Fourteen-year-old Ben Dodek of Ottawa will be the only non-Israeli resident to play on the Israel National Baseball Team in the European Championships in Prague in April.
While Ben Dodek has played for the Ottawa West Twins in a Canadian national championship tournament, it will be a whole other ball game when he competes in the “Cadet” category for ages 12 to 15 on behalf of the Israel National Baseball Team in the European Championships this April in Prague. He’ll be a unique member of the team as the only player not from Israel.
“I’ve played baseball most of my life, from age six or seven,” said Ben, a left-handed “southpaw” who plays first base and also pitches.
Ben is a dual Canadian and Israeli citizen which makes him eligible to play on the team even though he does not live in Israel.
“When I was younger, my father always played catch with me at the park. I wasn’t that interested early on, but developed a love for baseball and other sports,” he said.
A family friend in Ottawa, Eitan Maoz (who was profiled in the September 21, 2014 issue of the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin), played on Israel’s senior national team for age 21 and over and put Ben in touch with the national director of the Israel Association of Baseball.
When he lived in Israel for six months in 2014-2015, Ben played city baseball with the Jerusalem Lions. However, for the Israel National Baseball Team tryout, he sent videos of himself playing for the Ottawa West Twins in an intermediate tournament for the Canadian Championship in New Brunswick.
Ben’s childhood was spent in Toronto until his family moved to Ottawa in 2010. He now attends Nepean High School.
“If being a [professional] baseball player doesn’t work out for me,” he said, “I’d like to be a lawyer.”
Should he become a lawyer, he’d be following in the footsteps of his father, University of Ottawa law professor Adam Dodek.
Ben is looking forward to going to the tournament in Prague.
“I’ve heard lots of great things about Prague,” he said. “My grandparents have been there.”
Ben’s father and grandfather will be going to the tournament with him.
Ben will head to Petah Tikva in central Israel the week before the tournament to practise with the team. With practices scheduled for the evenings, he plans to spend his days travelling around Israel and visiting with friends.
The costs associated with playing baseball in Israel and travelling to tournaments like the one in Prague are borne by the players and their families, and Nicole Goldstone, Ben’s mother, is helping raise money for scholarships to help players whose families cannot afford the cost of playing baseball in Israel.
The fundraising effort supports the Howie Osterer Scholarship Fund established by the Israel Association of Baseball through the Jewish National Fund in memory of Howie Osterer, formerly of Ottawa, a baseball umpire, coach and self-proclaimed “king of baseball in Israel” who passed away suddenly in 2014.
“We are fortunate enough to be able to afford the cost of Ben’s trip to the Prague, but many of the Israelis cannot afford the cost, which is left for each family to cover, and so money to the fund will give other Israeli kids who are less fortunate, the chance to participate,” said Goldstone.
“Howie got so many kids to play baseball and worked so hard to make sure that even those kids who could not afford the fees would be able to play,” she said.
Donations to the fund may be made at http://site.jnf.ca/index.php/howie-baseball/.