Interview: Maiya Chard-Yaron and the Maccabi Games

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The Great Rabbino: Hey Maiya so glad you agreed to have TGR do an article on you and the team. I miss playing Shabbos softball with you.

Maiya: Thanks for asking me to take part! I love the blog. And I also miss Shabbat softball- it’s one of the big things I will miss about JTS next year.

TGR: First question first, how did you ladies do in the Maccabi games?

Maiya: Our record doesn’t completely reflect how the Games went for us. We unfortunately finished winless this year in the Maccabiah, but we played in some very tight games, including a 9-inning loss (a game that lasted over three hours!) to Canada in our final game. We also played a tough one against the United States, the eventual gold medalists, holding them to one run until the sixth inning, which no other team managed to come close to doing. It’s terrific exposure for the women’s game in Israel, so Israeli spectators can see that level of women’s softball being played.

TGR: You told me the Israeli team is now competing in the European Championships. How is that going?

Maiya: We just returned from the European “B” Championship tournament in Hoboken, Belgium. We finished in 4th place out of 11 teams, which matches our finish from two years ago in Zagreb. Out of the shoot, we won our first four games (against the Ukraine, Denmark, Switzerland, and Poland), before losing 2-0 to the Croatians. This was our fourth European Championship tournament, and we have come a long way from 2003 when we were a new team on the scene and really just getting our bearings.

TGR: Is there anyone else on your team that people should know about?

Maiya: They should know about everyone!!! But, I will give you a general overview of the makeup of our team. One of the first questions I usually get from people who are familiar with Israel is “I didn’t even know there was softball in Israel- is the team all Americans?”. The answer is no. It is true that softball is far from a well-known sport in Israel (every time I go through security at the train station on my way to practice with my batbag, I get to give my speech in Hebrew about what softball is and what all the equipment is for). However, the Israel Softball Association has been around for about 30 years. Our players live all over the country and trek to our main field, which is in Petach Tikva.

TGR: Recently, White Sox pitcher Mark Buhrle threw a perfect game. I know that you threw a No-hitter in college for Columbia. What was that like and what was going through your head as it was going on?

Maiya: Buehrle’s perfect game was pretty exciting! Those are so special, and I can’t imagine the feeling of throwing one at the Major League level. Perfect games and no-hitters are really team efforts though- when they happen at such a high level, there is usually some great defense involved in addition to the stellar pitching. In terms of the no-hitter at Columbia (against Fairfield), it was just very exciting. During the game though, I was incredibly relaxed. I didn’t get worked up about it, I just concentrated on each inning and shutting down each hitter. What stands out for me about that game was that the day before, I had a really rough outing in the circle. After the game the previous day, I spoke with our pitching coach about a new mental strategy and some minor mechanical adjustments. So when seven innings later I looked up and realized it was a no-no, it was this crazy feeling, almost like a daze!

TGR: What was the hardest thing about giving up your routine of playing softball every day in college, to now only playing during the summer?

TGR: What will you be doing when you come back to the states? Is your softball career over?

Maiya: Second question first: No, my softball career is not over! I fully intend on playing in the 2011 European Championships. Now that I’m back in the U.S., I am starting a new position as the Program Director for the Hillel of Davis and Sacramento in Northern California. I am really looking forward to moving back to California and digging in to my new job.

TGR: I know that Israel is a big part of your life, as is Judaism, was this something you were raised with or that you found later on?

Maiya: I grew up in a Jewish day school in San Diego, which combined with my family environment gave me a deep passion for Judaism and Israel and the tools to make Judaism a part of my life from an early age. My father grew up on a kibbutz in Israel, and my mom grew up as the daughter of a Conservative Rabbi, so I like to think that my own Jewish identity takes on elements from both of those backgrounds. As a child I remember the two main passions of our family were Israel and softball, so it’s amazing to be able to combine those two now with my participation on the National Team. When I got to college, I began to discover and re-discover some elements of Judaism that hadn’t been big parts of my life in high school, and became very involved in Hillel, which left a profound mark on my own personal Jewish identity and my professional path as well.

TGR: We want to thank you for your time. Is there anything else you want to say?

Thank you so much for inviting me to be a part of your blog! I will keep you posted on future news with our team…

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