Saturday, December 14, 2019

Baseball, a beloved game to most Americans, is on the rise in Israel. To that end, Teaneck Baseball Organization (TBO) has donated equipment to Chashmonaim’s four baseball teams. The equipment, including helmets, shin guards, baseballs and pants, replaced the Chashmonaim teams’ worn-out and sometimes hazardous equipment.

The Chashmonaim teams are a part of the Israel Association of Baseball (IAB) League, a non-profit
established to promote and develop baseball in Israel, which consists of around 80 teams based in locations including Chashmonaim, Bet Shemesh, Raanana and Jerusalem.

Eli Mandelbaum, who made aliyah from Teaneck five years ago and is a leader in Chashmonaim baseball, said it is a challenge for communities in Israel to acquire equipment. Mandelbaum used to be a coach for TBO and brought his experience to Israel, where he has been working to improve Chashmonaim’s standing in the sport, along with Frank Sachs, who made aliyah two years ago. Both deal with logistics, recruitment and coaching, coordinating carpools and building excitement for Israel’s baseball season. Sachs even joined the board of IAB to give a louder voice to Chashmonaim.

Mandelbaum runs practices twice a week, for about five months, before entering competitive games. He said his overall goal is to instill team-building skills and competitiveness in his players, and to give his players a fun baseball experience.

Originally, the Chashmonaim league started out “in the sandlot,” with only two quasi teams with 25 members, but now there are four teams, with close to 50 members, ranging from first grade to 11th. The focus has turned to bigger and better feats as Mandelbaum plans on getting players in the best shape to compete on Israel’s national team.

Mandelbaum, who said “the more the better,” plans to bring more equipment from America. “We don’t really have a place like Modells,” he said. “We’re trying to bring a little bit of America to Israel.”

He wanted to bring the experience of a baseball team to Israel, since his children had played TBO in America. “My kids love baseball, they’ve really taken to it. When I started coaching TBO and getting into baseball I wanted to maintain that level of interest and passion,” he said. He aims to provide children with a team structure and opportunities to win and lose, shine and fail.

“There are brutal losses and brutal wins. This really teaches these kids that winning isn’t everything, but when you do win, enjoy it,” he said.

By Ally Scharf

Ally Scharf is a rising senior at Binghamton University and a summer intern at The Jewish Link.