Reflecting on the Israeli baseball team’s performance in this year’s Olympics, Yoni Rosenblatt, the team’s sports physical therapist, described them as coming “painfully close” to competing in a medal game.
“Being that close showed a lot of people,” said Rosenblatt, a resident of Pikesville and a member of Pikesville Jewish Congregation. “We heard it from Mexico, who we knocked out of the tournament, which is a perennial international baseball powerhouse. And we heard it from the Dominican team that we lost to in the bottom of the ninth inning, how amazed they were that Israel was competing at such a high level.”
Had a few things gone a different way, the team could have come home with a bronze medal — at a minimum, Rosenblatt speculated. He noted that Israel’s No. 1 starter, 10 pitches into the tournament, was injured for the remainder of the tournament.
Rosenblatt is a fourth-generation Baltimorean. He attended Talmudical Academy before switching to Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School during seventh grade, he said. He received his undergraduate degree in kinesiological sciences from the University of Maryland, College Park, and his doctorate of physical therapy from the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
Rosenblatt specializes in treating elite-level athletes, he said. In the past, he has worked with members of the Baltimore Ravens, the Baltimore Orioles, the Green Bay Packers, the New York Knicks, the Cleveland Indians, the Tennessee Titans and many others.
He found his way to treating Team Israel through a mutual friend of Adam Gladstone, who at the time was the director of baseball operations for the Israeli team and was assembling players for the World Baseball Classic.
Rosenblatt began working with the Israeli baseball team in 2016, when he traveled with them to New York to qualify for the World Baseball Classic. During the following year, he went with them to the World Baseball Classic in South Korea and Tokyo. He went with them again in 2019 to Bulgaria to qualify for the Olympics and accompanied them to the Tokyo games this year.
“The Seoul, Korea, experience was unbelievable, just because we were really able to get a piece of Korean culture while we were there,” Rosenblatt said.
Rosenblatt was also gladdened by what he viewed as a sympathetic perception of Israel in South Korea.
“They have a soft spot in their heart for Israel, because the nations have followed a somewhat similar trajectory … as hubs of technology,” Rosenblatt said. “Also, how to live with an uncertain, let’s call it ‘neighboring countries,’ that both South Korea and Israel have to deal with on a daily basis.”
As for Tokyo, Rosenblatt saw it as electric, energetic, organized and inspiring, he said.
“Seeing their open-air markets, which is a throwback to early Japanese culture and history, and then walking three blocks and being on the Rodeo Drive of Tokyo, where all the highest-end markets and retail are at your disposal, was an awesome dichotomy to see,” Rosenblatt said.
The types of injuries that can occur with professional baseball players can be distinct from injuries with other types of sports, Rosenblatt said. Issues with elbows, shoulders and hips pop up often with baseball players.
“The tasks that we have to get them back to are very unique,” Rosenblatt said. “Understanding the physics and biomechanics of a joint, as is necessary to throw a baseball, is very unique and different than even throwing a football.”
Rosenblatt understands and appreciates how rare it is to work with Olympic-level athletes representing the Jewish state.
“I was tremendously proud to represent a state that I was raised to love, in the state of Israel,” Rosenblatt said. “I was excited at the level of athlete that I would have the privilege of working with.”