This guest-post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer are not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.
I got this email on November 18th, 2015.
My name is Ezra Schwartz, I’m at yeshiva and heard about the baseball league. I played four years of high school baseball and would love to join the spring league if there is space. If you can send me details of how to register that would be great.
I am the national director for the Israel Association of Baseball and get emails like this a lot, kids wanting to play, or invites to tournaments, and I breezed over it. I was not in Israel at the time. I was in New York, where I used to live, visiting family and friends for Thanksgiving, and was not in the mood to deal with work. When I did reply the next morning, it was short.
“Great. Will add you to our list and send you a mail when spring training is getting ready to start. We should start Feb 10ish, season will start about a month later.”
But Ezra never got my e-mail.
I was on my parent’s couch looking at Facebook on my phone seeing what my friends were doing later. People were still talking about the Paris attacks that had happened a week earlier. And there were more stabbings back in Israel. I was more interested in my friends than news or people’s opinions on terrorism, but the forth or fifth time it came up on the screen, I saw it, “American Teen Ezra Shwartz Killed in Israel.” Shit, I said loud enough that my dad came in the room to ask what was wrong. I pulled up my e-mails to make sure. It was him.
Ezra was attending a gap year program at a school in Bet Shemesh, near Jerusalem. He was taking food and water to Israeli soldiers in the West Bank with some of his classmates and a teacher. For those of you who have never been to the West Bank, it is not a war zone. You could drive there a thousand times and nothing would happen. We have baseball teams there so I go out to see the fields and meet with coaches. I do not particularly like going. I find it a bit eerie, the check points and fences and security vehicles. There is a tension, but it is not by definition dangerous, no more dangerous than neighborhoods in Chicago or most major American cities, for example. It was a routine trip for the students. On their way back to the school, their car stopped at a red light, and they were ambushed by a Palestinian fighter who fired several shots at the cars lined up at the light. Along with Ezra, one Palestinian man, and an Israeli Jewish man were killed and five others were injured. Ezra was taken to a hospital. By the time I replied to his e-mail, he was dead.
I posted a note on Facebook about Ezra. Hundreds of people shared it, thousands liked it. I started hearing from Ezra’s former coaches and people who wanted to help The press and all the Jewish organizations got on the story. And Ezra quickly turned from a kid to an idea.
Ezra’s family came to Israel last week (Editor’s note: Nate got this to me in on January 8), his parents and four younger siblings. His three brothers threw out ceremonial first-pitches at our Junior League all-star game, and we will hopefully build a field in his honor in Raanana where some of Ezra’s family lives. It’s all good PR. But there is one thing Ezra’s family would like more than good PR, and that is to have their son and brother back. So when I take the field this spring to play one of my final baseball seasons for the Jerusalem Lions, I will try to remember Ezra the kid, not Ezra the idea – Ezra, the ballplayer.
Nate Fish is the director of the Israel Association of Baseball, his Twitter is @KingOfJBaseball.
This guest-post was part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer were not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.
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