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September 17, 2014 / 22 Elul, 5774
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Ump Says Boy Can’t Play Ball With Tzitzit; Team Walks Off Field

Little Leaguer has to choose between team uniform, "God uniform".

Little League player steadies himself. (illustrative photo only)

Little League player steadies himself. (illustrative photo only)
Photo Credit: WikiMedia Commons

For most nine-year-olds, a choice between playing Little League baseball and honoring a religious commandment would be an easy one to make: Mitzvot might be nice, and all, but when there’s a game on the line… well, you know. Not for Yossi, of Fountain Hills, Ariz. When an umpire told him he couldn’t take his turn at bat recently, he calmly tried to explain that the “illegal uniform” was a religious garment mandated by the Torah called tzitzit. The umpire, however, was unmoved, and ordered Yossi to remove the tzitzit for fear that “it could produce some type of interference or unfair advantage.” According to COL Live, Yossi –the only Jewish boy, not just on the team, but in the entire league– respectfully but assuredly walked off the field. In addition, Yossi’s team also volunteered to forfeit the game in solidarity with Yossi. Eventually, following a lengthy on-field meeting between the coaches and the umpire, Yossi was allowed to play, “double uniforms” and all. COL Live offered four lessons to be gleaned from Yossi:

  1. Tzitzit is a sign of Jewish pride.
  2. Religious tolerance means to refrain from discriminating against others who follow a different religious path.
  3. The freedom of individuals to believe in, practice, and promote their religion of choice without interference, harassment, or other repercussions shall always prevail.
  4. Ignorance and religious intolerance is still prevalent. The correct way to combat it is to wear “Jewish uniforms” – kippot, tzitzit – with pride.

The website also said that “self-assertion often demands a lot of humility. Doing something out of the ordinary requires putting our image on the line. It means that I care more about my truth than what other people think about me. This is self-esteem that is rooted in soul-consciousness.” It also cited a lesson from The Lubavitcher Rebbe about the relationship between the Torah and the value of humility.

“The Midrash tells us that God chose Mt. Sinai, and not a more impressive mountain, to teach us the value of humility. The question, of course, is this: If humility is paramount, why did G-d give us the Torah on a mountain at all? Why not a plain, or even a valley? The mere term “Mt. Sinai” is an oxymoron. It’s a mountain, towering and majestic. And it’s Sinai, meager compared to her sister mountains, humble. If humility is paramount, why did G-d give us the Torah on a mountain at all?

“When G-d gave us the Torah and inaugurated us into Jew-hood, He said, “You are going to need to be real strong to be a Jew.” Be a mountain. Have a backbone. Be a charismatic light unto the nations, and don’t give a hoot if people laugh at you. “But be a humble mountain. Humble in your recognition that your strength comes from G-d. Your life’s value is not about your image, it’s about your higher calling. Don’t measure yourself against the standards set by your neighbors; measure yourself against your soul’s potential,” said COL Live.

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83 Responses to “Ump Says Boy Can’t Play Ball With Tzitzit; Team Walks Off Field”

  1. I am asking this as a serious question: Does not a boy wait until bar mitzvah to wear the tzitizit?

  2. Ita Benjamin says:

    Traditionally a boy starts wearing tzitzit at the age of three, Chaplain.

  3. Doug Lewis says:

    Is the commandment not that “you” should see the tzitzit, thus they can be wrapped around the belt as many of my business associates do and the ump would not have noticed them.

  4. Michael Hart says:

    Why isn’t it an option to tuck his tzitsis in his pants?

  5. Are we now in 1935 Germany that we have to hope others don’t notice our religion. This America … Check the constitution I am pretty sure it doesn’t say anything about an ump dictating any caveats to religious freedom.

  6. He should not have to.

  7. The ump should be reprimanded.

  8. Are we now in 1935 Germany that we have to hope others don’t notice our religion. This America … Check the constitution I am pretty sure it doesn’t say anything about an ump dictating any caveats to religious freedom.

  9. Ed Nagler says:

    Even better, let’s applaud his team for standing by their team mate!

  10. Doug Lewis says:

    Why is everything nazi Germany
    At that moment the ump had a boy out of uniform. Kid in our league wore the wrong pants and was called on it. The ump and the boy were both entitled to due process but not at that moment. I went the the league before the season to have kippas approved for my basketball team. The unknowing ump had rules to follow and he should be commended for his integrity. I would forfeit a game if my players were not allowed to wear kipot and tzitzit but I would not spring it on them unexpectedly. It is not religious discrimination because we can’t do everything in a foreign land

  11. Oh my gosh!! Adults grow up , you are teaching children to hate – imposing your beliefs and ANAMOSITY !!
    Let children be children !!

