Israeli-American pitcher Dean Kremer on Orioles’ strong season, Team Israel in off-season

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Howard Blas | Special to the JT

(Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles)

Dean Kremer recently completed his best season ever with the Baltimore Orioles—and the Jewish star-wearing pitcher can tell you about it in Hebrew, if you ask him. The right-handed starter went 8-7 in his third season with the O’s. He pitched 119 innings in 22 games, had 87 strikeouts and a 3.23 ERA, and is thrilled to be in Baltimore. Kremer spoke with the “Baltimore Jewish Times” the day after his final start (a loss) on Oct. 3 against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The 26-year-old playfully reported that it was a “long season” and that it’s “hard to remember” details. While he acknowledged that there were “some fun and some frustrations,” he said the season was strong all around. At one point early on, Kremer was on the IL (injured list). Once revved up, he pitched an incredible 23 straight scoreless innings. His personal highlight of the season was a September game against the Houston Astros where he pitched a complete nine-inning game and gave up only four hits in the 6-0 victory. He faced several star players, including José Altuve and fellow Jewish player Alex Bregman, who went 0 for 4.

Kremer did not have to face the issue of pitching on Rosh Hashanah or in Toronto on Yom Kippur, the last game of the season when the Orioles faced the Blue Jays in a double-header, losing one and winning one to end the season with an 83-79 record, a 31-game improvement over 2021. (Jewish Major Leaguers are often asked whether or not they’d play on the High Holidays.) He noted that “it has never come up—I hope it stays that way.”

The Israeli-American pitcher said he has been enjoying his time in Baltimore: “The city is awesome, and I like the area [near the Inner Harbor] that I live in.”

He did note that “there’s not much time to explore. We spend half of the season away, and when we are home, we have long nights and early mornings.” He pointed out that the local Jewish community has reached out to him, though “I haven’t had any chances to meet them yet. I am looking forward to that in the future.”

Kremer grew up in California to two Israeli parents and traveled to Israel frequently until the demands of baseball got too great. “We went to Israel two times a year until I was in high school—for one or two months in the summer and over the winter.” He and his two brothers celebrated their bar mitzvahs in Tel Aviv, where his grandparents are involved. The Kremers speak Hebrew at home—“most of the time.”

Kremer has had a long history with Team Israel. Peter Kurz, general manager of Israel’s Olympic and National baseball teams, has known Kremer for many years and is proud of his accomplishments. “We are very excited to have Dean Kremer on board for the upcoming World Baseball Championship in March and hope he can be the tournament MVP like he was for Team Israel in his first European championship back in 2014 in Lubliana, Slovenia. He went 2-0 with a 0.00 era! And he was 18 years old at the time.”

Kremer looks back fondly on his past experiences with Team Israel with an uncanny memory for the details of his involvement. “My first experience with them was when I played for Team USA in the 2013 Maccabiah, then I played with them for three tournaments in 2014 and ’15 to help the team advance. Then I was drafted”—the first Israeli drafted to a Major League Baseball team—“and could not play until the World Baseball Qualifiers in 2016 and 2017. Each time, I wore the uniform, I had a blast!”

In March, Kremer will join such current Major Leaguers as Joc Pederson (San Francisco Giants), Harrison Bader (New York Yankees), Kevin Pillar (Los Angeles Dodgers) and fellow pitcher Miami Marlins reliever Richard Bleier. The team will be managed by former star second baseman Ian Kinsler, who played on Israel’s 2020 Olympic baseball team. Team Israel is in Pool D and will face off against Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and an additional team to be determined. All three teams are considered to be tough. Team Israel is currently ranked 20th in the world.

The official announcement of Kremer’s participation on Team Israel in the off-season was made in early October. He said when his Orioles teammates heard the news, they congratulated him—“they were super happy.” He also said they have always been aware of his close ties to Judaism and Israel.

For now, Kremer will enjoy a little R&R before joining Team Israel for the World Baseball Classic qualifiers in March. Looking back to last season and ahead to the next, he offered: “Overall, it was a good one, and I am looking forward to the future.”

Howard Blas is a freelance writer.

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