kremer was “wincing.”

While Orioles manager Brandon Hyde and the team trainer were assessing Kremer’s ability to continue, Waldman shared the young player’s biography, which includes having two Israeli parents who served in the Israel Defense Forces, his spending summers in Israel and his having a history of pitching for Israel’s National Team. Waldman noted Kremer’s impressive record against the Yankees last year when he was called up by the Orioles at the end of the season.

“He had two terrific games against the Yankees,” said Hyde. In those two appearances, Kremer pitched 11 innings, gave up two runs and had 14 strikeouts.

Kremer’s impressive first season earned him a spot in this year’s starting rotation for the Orioles. He struck out seven batters in six innings pitched in his Major League debut last season at Camden Yards in Baltimore. He had 22 strikeouts in 18 innings, while also giving up 12 walks.

Dean Kremer speaking to the media after his start at Yankee Stadium. Source: Screenshot.

After Tuesday night’s scare, which Kremer reported “luckily got me in the meat and not in a bad spot,” he got back on his feet. “It got tight at first, then loosened. I just kept going.”

He struck out the next three batters and threw a total of 80 pitches before leaving with the Orioles trailing 1-0 in the fourth inning. Kremer gave up four walks, five hits and five strikeouts. The Yankees held on to win 7-2 behind starter Gerrit Cole’s 13 strikeouts in seven scoreless innings.

‘Being the first to do something is an incredible honor’

Born and raised in Stockton, Calif., Kremer pitched for the Team USA baseball team in the 2013 Maccabiah Games in Israel, winning a gold medal. In 2014 and 2015, he pitched for Israel in the qualifying rounds for the European Baseball Championship. Also in 2015, he became the first Israeli drafted by a Major League Baseball team; he was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 38th round but chose not to sign.

He was drafted again by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 14th round of the 2016 MLB draft. He pitched in September 2016 in the qualifier for Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic. The Dodgers traded him to the Orioles in 2018, where he led all Minor League pitchers in strikeouts.

Oon the mound for the Baltimore Orioles. Credit: Courtesy of Baltimore Orioles.

Cody Decker, who played for the San Diego Padres and various other Major League teams (mostly with Minor League affiliates) as well as for Team Israel, and is known for bringing the team’s mascot, “The Mensch on the Bench,” from the United States to Asia for the World Baseball Classic, is proud of his Team Israel teammate. “Dean is a great kid with a live arm and bright future—and when he grows it out, he has GREAT hair!”

Kremer is proud of his Team Israel experience and of being the first Israeli citizen in the MLB. “It means everything to me,” he said. “Just being the first to do something is an incredible honor.”

He noted that he values his time with Team Israel. “Being around those guys—the guys on the team were much older or a few years older—with Big League experience helped me get to where I am now. It was a pretty unbelievable experience.”

Peter Kurz, Israel Association of Baseball (IAB) President and general manager of Team Israel, loved having Kremer on the team and is “very excited to have Dean open up the season against the Yankees.”

Kurz, whose Team Israel is preparing for this July’s Tokyo Olympics (rescheduled from 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic) added that “Dean is on Team Israel’s extended roster, but as a 26-man roster MLB player, he will not be eligible to play for us in the Olympics. We want to wish him the best of luck in the upcoming season and his career.”

Hyde said he is proud of his starter and sees great potential in the young player. “He pitched well and battled through. He threw a lot of pitches and ran out of gas in the fourth inning.”

Still, he said he is pleased that Kremer has four pitches, and admires his “starter mentality and toughness” and feels he “will continue to improve.”

Announcer Sterling pointed out that Kremer’s Yankee Stadium pitching debut took place on the same day in Yankees history when Jewish baseball player Ron Blomberg became the first designated hitter for MLB. On April 6, 1973, at Boston’s Fenway Park, Blomberg was walked by Red Sox pitcher Luis Tiant with the bases loaded in the first inning. The bat he used now stands on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Baltimore Orioles Israeli-American pitcher Dean Kremer. Credit: Johnny Douglas/Baltimore Orioles.
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Original Article Published On The Jewish News Syndicate

The baseball 12-and-under set is preparing to compete for the Unity Cup in March, featuring Israel, the United Arab Emirates and potentially teams from other Gulf states.