  12. If it is not part of the uniform than he shouldn’t wear it. Where does it end? If you allow this then how about a burka or turban or anything else.

  13. Karen Bryant says:

    Good for them. Nice to see some backbone. We are used to seeing spineless people giving in.

  14. This garment makes no diference, it is made of a very light material .
    Incomparable with a burqa!

  15. Thank you; my next question would relate to the consistency in which the child observes this mitzvoth. Does he wear the tzitizt all of the time, or just in uniform. If he wears it all of the time, then he must be allowed to wear it; this is a constitutionally protected right.

  16. Yes I agree with Doug Lewis why does everything have to turn into Nazi Germany? Is that the jewish version of the race card? Just because an umpire doesn’t consider an item, regardless of its religious significance, part of the boy’s uniform, doesn’t mean he is going out of his way to oppress this kid’s religious beliefs. There is a time and place for everything. God is always with you no matter what you wear.

  17. Adorable little boy with a big glove and a big heart ! And great teammates whose parents are teaching them well.

  18. I have a dream that one day we will live in a world where children in Tzitzit and burka’s play baseball together on the same team and stick up for each other …thankfully we are not in nazi Germany because little boys with Tzitzit were being killed and tortured but this is America where we are constantly working toward a more perfect union… It may make some people who can’t imagine baseball played in a burka uncomfortable. I love children if all races and religions and I can only think of how a child who believes he is serving the wishes of god must feel when he is excluded from something he loves because of it.

  19. Bruce Gelber says:

    All Star on a team of All Stars ….

  20. Chaplain David Robert Grate if he wants to wear it then tuck it in. Just like if I were wearing a cross… jewelery might not be considered part of my uniform, even though it has religious significance to me. I would have no problem tucking it in. It’s not about oppression, its about following rules and being uniform with the team.

  21. In all seriousness, tzitzit worn out by a pitcher does create an unfair advantage (I say this from experience playing in an Orthodox baseball league) because it makes it harder to pick the ball up out of the pitcher’s hand. With that being said, wrapping them around a belt loop is a terrific fix. I don’t see much of an issue when it comes to batting, though maybe it might be harder to pick the ball up off the bat for an infielder. I could not say for sure; I always played outfield. With that being said, wrap the tzitzit around a belt loop, like many kids/adults do and there is no advantage and no reason why kids can’t wear tzitzit. Great job by supportive coaches and teammates. Life lessons are valuable and one was learned, here.

  22. Donny Reich says:

    Elaine, are you an expert in the halachot of tzitzit?

  23. Donny Reich says:

    No, he does not. Some start as early as age 3, or as soon as they are out of diapers. In my school we started in first grade.

  24. Donny Reich says:

    The kid is 9 years old . This is not major league baseball. The umpire needs to lighten up and not take himself so seriously. No harm, no foull by wearing tzitzit.

    I have to add that I have a tremendous amount of respect for this kid. Not a lot of kids can do what he did!

  25. God bless Yossi. Someone has been teaching him correctly. God bless the team and coaches for standing with Yossi.

  26. How did the ump know he was wearing ציצית? If they were hanging out simply tuck them into your pants. Problem solved

  27. My apologies you are obviously correct. As a burka is the same as tzitzit. And those wearing burkas have been given a hard time about their religion throughout the world and throughout history. Stop being afraid to be Jewish.

  28. Ita Benjamin says:

    He wears it all day, like his yarmulke. I think in this case it was simple ignorance on the part of the ump who’d never seen tzitzit before; after consulting with the coaches, the child was allowed to play.

  29. I choose to believe the umpire was simply ignorant. Most of them are 16 year old boys.

  30. Donny Reich says:

    Elaine, Thanks for the lesson on the mitzva and halachot of tzitzit. Are you saying that if the boy is not wearing his tzitzit, he is still fulfilling the mitzva?

  31. I understand where you’re coming from, but it is a simple solution instead of having a team walk off the field.
    If there is a solution use it. My opinion at least

  32. Let children be children for the Love of God. The boy will love God all the more…and his parents, too. I am Jewish, too.

  33. Why can the Christians pray as a team before a game and not take into consideration that everyone on the team may not be. Let’s not penalize someone because of their beliefs. Baseball is a sport, not a religion. Play ball!!!

