JERUSALEM (JTA) — Ten Jewish-American baseball players gained Israeli citizenship and can now help the country’s national team in international competition leading up to the 2020 Olympics.
The players together applied for and received citizenship on Wednesday at the Bureau of Population and Immigration office in Jaffa.
They and their supporters waved Israeli flags and sang Israeli songs as they entered the office and went through the process of becoming citizens. They all left the office holding their new Israeli Identity Cards.
The players want to represent Israel at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Some of the players also represented Israel in last year’s World Baseball Classic, where Team Israel shocked followers by reaching the quarterfinals.
The 10 players who made aliyah on Wednesday include five who played for Team Israel in the WBC: Corey Baker, a retired minor leaguer; Gabe Cramer, a minor leaguer in the Kansas City Royals system; Blake Gailen and Joey Wagman, who play in the Independent League; and Alex Katz, a Baltimore Orioles minor leaguer.
The others are Eric Brodkowitz, a former college player; Jonathan de Marte, who plays in the Independent League; Jeremy Wolf, a retired minor league player; and Jon Moscot and Zack Weiss, Major League Baseball free agents. Eight of the 10 players are pitchers.
While players in the World Baseball Classic only have to be eligible to be a citizen of the team’s country, players have to be actual citizens of the country they represent in the Olympics. They also must be citizens of that country for a year before they can start officially playing in pre-Olympic competition, which begins with the European Championship B Pool in the summer of 2019.
“These players showed great enthusiasm for working in Israel to reach the Olympics in particular and to develop the game in Israel in general, and the players who played in the World Championship were exposed to Israel and saw how they can help the country become a force to be reckoned with in international baseball,” Israel Baseball Association President Peter Kurz told Ynet. The players will “insure that the professional level (of baseball in Israel) continues to grow. ”
Because of their ages, the baseball players will not have to serve in the Israeli army after making aliyah.
Baseball will be featured at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo for the first time since the 2008 Summer Olympics. The tournament will consist of only six teams.