“Being Jewish has always been something that I have been so proud of” Josh Zeid talks ball ahead of Olympics

Jul 20, 2021 | Jews in Sports

Josh Zeid, one of the star pitchers with the Israel National Baseball Team spoke to The Sports Rabbi ahead of the Olympic Games about Judaism, playing in the Majors, the Holy Land and much more!

What does it mean to you to represent Israel at the Olympics?
It would be easy for me to say it was my dream to play in the Olympics. If I was a swimmer, badminton player or the like it would be something I could have imagined going to the Games. But as a baseball player it was really all about an initial shock. I am anxious, excited and passionate about it all at the same time.

What was your connection to Israel and Judaism growing up?
My connection to Israel was that I am Jewish. I didn’t have much connection early on but I was a Conservative Jew and went to synagogue Saturday morning as well as Hebrew school three times a week until the age of 14. When I started to participate in the Maccabi games I made a team that I would have had a chance to play in Israel but I lost and I felt I needed to get back. Having the opportunity in 2012 and being on a team with Israeli born baseball players along with seeing the passion and excitement, that’s where my wanting for more and more came from.

Did you know that you wanted to be a baseball player?
I always wanted to be a baseball player or a basketball player and an astronaut, so I am batting .333 for my goals to date. My parents pushed me but they did not force me. They gave me the opportunities to be coached by the best coaches within 200 miles of my house. I would not have been able to succeed without my parents.

What was it like going through college, minors and then the major leagues as a Jew?
Before I got to college I travelled a lot in High school and played with players from different parts of the United State. I got a lot of questions about the Jewish star around my neck. Many were 16 and 17 year olds who are less mature at that age and I got some weird questions and comments but nothing that would not make me feel uncomfortable in my own skin. Being Jewish has always been something that I have been so proud of.

What was it like getting called up the majors?
I was playing very well at the time and 2013 was one of my first years in Major League Baseball where I felt in mind that I could go to the big leagues. When they actually told me I started laughing. I thought it was a joke and couldn’t expect that it was real. I told my wife that she has a flight booked to watch me pitch in Baltimore the next day and I continued to laugh. Laughing was how I handled the emotional experience. Holy cow I did it, I made it. It’s was so special.

How did you get involved with Israel baseball?
In 2011 I was playing in Arizona Fall league and I met reporter Jonathan Mayo in person and asked if I wanted to play on an all Jewish team and play in Israel. Being a major and minor league player playing for Israel and to be fully immersed in national pride spurred the relationship and growth which turned into an Olympic team less than a decade later.

What were your feelings going into the WBC and as to the success you had in 2017?
I was so excited to get a chance to play in Asia at the World Baseball Classic. Being asked to participate is like a blessing and so surreal. Baseball shouldn’t be able to provide such unique experiences. I was lucky enough to do all of these things and it’s like a dream but actually became reality. Every time I step on the field, I expect my team to succeed and do really well. I can’t say I was not shocked that we did so well. It was the most fun I had on a baseball field. It was the best group of guys. That entire three weeks made my career reach a culmination.

How about being the Topps Now Israel baseball card?
That card, that picture, I have it on every device I own. My best friend is Ryan Lawarnway and for that moment winning our first WBC game to be immortalized on a card, is a life long dream. I grew up collecting baseball cards. We joked about how cool it would be to have one of our own one day. But the fact I have my own and to have Team Israel as part of it was an honor. It was a thrill.

What were your feelings about qualifying for the Olympics?
I watched all of the games. People in America don’t respect these European teams, but the top of European division is very, very talented. Holland is one of the best teams year in and year out. We have put together a team of reserves that are so talented and competitive that play with such passion. Any time an Israeli team shows up, we have a chance to win. It’s the mantra of the Jewish people. You may not be the favorite but if you prepare properly, you give yourself a fighting chance.

What are your thoughts about baseball in Israel and the impact that you can have?
I follow all of the teams and leagues on social media. I enjoy checking in and have personally helped by giving a pithing seminar in order to help the new coaches. On a grander scale, baseball is never going to be the national sport in Israel, like soccer basketball and beach sports, but there is massive population that wants to play baseball. By raising money to build and update fields is the best we can do. We love to go to Israel and see the progress and continue to grow those relationships.

Sign up for our newsletter


You may also like…


Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!