Beyond Left Field with Norm: Nate Fish “King of Jewish Baseball”

Nate Fish is someone that many have never heard of. As his blog “King of Jewish baseball” states, Nate is the National Executive Director for the Israel Association of Baseball, and the King of All Jewish Baseball, just your average neighborhood baseball prophet magician super-hero genius. 

King of Israel BaseballNate, this is quite in honor talking to you. Please, tell us more about yourself.

Thanks for having me.

I live in New York City where I have worked as a baseball coach and an artist for 10 years.  In June I will be moving to Tel Aviv to take the National Executive Director position for the IAB.  

What is your goal for baseball in Israel?

My goals for baseball in Israel are to introduce and teach the game to Israeli kids, and to provide a higher level of training and competition for the existing baseball community in Israel.  There are a lot of specific goals we have that I will not bore you with, but basically I would love for people in Israel to understand and identify with baseball on some level, as players, as fans… Baseball has done a lot for me in my life, and now I want to give that experience to other people.

You were a teammate of Kevin Youkilis, tell us about Youk. And do you have a funny story to share with us?

Youk and I were teammates at the University of Cincinnati from 1998-2001.  He was one year ahead of me in school.  When I arrived for my first day at practice as a freshman, Kevin was my assigned hitting partner meaning we hit together in the cage each day.  But after a few days, the coaches separated us because we were laughing too much.  It had come up that we were both Jewish and we were laughing about having another Jewish player on the team, and in general were just having a little too much fun.  We had a great run at UC together.  He was eventually drafted in the 8th round by the Red Sox.  And the rest is history.  He went on to win two World Series titles in Boston and a Golden Glove Award and a make couple All-Star appearances.  It has been unbelievable as a friend to watch it all happen.  And now he is on the Yankees, so we will get to spend some time together before I leave for Israel.

How did you get the “King of Jewish baseball” title?

Prior to playing for Team Israel in the WBC Qualifier, I started a blog to share stories about my preparation.  I called it, “My World Baseball Classic Blog.”  But I quickly erased the title, and changed it to “King of Jewish Baseball”.  And that was it.  It stuck.  The blog is meant to be funny, but there is an element of truth to the title.  I have a lot of experience in the world of “Jewish Baseball”, and now we’re making it official when I move to Israel to take over baseball operations there this summer.  

You have played all over the World. Do you have a favorite place?

Probably the Dominican Republic.  It’s just a very competitive baseball environment because so many people play down there, and the style of play is just unique.  Most of the players there play great defense.  Dominican players can really “play catch” as it’s said.  And I am always a fan of good defense.

What was your most memorable moment in your career? 

Tough question.  I have had a lot.  I am 33 now, and have been playing since before I can remember, so there’s a lot of material there.  The two weeks with Team Israel for the WBCQ was pretty good.  I never played affiliated pro baseball for a Major League organization, so it was a great chance for me to be in a pro clubhouse with pro players and coaches and be in that environment for a while.  I must say, I could get used to the lifestyle – I felt right at home.

How has baseball been accepted in Israel?

Well, there is a great functioning, if small, baseball community in Israel.  The people that play and coach there are very committed and their level of understanding the game is very high.  But not a lot of people in Israel play or coach or even watch baseball.  An average Israeli citizen, if asked, will likely not know that baseball in Israel even exists.  They know what the game is, and very little else.  But it is starting to change slowly.  MLB broadcasts three games a week in Israel now, and the numbers are always going up.  I have played quite a bit in Europe, and it is similar to other countries where baseball is not a primary sport.

Give us a few names of Israeli born players to watch out for?

We have an Israeli born pitcher, Alon Leichman, in a great junior college program, Cypress Community College, in California right now.  We do not know where Alon will wind up next year, but hope he is playing at a Division 1 school.  And there is a good group of Junior players  (15-18 years old) in Israel right now that I will be working closely with over the next couple of years to see if we can get them to the next level.

Israel lost to Spain in the WBC qualifier. What was that experience like? 

The WBC was a great experience for me personally, and for the whole team.  Except the losing part.  We had great team chemistry and really believed we could win.  But the final game against Spain just got away from us, and they ultimately advanced to the 2013 WBC.  Overall, it was very much a Big League type of experience.  Of the 28 guys on the team, 25 are currently playing pro baseball, and most at the higher levels of the minor leagues.  Along with our coaching staff; Brad Ausmus, Shawn Green (who played as well), Gabe Kapler, Mark Loretta, Andrew Lorraine, and Matt Martin, we resembled a Major League baseball team.  It was an honor to be involved.

Nate, thanks for taking time for us. Is there anything you would like to add?

Support Israel Baseball and baseball everywhere!  And thank you for having me.

Check out Nates blog at http://kingofjewishbaseball.wordpress.com/

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