For many Orioles fans, the evening of July 18 will forever be one of the saddest moments in the team’s history, as the Birds traded coveted All-Star Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
However, Orioles fans who are taking the long view, and especially fans in Baltimore’s Jewish community, should be excited to know the trade brought back five prospects from Los Angeles, including right-handed pitcher Dean Kremer, the first and only Israeli MLB player. Kremer is currently pitching for the Bowie Baysox, the Double-A affiliate of the Orioles.
Kremer was born and raised in Stockton, California, but has dual citizenship because both of his parents, Adi and Sigal, are Israeli.
He and his brothers, Ron and Niv, were raised in the Reform movement, which he says instilled values he still practices today. The Kremer family traveled to Israel every summer.
“I go back every year to visit family in the Tel Aviv area. Usually go to the beach, hang out with friends. It’s kind of like my vacation,” he said.
While it might seem surprising in 2018 that Kremer is the only Israeli MLB player, he says it’s because baseball has only recently gained popularity in Israel. But Kremer thinks that’s going to change.
“In Israel, baseball is really starting to come along. The camps are developing and growing, so that’s good,” he said. “It’ll be a younger generation. They are still 12, 13, 14 years old.”
When asked if he’d be interested in using his MLB status to facilitate baseball programming in Israel, he said, “Absolutely. Anytime I can make an impact I’d like to.”
Kremer played for two Israeli baseball teams, including the Israel National team in the European Baseball Championships and team Israel in the World Baseball Classic.
“I played in the Maccabiah Games, which is the Jewish Olympics. It’s held in Israel every four years,” Kremer said. “When I was 17, I played for Team USA, and that’s when they scouted me for the European Championships. They knew I had Israeli citizenship and have been to Israel every summer since I was born. It kind of took off from there.”
The Israeli team that competed in the World Baseball Classic included MLB players Ike Davis, who at the time was on the New York Mets, and Ryan Lavarnway, who was playing for the Oakland Athletics. Kremer, who was 20 at the time and had been recently drafted by the Dodgers, was the youngest player on the team.
“It was an amazing experience,” Kremer said.
Kremer has only been in Maryland for a few weeks, and hasn’t yet had an opportunity to meet with the Bowie Baysox fans. Still, he is excited for what the new town and new organization will bring. He’ll also add to the Orioles’ Jewish pedigree. Only nine of the 750 active roster MLB players identify as Jewish, but two of them, left-handed pitcher Richard Bleier and outfielder Danny Valencia, are Orioles. Now comes Kremer.
“The team has been great to me. They welcomed us with open arms, so it’s been a good time,” said Kremer. “I’m excited to get going and make an impact on this organization.”