In America’s Northeast, where the snow continues to fall, spring and baseball seem like distant dreams. But in Israel, spring is in full bloom, and baseball season is already underway. The dedicated members of the 12-and-under National Team of Israel are hard at work on the fields at Baptist Village in Petach Tikvah. They are preparing for the “Field of Peace” baseball tournament in March, which will feature Israel, the United Arab Emirates and potentially teams from other Gulf states.

Competing for the Unity Cup, players will begin their series of games March 21-25 at none other than the Dubai Little League Park next to Al Quoz Pond Park. The teams will meet again in Tel Aviv in the fall of 2021.

Baseball has come a long way since team manager Louie Miller made aliyah with his family in 1998 at age 14. His parents hoped to share their love of baseball with youth in Israel. They somehow came to Israel with five children in tow, all of their possessions and managed to donate bats, catchers’ gear and other baseball equipment they had secured from the JCC Little League in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Miller played on the JCC travel team in Pittsburgh as a boy and continued to play as a teen in Israel. “There were no great options for high school baseball,” notes Miller, who also worked as a volunteer coach. “After the army, there were no options to become a coach and make a living. Everyone had a day job and coached on Fridays.”

Yaniv Rosenfeld, Israel Association of Baseball’s (IAB) Operations Manager, helped change that.

Rosenfeld, who lives in Misgav in the Galilee and established the Misgav Baseball club in 2013, was looking to change the image of baseball in Israel and to create opportunities for young Israelis to make a living in baseball. Now, Miller playfully reports, “I am one of the first people in Israel who makes a living by coaching baseball!” The trained social worker moved up north five years ago to start a youth program. They started with 35 participants and have grown to 225. It is Miller’s seventh year coaching the under-12 team.

The members of the 12-and-under National Team of Israel. Source: Screenshot.

‘The next generation of Israeli baseball’

While the team managed to travel to Italy last summer, this has been a quiet year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Then, Jordy Alter, the IAB vice president and Peter Kurz, IAB president and general manager of Team Israel, had an idea—organize a tournament with a team in the UAE, thanks in part to the recently signed Abraham Accords.

Miller notes, “I jumped at the opportunity to go to a place where only a few months ago we couldn’t go.”

Kurz adds that “this is the IAB’s own contribution to co-existence with our neighbors. We began reaching out to the Israeli-Arab population with our program, ‘Baseball for All,’ and now with the ‘Field of Peace’ tournament, we are reaching out to our surrounding neighbors. We hope this competition will become a regional one, with Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and others taking part as well, and we look forward to hosting our partners in Israel in the fall.”

Dubai Little League president Roger Duthie and his IAB counterpart, Jordy Alter, said in a joint statement: “We are excited to enter a new era of cooperation between our organizations and countries. We strive together to develop the game of baseball in Israel and Dubai as a basis for peace and cooperation between our countries. We see this as a major step forward in both areas and are excited to jointly hold the first team sports tournament between our countries. We hope these games lead to further regional cooperation.”

The players are similarly elated about the upcoming trip. Miller says “they are excited just to play ball. They understand that it is glamorous—that the field and facilities are amazing and the Little League program there is top-notch.”

Dubai Little League has more than 400 kids playing baseball and softball in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Founded in 1998, Dubai Little League has seven divisions ranging from ages 4 to 18.

As part of the expansion of baseball activities in Israel, the IAB is building new fields and looks forward to the completion of the new Bet Shemesh complex, which will host international tournaments, as well as the Ra’anana field, which will be a joint baseball-soccer facility, both slated for 2021.

Miller can’t be happier. “We are seeing the next generation of Israeli baseball,” he states.

Proof of this is the fact that more than 60 kids tried out for the national team, which Miller calls “unprecedented.” While the majority are still new olim or children of American immigrants, Miller reports that they are now seeing native-born Israelis playing as well.

“In my opinion, the main goal of under-12 baseball is to have these kids who often haven’t seen high-level baseball experience what top level baseball is like and turn them in to ballplayers,” he explains. “This is exactly what the tournament will do for these 28 players—our largest delegation ever. These are the ones who will want to become ball players and stick with it!”

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