Ten American baseball players will become dual-Israeli citizens in a bid to help Israel’s team reach the 2020 Olympics, the Jewish Baseball News reports. According to the website, the players will visit the Israeli Interior Ministry next week and begin the aliyah process.
Several of the players also represented Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, where Team Israel made it to the quarterfinal – a fete that surprised fans following the tournament.
According to the the World Baseball Classic rules, non-citizens are allowed to play for Israel if they have at least one Jewish grandparent – meaning if they are eligible for a citizenship. However, for European tournaments and the Olympics, athletes are required to be citizens of the country they represent ro participate.
Peter Kurz, president of the Israeli Association of Baseball, has been searching and approaching players to see if they would be interested in joining the venture.
He told Jewish Baseball News that “finding a needle in the haystack is just finding Jewish American ballplayers who can play for you.
“Finding ones with Israeli passports is like finding the head of a needle in a haystack,” he said.
Speaking to Tazpit Press Service (TPS) on Thursday, Kurz said the IAB is “very excited to be doing this incredibly Zionistic endeavor.”
“We are an organization of immigrants and sabra’s [born and bred Israelis] and know how important it is for new immigrants to feel like they are making a significant contribution to Israeli society,” he said. “We are hopeful that we can make all Israeli’s proud of this team as it travels the road toward the Olympics in Tokyo.”
One of the first to join the initiative was Joey Wagman, a former Chicago White Sox and Oakland A’s prospect who pitched for Israel in the 2017 tournament. He is already in Israel.
Jon Moscot, who was also one of the first to sign up, has pitched for the Cincinnati Reds. Moscot said that he has a number of relatives living in Israel, including an uncle and cousins, and had visited the country in the past.
However, not all the players have visited Israel before. Alex Katz, a World Baseball Classic alumni, who is currently in the Baltimore Orioles organization, has never been to the country.
“I’m sure my grandparents, who passed away, would be proud of me,” Katz told the news outlet. “My whole family is Jewish, so everyone in my family is proud of me.”
Because of their ages, the baseball players will not have to serve in the Israeli army after making aliyah.
Baseball will be featured at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo for the first time since the 2008 Summer Olympics. The tournament will consist of only six teams.
The 10 players expected to make aliyah next week include the five who played for Team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic: Corey Baker, a retired minor leaguer; Gabe Cramer, a minor leaguer in the Kansas City Royals system; Blake Gailen and Joey Wagman, who play in the Independent League; and Alex Katz, a Baltimore Orioles minor league team;
The other five are Eric Brodkowitz, a former college player; Jonathan de Marte, who plays in the Independent League; Jeremy Wolf, a retired minor league player; as well as Jon Moscot and Zack Weiss, who are free agents for Major League Baseball.