June 20, 2024
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Spotlight on: Israeli Baseball Player Zev Moore

Editors note: We are pleased to welcome our newest columnist, Danielle Barta, who will give us a glimpse into the lives of Jewish athletes across the sports world.

I can’t wait for the day I get to say: “I knew Zev Moore when.”

I first met Zev six years ago, when I co-coached his Jerusalem Lions baseball team. Today, after having been a top player with the Israel Association of Baseball for eight years, the 19-year-old currently serves in the Israel Defense Force as a Sportai Mitzayen (ספורטי מצטיין), an elite athlete. Sportai status is given to top-ranked athletes to provide them the opportunity to combine the required Army service while continuing individually to develop their sport.

Zev’s Sportai service, which he began last December, includes personal baseball practice time as well as group practice time with other Sportaim. Zev also coaches the Jerusalem Little League Cadet team and umpires games as a part of his army service, all while practicing to improve his own baseball skills.

The elite athlete is one of the lucky few soldiers who gets to spend his entire day practicing, playing and coaching his sport. There are currently over 600 male and female soldiers serving in the army as Sportaim in various sports1.

“I got this opportunity that only a very few athletes get,” he told me. “Aside from the fact that baseball is my passion and something that I am striving to get to the next level with, I have this commitment toward Israel baseball, the army, and the country – to represent my country properly.”

Which he did, at six international baseball competitions. Zev is currently a member of Israel’s Under-23 National Team, and was placed on the extended roster for Israel’s Olympic baseball team.

“Representing the country is a lot bigger and a lot more meaningful,” he said. “You feel a bigger responsibility to win not just for yourself but for your country. You’re representing your country on and off the field. I think my teammates and I have done that pretty well and have been great ambassadors for Israel.”

Zev, who made aliyah with his family from East Windsor, NJ, when he was 11, is working to improve the level of the players’ performance and the popularity of baseball in Israel.

Part of his service is helping people realize that “Israel is a good country with good ideals, and what other players hear in the media about Israel isn’t always accurate.”

As for the lack of the sport’s popularity in Israel, Zev feels that playing baseball in Israel is no different than playing in America. However, “everything around the game is different.” In addition to importing all of the equipment, Israel has only two baseball fields – most of Israel’s Little League baseball games are played on soccer fields or in open park areas, with donated or hand-me-down equipment.

“Baseball in Israel has grown and changed a lot since I started playing,” Zev said.” I hope to be a part of baseball’s growth and to contribute to doubling the amount of baseball players and increase the overall talent level of baseball in Israel. Donations are also crucial to help Israel raise the money that is needed for the Olympic team and to continue building the new baseball fields in Beit Shemesh and Ra’anana. I hope I can help with that too.”

While baseball is not known for its Israeli-born players, it does have its fair share of Jewish players, both in the major Leagues and some who represent the Jewish state at the quadrennial World Baseball Classic, the sport’s biggest international tournament. Zev hopes to continue down that path at the end of his service, when he hopes to head off to play baseball at an American university with the goal of eventually turning professional.

I was lucky to coach Zev for three years in Israel’s baseball league, starting when he was 13. I saw him not only grow into an exceptional baseball player with an exceptional baseball mind, but into a fine person as well: Before he was even a formal coach, he was already helping teammates to improve their mechanics, providing them with a better understanding of the bigger baseball picture. He would also assist in coaching younger players, who continue to look up to him today as a role model.

So, when the day comes when I get to say I knew Zev when, not only will I be able to say that I knew him as an excellent baseball player who represented Israel proudly, but that I am not at all surprised for all he has accomplished since.

1 https://www.gov.il/he/service/application_for_recognition_as_outstanding_athlete_in_military_service

Danielle Barta grew up in Teaneck, NJ, 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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