  34. Can you play ball without tzitzit???

  35. Loren Renee says:

    I applaud the team. That’s real sportsmanship. I can’t imagine the umpires rationalle. I hope s/he is replaced.

  36. Loren Renee says:

    A burka obscures the vision and confines movement making it difficult, even possibly unsafe to play. Tzi tzi are a few strings. A kippot is a tiny hat under the usual hat. It’s very different.

  37. Donny Reich first of alll I love your sarcasm… you need not be so defensive. If the boy wears it tuck it in; just like I would do with my cross or any other religious article. Is that such a big deal. If you are THAT religious the send your kid to a Hebrew school and then there won’t be any problems. Didn’t this happen in Arizona? They are very waspy out there and not familiar with those religious customs as we are here in NY. That’s one reason I didn’t stay out there. I guess when in Rome…

  38. Loren Renee yes a burka can obscure your vision, but they think thats not as important as being religiously observant. Just to play devil’s advocate, couldn’t the tzitzit fall off, be grabbed by another player or cause the player to trip? If the rules are that nothing but the uniform shall be worn then the boy should either: A. Tuck it in so that no one sees it. B. Refrain from playing for religious observance C. Go to a Hebrew school where it is totally acceptable.

  39. Why are boys under 13 wearing tzitzi anyway?

  40. I have a dream that burka’s are banned. They are not in the koran, they are cultural, not religious. They also oppress women and little girls. You can’t compare it to tzitzit at all.

  41. Girls in burkas are not wearing them because it follows their religion, it is cultural. Burka wearing girls are not allowed to participate in sports anyway by their own cultural taboos. In Canada, Sikh’s wearing turbans have been playing sports with us for decades I guess you dont’ come from a very mutlicultural area.

  42. Girls in burkas are not wearing them because it follows their religion, it is cultural. Burka wearing girls are not allowed to participate in sports anyway by their own cultural taboos. In Canada, Sikh’s wearing turbans have been playing sports with us for decades I guess you dont’ come from a very mutlicultural area.

  43. Good question Chaplain. Thank you Donny. Most Orthodox I know are Lubavitch and only became frum later in life. I learned something today :)

  44. You can’t take it off so no

  45. why the hell is a burka even up for discussion here? they are not religious, they are cultural. If you mean a head scarf, that is NOT a burka. They are not at all the same things and can not be compared to the tzitzit at all

  46. Mary-Lou Wiseblatt thats not being very tolerant. Maybe some woman like wearing burkas and don’t feel oppressed. Some nuns wear habits that could also seem to be opressive to woman afterall the priests never wear them; they pretty much wear what they want as long as it is black. Some do wear a vestment that looks like a dress but it isn’t as restrictive as what nuns wear. Yet nuns do wear their habits if they want to belong to that order. In the Jewish religion (Orthodox) the men celebrate service separate from the women? Most Christian woman would not tolerate this and consider THAT oppressive.

  47. i dont blame the team at all i would have too god comes before anyone or anything .

  48. Judith Ross says:

    Let him tuck them in his pants and be a child. God understands!

  49. While I agree that no one man or woman be oppressed it is a violation of religious freedom to ban a burka and a violation of rights in general to tell people how to dress…. In the end the boy played and the adults obviously saw that it was possible to have a kids game of baseball with tzitzit. My daughter has a blind classmate who participated in every event in field day and all the athletic jocks in the class were his biggest supporters. Sometimes we don’t allow ourselves to imagine how to so things differently because we really are afraid of change. I just want us to open our minds to picture a world that could allow everyone to try, to be part of one team.

  50. Lani Lowell says:

    Yeah, it is kind of dangerous having threads hanging when you are running and sliding into bases.

  51. This is why we have the Fairfield County Jewish Baseball League in Stamford CT. #FCCJBL http://www.fccjbl.org.

  52. Paul Gainer says:

    he wouldn’t have to even wear Tzitzit because he hasn’t had his bar mitzvah yet…

  53. Edit on article. YWH is more impressed with the condition of one’s heart not the outward symbols. One can wear all sorts of religious artifacts and still not love God. Love in Action not in “word alone “. Too many talk the talk. We walk with Hashem and love our neighbor as we would love ourselves. Neighbor = Samaritan , Jew or Christian. Avi Abraham Spira. Teaching our children includes our example.

  54. Where did this take place?

  55. Avis Johnson says:

    Yasher Koach Yossi ! What a Kiddush Hashem and Kiddush Lubabvitch!

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