After decades as America’s favorite pastime and gaining massive popularity in Japan, baseball has arrived in Israel and so has Aryeh Rosenbaum of Teaneck, who has been playing as a pitcher on the Beit Shemesh Blue Sox in the new Israel Baseball League.
Aryeh Rosenbaum of Teaneck, pitcher on the Beit Shemesh Blue Sox, takes time out to daven mincha during the fifth-inning stretch. Photo courtesy of Jordan Alter
The ‘0-year-old Yeshiva University student and a group of friends drove to Massachusetts at 3:30 a.m. one day last summer to try out, not expecting anything to come of it except some fun. But in January, Rosenbaum received a call that he had been chosen to play.
He flew out to Israel on June ‘4 for the league’s first two-month season. After 45 regular season games, the league will hold a championship game Aug. 19 and Rosenbaum will then return home to continue his pre-med studies. As of Wednesday, the Blue Sox were leading the league with a 10-1 season, a good start on the road to the championship.
Rosenbaum has been playing baseball since he was a child, he said. He had played on YU’s team but after his summer playing for a professional league in Israel, he is now ineligible to continue college play under NCAA rules. Still, he is happy to have had the opportunity to play professionally.
"It’s a little higher level than I’m used to in college," said Rosenbaum, who added that he has never played semi-pro ball before. "Opening day we had 1,000 fans, and that was special to have all those people."
The Israeli game has a few small differences. Most glaring is the size of the fields. They are more like college baseball fields than Major League stadiums, Rosenbaum said. "Our homefield takes getting used to," he said. "A lot of the fields are very nice [but] the grass is a little dryer."
Instead of nine innings, the games last seven, so instead of the seventh-inning stretch, the Israeli teams have a fifth-inning stretch. And because of the time of day they play, the fifth-inning stretch allows fans to take a short break from the game for mincha. Although the games don’t stop, players who are not immediately needed in the lineup are allowed to participate in a minyan, which Rosenbaum has done.
Also, while Major League ball players pull in million-dollar salaries and can bring a season to a halt over contract negotiations, members of the Israel Baseball League know they command much less and are there just for the love of the game, Rosenbaum said.
The players do receive a stipend but it mostly goes toward living expenses. And to make sure the players’ egos don’t get too big, they must all perform community service by pitching in at the league’s youth baseball clinics for one week.
He’s not sure if he’ll return to the league next year because of his studies, but for now, Rosenbaum is enjoying his brief professional career.
"Just to get the experience is a great thing," he said. "It was a no-brainer to come here and play."
Rosenbaum’s father, Rabbi Yehuda Rosenbaum, administrative director for the Kof-K in Teaneck, follows all of his son’s games on the Internet and is happy his son has this opportunity, he said.
"It’s not the Mets and the Yankees, but it’s an opportunity for somebody, like my son, who is shomer Shabbat, to be able to play baseball on a higher level than high school or college," he said. "I’m proud of him for many reasons."