As one of the many transplanted New Yorkers living in South Florida, and a resurgent baseball fan, my experience this past Wednesday March 8th , where I had the privilege of witnessing the national team of Israel play the Miami Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, was a highly notable one.
I had the good fortune a few weeks back of meeting a high ranking executive for the Marlins. When I shared with him my strong connection to Israel and my observance of Judaism, he proceeded to inform me of the upcoming matchup. Although I consider myself a pretty big Mets fan, the executive made me realize how far I had fallen as a baseball fan when I asked him who Jazz was. Jazz Chisholm, a Marlins star player who is on the cover of the video game, MLB The Show 23, is an exciting and talented young player. I just didn’t know it yet. The exec was kind enough to contact me the next day and ask me if I was interested in going to the Marlins vs. Israel game. The following day I had 2 tickets waiting for me in my Inbox.
I decided to take my brother Leo to the game. Having once been a member of the Israel Defense Forces and someone who had lived in Israel for a number of years, I knew he would enjoy the game and the experience as much as I would. The fun started as soon as we arrived in town. Shoutout to the city of Jupiter. It may well be the only highly affluent city I’ve even been in where you can actually find something for free. Within a matter of minutes we managed to find 2 things for free. First, the parking was free. Then, as we were on the way out, a golf cart approached us and offered us a free ride to the ballpark, paid for by the stadium itself. After briefly walking through the neighboring streets, we decided to go into the stadium where the Kosher food truck allowed us the opportunity to eat a meal meeting our dietary requirements.
Our seats were perfect. Sitting slightly on the 3rd base side of home plate, I have never been more qualified to call whether a lefty hitter went around on a swing or not. After a group of adorable kids sang both Israel’s and America’s national anthems, the game was on.
The atmosphere was relaxed and fun. Knowing that neither team was playing a game that counted, our expectations were not high. Nevertheless, it was evident that these were players on, or close to the highest level the game had to offer. Particularly on the Marlins side. I got to see Jazz bat and get on base with a bunt his first time up, displaying fundamental skills and speed.
While Leo and I went there cheering on Team Israel, within a few innings we had 2 specific players for whom we had developed a vested interest. One was a player on the Marlins roster who is vying for a spot on the big team roster. His wife was sitting on our row with their 2 young children. And the other was a player on Team Israel, whose girlfriend came along an inning or 2 later. Throughout the game we would learn more about what it was like to be minor league journeyman and the family sharing the journey. We would also learn facts about playing for Team Israel that just made the evening more enjoyable.
What surprised me more than anything was how I felt the following day. I am a Met fan, and likely will be one for my remaining time on this earth, but thanks to the kindness of the executive I met a few weeks ago, I now feel like I have a relationship with a new team. It has always been my thought, one that I took from people older and smarter than me, that more than in any other sport, when it comes to baseball, you support the home team. So from this moment on, as I am now a resident of South Florida, with the exception of when they play against the New York Mets, I will be pulling for the Miami Marlins. While I think I got the tickets purely as a kind gesture, kind gestures add up, and so does a fan base. Lets Go Marlins (except against the Mets).
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