Jeremy Bleich was a highly touted Major League prospect and 1st round draft pick. After severe shoulder injuries, he battled back to get a call-up to the Big Leagues. But his time with Team Israel Baseball has been where many readers know him from. Bleich’s Jewish story began long before baseball in Israel was a thing. His grandparents were Holocaust survivors, forced to leave their Jewish lives aside. But every time Bleich puts on the Israel colors he helps reclaim a little bit of Jewish history. Here is our interview with the Team Israel pitcher: – Please note since this interview Bleich has taken a job with the Pirates. Mazel Tov!
1) When did you get into baseball?
I began playing when I was around five years old. I played at the local playground and it gave me that rush and it continued to develop over time.
2) You collected many High School baseball accolades; did you think of forgoing college for the pros?
It was a small thought. I did entertain some pro scouts and talked to certain individuals but I never super seriously considered it.
3) What was your experience at Stanford like?
It was an incredible experience. I made a ton of friends and it is an unbelievable University. It took me some time to get my footing. We went to Omaha [College World Series] my Junior year which was my favor experience. The older guys came together and we made a really strong playoff push.
4) You were a 1st round draft choice by the Yankees. Does that place added pressure on you as an athlete?
Yes it did but anyone who is competitive and has self-awareness trying to make it has pressure as an athlete. I wanted to prove myself and that I was worthy. There was a lot of pressure on myself to succeed.
5) What was it like finally making it to the Bigs?
It was and unbelievable journey. There were ups and downs. My shoulder injury for one was a big set back. I bounced around a bit. I got to meet a lot of people. The call-up was the culmination of a lot of hard work. Maybe I wish my stay was longer but that is a part of the game. It was nice to get the monkey off my back.
6) What has been your experience with Team Israel and will you be pitching on the Olympics?
It has been great. The last four years we are making our mark in the baseball community. First with the WBC and then we added players, growing baseball in Israel, providing facilities, and even raising money. We are a group of guys with common goals and beliefs. It has been an incredible experience.
7) What is next for you and do you hope to pitch in the Majors again?
I am not sure baseball wise. The Olympics are at the forefront and I want to be ready for that competitively. Then I am going to see what my options are.
8) What was your Jewish experience like as a kid and how do you connect today?
As a kid I grew up in a Conservative Jewish household. My grandparents were Orthodox. I had a strong Jewish upbringing; I learned and am familiar with Judaism. Both of my dad’s parents were Holocaust survivors and I wears that on my sleeve. I had a Bar Mitzvah and went on Birthright. Culturally I hold onto my Judaism and it connects me to my family.