Student Life Archives (2001-2008)

From Kelly Field to the ‘Field of Dreams’

Scott Bressler

After four seasons of playing baseball at Washington University, David Kramer took his skills to Gezer Kibbutz in Israel this summer to play professional baseball for the inaugural Israel Baseball League.

Gezer Kibbutz was the home stadium for Kramer’s team, the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox.

“We call it ‘The Geeze,'” said Kramer. The Geeze is otherwise known as the Field of Dreams.

“They actually call [it] the ‘Field of Dreams’ because it’s literally right outside all of these huge sunflower fields [that] kind of looked like cornfields, kind of like in ‘Field of Dreams.'”

Kramer also said that most of the people living in Bet Shemesh were “originally from New York and they were huge Yankees fans.”

As a result of this, the Blue Sox uniforms were designed in the style of the New York Yankees, white with minimal vertical navy stripes.

Once Kramer heard about the opportunity to play for this new league, getting in and getting there was relatively easy.

“Actually, some guy on the baseball team at Wash. U., one of the other Jewish guys, told me that they were starting a professional baseball league in Israel in January and I was thinking I’m probably not good enough to play,” said Kramer. “I figured they would contact me if they really wanted me to play in the league.”

Sure enough, in February, IBL President Martin Berger sent him an e-mail.

“There is a publication out of San Francisco called the Jewish Sports Review that names Jewish All-Americans in Division I, II, and III. We recruited from those lists because we wanted to find top college baseball players,” said Berger.

Kramer was one of the Division III All-Americans listed, so Berger asked him to come out for the Los Angeles tryout. The problem was that the tryout was April 15, and it would have been against NCAA rules for him to try out while in season.

Kramer e-mailed him back to explain that he was definitely interested but would not be able to make it to the tryout.

“So [Berger] e-mails me back saying ‘Look, you want to be in the league, you’re in the league.”

Kramer called Berger and learned about the logistics of the opportunity. The trip and food would be paid for and Kramer would get $2,000.

Kramer’s next step was talking to his parents, but once his father spoke to the league president and he assured his mother that safety would not be an issue, he made up his mind.

The housing was not the nicest, but Kramer loved the area it was in and being so close to Tel Aviv. They lived in dormitory style rooms, three or four to a room. The first thing Kramer said when he saw the small beds was, “‘How am I going to bring a girl back here?'”

In terms of baseball, Kramer can play any infield position, but played most games for the Blue Sox at second base. His .347 batting average and .505 on-base percentage helped the Blue Sox become the IBL’s first championship team.

“We also had other really good hitters on our team. We had the league leader in home runs. We had the guy who came in second for batting average for the league and he was also first in on-base percentage. I was right up there on my team, but at the same time I was up there with the league leaders for hitting,” said Kramer.

The team, made up of all Americans except for one Dominican and three Israelis, seemed to really take in Kramer.

“Because I’m always the smallest player on every team I play on, everybody on the team just took me in as their kid brother and I loved it,” he said.

Kramer said this aspect of the experience was one of the biggest changes from playing for Wash. U.

“It’s different coming from Wash. U. where I was captain, and before Wash. U. [where] I was All-State in Missouri and so going in to play at the professional level, people look at me at first as this little small kid who probably got into the league because he’s Jewish.”

In addition to going from captain to kid brother, Kramer also underwent another transition from the lack of respect and recognition in Division III sports to the fame and glory of the IBL.

“Kids would always be asking for stuff after the games, like, ‘Can I have your batting gloves? Can I have your bat? Can I have anything? Can I have your autograph?'”

This was not always the case. Since the sport was relatively new to the country, the fan base grew throughout the season.

By the end of the season, they were calling Kramer by one of his two nicknames: “The Mole” and “Kramepiece.”

“[Head Coach Ron] Blomberg called me ‘The Mole’ because I was always getting really dirty,” recalled Kramer.

Despite the creativity of ‘The Mole,’ Kramer liked “Kramepiece” more. Greg, the shortstop and MVP of the league, and one of two “super super Christian guys” on the team, came up with that one. “Basically everything I said [religiously] that would contradict him, he would be like, ‘Well, no, you’re just, you know what, you’re a piece of work, I’m just gonna call you Kramepiece.'”

The fame factor went far beyond the obsessive attention from local children.

Since Israel has no other professional sport in the summer, the IBL craze permeated quickly. They were not only known and loved as IBL players, but as individuals. Kramer remembers people recognizing him as “number nine” after he introduced himself.

Kramer was not quite subjected to the strenuous schedule expected of most professional athletes.

“I would wake up around 10:30 every morning, which was awesome,” he said.

After a daily routine, it was back to the fields about two and a half hours before the game.

“We had batting practice and then we would take an infield.and then play.”

Fridays offered a bit of an earlier start, with the team having to be on the bus at 7:30 a.m. or 9 a.m which was, “not fun,” he said.

Fortunately, the Jewish Shabbat tradition granted the baseball players the rest of Friday and all of Saturday off.

As much as he loved his personal and team success, the opportunity to play professional ball in Israel and his few months as a celebrity, Kramer is glad to be back.

When thoughts turned to next summer, Kramer said they offered him a small bonus if he returns. Though he would love to, it depends on whether he receives any other professional or independent offers. An agency called Pro Baseball Workouts contacted him and will hopefully help him pursue a professional baseball opportunity this summer.

“[The agency] represent[s] independent players from independent leagues and they try to represent the best from each league with the goal to eventually either get them drafted or signed as a free agent by a major league team, so at the very least signed by another independent league in the United States.”

As much as he loved Israel and the IBL, Kramer said that he would take the best offer he received for next summer.

Even with these doubts, Berger said, “We loved having him in the league and hope he comes back next year.”

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