Maccabi Canada’s talented baseball team eyeing Gold

Heading into the 2017 Maccabiah Games, Canada’s Junior Boys Baseball team has its eyes squarely set on favourites Team USA and beating them for the gold medal. With returning coach Howard Binstock at the helm and his assistant coach Matt Winograd by his side, the balanced, talented and deep team is comprised of players from Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Halifax and Atlanta.

In his second stint as the team’s head coach, Binstock believes that his players’ ability to quickly develop chemistry and gel on and off the field will help the team succeed in a new tournament format that will see the top two teams in the round-robin play in a one-game final.

While the team is stacked with talent, he notes that there are a few players to keep an eye on, such as Jordan Glazer, a versatile infielder and pitcher who competed for Team Quebec at the T12 showcase this past September. The annual event in Toronto welcomes Canada’s 160 best amateur baseball players.

Glazer will be joined in the infield by Atlanta native Micah Frankel, a promising shortstop
and pitcher whose Maccabiah dream almost ended before it began.

“Travel problems almost caused me to miss the tryouts in Toronto. Despite running on three hours of sleep, pure adrenaline pushed me through,” recalled Frankel. “I’m very proud to be playing for Canada.”

For Frankel, this summer will mark his first trip to the Maccabiah Games, but not his first experience in the Maccabiah movement.

The Atlanta Jewish Academy shortstop captured a gold medal at the 2016 JCC Maccabi Games in Columbus, Ohio.

With the taste of victory from last year waning, Frankel is hungry for another gold. Fortunately for his teammates, he has hit the ground running this season. In 12 games, Frankel is averaging .455 with 15 hits and 9 RBIs. On the mound, he’s struck out 8 batters in 7.1 innings pitched.

“Participating in the Maccabiah Games is a special opportunity that I know I will cherish forever,” said Frankel. “It’s more than playing baseball in Israel, but meeting Jewish athletes from around the world and building relationships with my teammates.”

While competition is at the forefront of the Maccabiah Games, for Binstock, he is also looking forward to spending time with his team outside the ballpark, seeing them connect with the country and its people.

“Israel is such a rich country and some of the best memories are made when we’re touring,” he said. “Two of the highlights have to be climbing Masada and planting trees. These experiences are so meaningful and I truly believe that the Games are a means of bringing Jewish people from around the world together to bask in everything Israel has to offer.”

While appreciating the history and landscapes, he also wants his team to understand the incredible sacrifices that are being made on a daily basis to ensure that Israel continues to both exist and thrive.

“I hope we will be able to visit Beit Halochem, a rehabilitation centre for war veterans,” added Binstock. “Some of these veterans are not much older than my athletes; I would love for them to meet the soldiers and spend some time with the true heroes.”

As the head coach, Binstock’s confidence that they will be in contention for the gold medal only increases closer to the first pitch, but he maintains a dual focus. After the final out, he hopes that whatever medal is around their neck, if any, the team walks away with something more important: a new appreciation for the country and their Jewish heritage.