Dean Kremer says Israel will be ‘in the back of my head’ as he becomes first Israeli to start MLB playoff game
Photo: Ron Schwane/Getty Images
Dean Kremer wears a Star of David necklace when he pitches.

Kremer will take the mound against the Texas Rangers tonight.

By Jacob Gurvis

(JTA) — When pitcher Dean Kremer takes the mound for his Baltimore Orioles Tuesday night, it will no doubt be the biggest start of the 27-year-old’s young MLB career.

The Orioles are down two games to none in a best-of-five series against the Texas Rangers. A win Tuesday will extend the series; a loss ends Baltimore’s impressive season, in which they won an American League-best 101 games. The game will be Kremer’s first postseason appearance.

But the pressure doesn’t end there. Kremer is also likely the first Israeli to play in an MLB playoff game, a distinction he will earn against the backdrop of Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas, which launched a surprise attack over the weekend that has led to more than 1,000 deaths, including 11 Americans.

Kremer became the first Israeli drafted into the big leagues in 2015 when he was selected by the San Diego Padres. The right-hander elected to play another year in college before being drafted again the following year by the Los Angeles Dodgers. He would later be traded to Baltimore in a deal that included superstar third baseman Manny Machado. He became the first Israeli to pitch in the MLB when he made his debut in 2020.

(Recently retired catcher and fellow Team Israel alum Ryan Lavarnway became the first Israeli citizen to appear in a game after he obtained his citizenship ahead of the 2020 Olympics.)

Kremer was born and raised in Stockton, California, to Israeli parents, and he holds dual citizenship. Kremer is fluent in Hebrew and spends time each year in Israel, where much of his extended family lives. He has played for Team Israel numerous times, including in the 2023 World Baseball Classic.

“Playing for Team Israel, anytime I get to put on that uniform is special for me,” Kremer said in March, after starting Team Israel’s lone tournament win over Nicaragua. “It’s like another home. So every time I get to represent it’s one of the better feelings.”

According to ESPN, Kremer learned that he would be starting Tuesday’s game on Sunday, one day after Hamas’ attack began.

“I still want to pitch, but, I mean, it’s going to be in the back of my head,” Kremer said, referencing the conflict. He told ESPN that his family members, many of whom have served in the Israeli army, are safe.

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde spoke with Kremer on Monday.

“Gave him my support and sympathies for him and his family that’s involved, and he seemed OK,” Hyde told ESPN. “Obviously, he’s very disturbed and there’s a lot of things going on. But I didn’t sense that it was going to affect … I think he’s really looking forward to pitching tomorrow so I didn’t think it was going to affect him.”

Kremer also said many of his teammates have checked in on him since the conflict began. “I’m very grateful for that,” he said.

Kremer, who often wears a Star of David necklace when he pitches, reposted MLB’s statement of support for Israel on Instagram on Monday, adding a line of Hebrew that read, “There are no words. My heart just got ripped to shreds.”

Jordy Alter, the president of the Israel Association of Baseball, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that “we are proud that Dean has earned the honor of pitching in Game 3 tonight.”

“Dean, as a representative of the state of Israel, by virtue of his dual citizenship and having played on many Israel national teams, will have the added pressure of pitching while worrying about his family and friends back home,” Alter added.

Dean Kremer pitches against Nicaragua in Israel’s first game of the 2023 World Baseball Classic, March 12, 2023, in Miami. (Courtesy Team Israel)

Zack Raab, who is Jewish and works for MLB, posted on LinkedIn about Kremer’s start, urging his network to root for the Orioles pitcher on Tuesday.

“Dean is a friend, a wonderful human being, and a great ballplayer who will no doubt be pitching with a broken but not defeated heart and spirit tonight, while representing so many of us who are feeling the same way this week. 🇮🇱💔” Raab wrote.

Leave a Reply