Israeli Home Run
Team of 10-12 year-olds winning games in
European Baseball Championships. Even if they reach finals, they'll have to
forfeit because of Shabbat. Meet the Israeli little league
In mid-July the eighteen
children who make up the Israeli National Baseball team flew to the Czech
Republic to compete in the European Baseball Championships. After arriving at
the airport at 3 am and yawning through a two-hour bus ride, the 10-12 year-olds
took on the Slovakian team and won, 3- 0.
"We forced them to
play our game," said the team's proud manager, Zaq Harrison. "There
were no errors. No mistakes. It was just amazing."
To prepare for the
championships, the team participated in The Camp of the Giants, a two week
baseball festival located in the Yarkon Sports Complex and on Kibbutz Gezer.
The camp's staff included two ex-major league American baseball players, Elliot
Maddox and Bob Tufts.
"If we make the
finals we won't play them," Harrison said two days into the championships,
"because they're on Shabbat, and we're representatives of our country. We
teach the kids to be respectful. We tell them, if you want to play for your
country, you're an ambassador for your country all over the world."
And although Harrison
does not know how many of his players come from religious families, it does not
matter to him: "We don't want to set the example that only some kids can
In order to
represent Israel, not only do kids have to be the best of
the best ball players in the country. It is also essential that they are
socially active and have strong morals.
is such a special group of kids," Harrison said. "If one of them gets
hurt, they all rush to help."
The team recently
learned about the 11 Israeli athletes who were murdered during the Munich
Massacre at the 1972 Olympics. They decided to take action when they realized
that Wikipedia, the internet encyclopedia that is constantly being edited by
its readers, only included biographies of the two most famous victims.
They took on the
responsibility of updating the encyclopedia themselves to ensure that the other
athletes were not forgotten. Each child was assigned one of the athletes as a
role. They used the information that they had collected about their heroes to
add biographies of the other nine players to the website.
Olympics Committee was so blown away," Harrison said, "that they
approached us about participating in this year's memorial ceremony, in order to
acknowledge the importance of keeping their memories alive. They were very
Baseball? In Israel?
Baseball is not a
traditionally popular sport in Israel, but Harrison says that its rise in
recent years has significantly helped young North American immigrants to adjust
to life in Israel. About half of the players on The Israeli National Baseball
Team are immigrants.
who makes an aliyah from North America is doing it because of beliefs and
philosophies," Harrison said, "but when you ask a ten year old, they
don't care about beliefs and philosophies because they're ten. They're making
if you give them a sport that they're familiar with and you give them the
opportunity to make friends with Sabras, it gives them something to latch on