By: Elan Kane (TGR Reporter and Inter)
In the summer of 2007, baseball players from around the world came to Israel to participate in the inaugural Israel Baseball League season. The League had players from such countries as the United States, Canada, Venezuela and Dominican Republic. To many, the league’s season was a flop, with lawsuits, resignations and other such problems arising during the first year, and the second season being canceled. However, to the championship team Beit Shemesh Blue Sox’s player-coach Eric Holtz, the league was a chance to realize a childhood dream to play baseball for a living. TGR caught up with Holtz, the league’s winner of the commissioner’s award for distinguished service, to find out what he has been up to as well as look into his future participation with Israel baseball.
1) Could you give a few sentences about your experience playing baseball in Israel?
The experience of playing in Israel was Incredible. Getting to spend 10 weeks in Israel and get paid to do what I love so much… How could it be better? I got fresh Hummus daily, played baseball 6 days a week and got a chance to re-connect with my heritage.
2) What you have been up to since the IBL ended?
Since the IBL, I have been playing and Coaching at the College Level until this year while I have turned into the Greatest Fan. My oldest is a freshman pitcher at Bucknell University and I traveled every weekend to watch him throw. My Daughter, now 15, is the Varsity pitcher for Valhalla, and my youngest Brett is on modified (7th grade). His Bar Mitzvah was this past weekend.
3) Have you kept in touch with any of the players from the league?
I keep in touch with many of the player that I spent time with in Israel. Facebook is a wonderful tool for that as there were players there from 7 different countries so it’s hard to just pick up the phone and call Australia or Japan with the time differences.
4) Have you played in any other organized baseball leagues since the IBL?
I continue to play in the Westchester MSBL-Over 21 as well as the WRWBL (Westchester Rockland Wood Bat League which is 18 and over)-At 46, it is getting tougher.
5) Have you been involved in trying to revive the league/is there a legitimate chance it will be revived?
I tried to help in 2008 to revive the league, but in my opinion it was a 2 fold problem.
(1)-Not enough Money or Capital
(2)-Baseball is TOO SLOW for Israeli Jews–Ex Patriot Jews represent the interest for Baseball in Israel-True Israeli’s don’t have the patience.
6) Tell TGR a little bit about the 2013 18U Team USA Maccabi Team you will be coaching that will be playing in Israel.
We will be holding tryouts in Los Angeles, Chicago and NY this summer to choose a roster for the following summer. It will be the first time to Israel since 2007.
7) Is your role with the team a direct result of being involved with the IBL?
I would have to say yes as I am coaching with another ex-IBL Player named Nate Fish.
8) For your players who have never been to Israel, what are some experiences outside of baseball you hope to share with them?
For the players that haven’t been there, I would like them to feel the connection to Judaism and history like I did when I was there. I want them to March up Masada and sit in the baths of Cesaria and connect with ancient history-Baseball is only one small piece of the experience.
9) What do you think your team’s prospects are?
We Better win Gold/1st Place etc-That’s what my goal is-no second chance.
10) Is there anything else you want the TGR fans to know?
I would like everyone to know that Baseball Mirrors life and its ups and downs which is why it is the Greatest Sport going. It teaches you that you need to put your work in, because if you’re not, someone else is. There are no short cuts to success and Your Attitude determines Your ALTITUDE.
TGR would like to thank Eric for his time as well as wish him a good luck on his new team!