Gelman: Watching Steinmetz was not just excitement but pride. Wrapping up Israel at the WBC

Mar 15, 2023 | Jews in Sports

By: Elie Gelman

Israel’s World Baseball Classic journey has officially come to an end after succumbing to Venezuela 5-1 as the blue-and-white finishes fourth in pool D with a record of 1-3 with their only win coming against Nicaragua in the opening contest.

While it was a disappointing tournament for Israel and its fans, manager Ian Kinsler was proud of how his team fought. “We competed, we had a good time,” began the bench boss. “That first game was obviously a good way to start the tournament and then from there, it was pretty tough for us. We played hard, as long as we could and the tournament is over for us so hopefully, we’ll be looking forward to the next one”

Jakob Goldfarb – Photo Credit: Dan Passner

With Israel finishing fourth in pool D that automatically qualifies them for the 2026 World Baseball Classic. “We will be in the next tournament,” said Kinsler. “That’s big for the organization because the MLB does not represent the qualifying tournaments, they don’t put you in nice hotels, and get all the buses, and put you in a big league ballpark in Miami so the qualifiers cost the association a lot of money so to be able to skip that and qualify for the WBC is big for us.”

Against Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, Israel was a victim of the 10-run mercy rule and had only one base runner between the two games. On Wednesday against Venezuela Israel tallied 9 hits, with third baseman Noah Mendlinger leading the way with three of them. “It was nice to have a little action out there,” said Kinsler. “Score one run, get a guy across the plate. It was good, the guys really battled today and put up some tough at-bats. So it was a lot more exciting for us.”

Ian Kinsler – Photo Credit: Emma Sharon/MLB

This year’s World Baseball Classic was Kinsler’s managerial debut, and while it did not go as expected he’s going to take the lessons he learned from this tournament with him as he continues on in his career. “I’ve learned a lot, said Kinsler. “It’s the first time I’ve done it so there was a lot to learn and Brad Ausmus helped me out with that. It’s been productive as far as experience and learning what it’s like to manage so it’s been good.”

On a personal note…
While this year’s World Baseball Classic was not what I was expecting from Israel there were some bright spots from this year’s tournament.

Garrett Stubbs – Photo Credit: MLB

In game one of pool play Israel was able to sneak out with a win after clutch hitting from catcher Garrett Stubbs and left fielder Spencer Horowitz. After being down for most of the game Israel tied it up at 1-1 with a single by Horowitz in the 8th inning. Later on in the frame, Stubbs hit a double bringing in the game-winning run as the blue-and-white ended up taking the 3-1 victory as pitcher Robert Stock was able to retire the last three Nigracuran hitters in the 9th.

Being able to see a team made up of Jews wearing Israel across their chest and Magen David on their hats win a baseball game on an international stage was an unbelievable feeling. These players were not only representing the country of Israel but were representing the entirety of the Jewish people.

Jacob Steinmetz – Photo Credit: Dan Passner

The top highlight for me from this year’s tournament was Jacob Steinmetz’s performance on Tuesday night versus the Dominican Republic. In 2021, Steinmetz became the first Orthodox Jew to be taken in the MLB draft when the Arizona Diamondbacks selected him in the third round. Against the Dominican Republic, Steinmetz pitched an inning and two-thirds and struck out Manny Machado, the San Diego Padres superstar, Jeremy Peña, who was named the 2022 ALCS and World Series MVP and two time all-star Gary Sanchez.

Steinmetz is only 162 days older than me. We both went to Jewish Day School, we both went to Jewish summer camp, and we both grew up in very similar communities. Growing up like most kids I wanted to play professional sports and while that didn’t work out, seeing Steinmetz an Orthodox Jew just like me, pitch in the World Baseball Classic was an unforgettable feeling.

Jacob Steinmetz – Photo Credit: Dan Passner

I’ve watched a lot of sports in my life. I’ve experienced that excitement when your favorite player hits a big shot or when your hometown team wins the championship. But the feeling I had watching Steinmetz pitch on Tuesday night was more than just excitement, it was pride. Watching Steinmetz pitch for that inning and two-thirds was not only one of the highlights of the tournament but one of my top sports moments ever.

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