July 14, 2024
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July 14, 2024
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Sharing the Light of Chanukah Through Baseball

A light went off for Gregg Garfinkle and he thought, a menorah has nine arms. Eight for the candles and one for the Shamash. A baseball game has nine innings. There needs to be a menorah made out of baseballs!

Garfinkel, through his company Baseballidays, creates personalized gifts made from baseballs including menorahs, rose bouquets, flags and keychains.

Both of Garfinkle’s sons played baseball and as a fundraiser for their high school baseball team, they were required to help sell Christmas trees during the holiday season. “As Jews, we didn’t have the need to purchase a tree or an emotional connection to selling them,” Garfinkle said. So, on a whim, Garfinkle made a wreath out of the extra baseballs rolling around his house and posted a picture to Facebook.

Someone commented on the picture saying he would love to have that in his house. Garfinkle brokered a deal and sold the wreath for $100. This sparked the idea to make holiday-related art out of baseballs.

Baseballidays started with mini Christmas trees, snowmen and wreaths sold on Etsy and Baseballiday’s website. Although he was creating them, Garfinkle did not feel he was creating anything he and his family could use. So he added baseball-inspired Judaica to his lineup. It began with baseball menorahs and expanded to Israeli flags and seder plates for Pesach, made from baseballs.

The baseball wreaths and keychains made from baseball leather were not Garfinkle’s original ideas, but he was the first to make baseball Christmas trees and baseball menorahs. Garfinkle is currently in the process of copyrighting his baseball menorah and is hoping to work with Major League Baseball on a licensing agreement.

Everything is handmade. He deconstructs the baseballs and reconstructs them into art. He personalizes each creation with the colors or with the logo of the fan’s favorite baseball team. “There was one time I made a menorah with a baseball signed by Ryan Braun (a Jewish baseball player) for a huge Milwaukee Brewers fan,” Garfinkle said.

His baseball-loving and playing sons, Ben and Brandon, are often drafted to assist Garfinkle with de-lacing baseballs. “Sometimes they are embarrassed by what I create but they are always happy with the paycheck they get for helping me out,” Garfinkle said.

Garfinkle is thrown baseballs from spring training games and batting practices, in addition to other professionally used baseballs, making up about 70% of his inventory. The rest come from baseballs he purchases in bulk. “There are other artists who only use clean and unused baseballs. I am the first to use professionally used baseballs,” Garfinkle said.

A lawyer by day, Garfinkle does not consider himself naturally crafty. His friends say that he gets his creativity from his wife. Garfinkle’s wife, Julie, passed away from breast cancer in 2012. Garfinkle feels that she inspires his creative side. “I do feel I’m channeling Julie when I create, she was extremely crafty and hung things all over the house to make sure that the boys remembered her.” Julie is not only Garfinkle’s creative inspiration, but she was a huge baseball fan as well, “I knew she was the woman for me when she could recite the starting lineup of the 1976 Cincinnati Reds by heart,” Garfinkel said. Every year he places a bouquet of baseball roses at her gravesite. The key chains painted with the pink breast cancer ribbon, made in Julie’s honor, are one of Garfinkle’s most popular items.

Garfinkle’s creations have caught the eye of Mariano Rivera, former pitcher for the New York Yankees; Vin Scully, who announced 67 seasons of Los Angeles Dodgers’ games; as well as Eric Holtz, coach for Israel’s 2022 Olympic baseball team, whom Garfinkle says is his best customer.

Three years ago, Baseballidays started as a seasonal business, overflowing with orders during Chanukah, Christmas and MLB’s opening day. But with interest in Garfinkle’s art growing through word of mouth, social media, trade shows and his website, Baseballidays is outgrowing his garage and turning into a year-round job.

Despite his success, Garfinkle does not intend to stop practicing law. “I’m not an artist. I’m a lawyer who uses baseball to help people express their emotions. And that is what I love most about it,” Garfinkle said.

Garfinkle named his company Baseballidays because “every day with baseball is a holiday.” Celebrating baseball with his family, and helping others do the same, is something Garfinkle wants to share with as many people as he can.

Visit http://www.baseballidays.com to find the best baseball-inspired gift!

Danielle grew up in Teaneck, and made aliyah to Jerusalem following her graduation from Rutgers University. Danielle teaches English at colleges in Jerusalem and has been involved in both formal and informal education for a variety of organizations. Danielle believes that important life skills and lessons are often not ones learned in the classroom, but can be learned from team sports.

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