Base­ball fa­natic goes pro­fes­sional at 45

The Jewish Chronicle - - Sport - BY ANDREW PENTOL

BASE­BALL fa­natic Ari Alexenberg is con­fi­dent of prov­ing that age is no bar­rier when he be­gins life as a pro­fes­sional player at the age of 45.

The Amer­i­can-born south­paw (left-han­der) from Portsmouth, New Hamp­shire, will put age con­cerns be­hind him when he takes to the field in the open­ing match of the in­au­gu­ral Is­rael Base­ball League (IBL) on June 24.

The pitcher has signed a sea­son-long con­tract as a player-coach af­ter spurn­ing the first try­outs in the US and at­tend­ing the sec­ond in Is­rael.

A Con­ser­va­tive Jew, whose Ortho­dox back­ground means he can­not play on Shab­bat, Alexenberg is ea­ger to make his mark in the pro­fes­sional game hav­ing worked his way through the ama­teur leagues and de­vel­oped the skills to play full-time.

“It’s ex­tremely ex­cit­ing to say the least, and the op­por­tu­nity to play pro­fes­sion­ally at such a late stage in my life seems un­be­liev­able,” an elated Alexenberg told JC Sport.

“I am still find­ing it hard to be­lieve as at this age I thought the op­por­tu­nity had gone. When I went to the tri­als in Is­rael, I knew I had a chance if they were will­ing to over­look my age and as­sess me on my skills and pitch­ing.

“There were phases when I thought it would be crazy to at­tend, but there were also pe­ri­ods when I kept on telling my­self to be­lieve I can suc­ceed. The whole con­cept is made even more ex­cit­ing by the fact I will be play­ing in a new league in a place I spent part of my youth.”

Dan Du­quette, the league’s di­rec­tor of player de­vel­op­ment, added: “Ari is a great story and proves the the­ory that left-handed pitch­ers ma­ture later. He has a good fast­ball, throws it over the plate and is ag­gres­sive.”

With just un­der five months un­til the first game, Alexenberg said: “At the mo­ment it looks like I will be play­ing for the Pe­tah Tik­vah Pi­o­neers who take on the Jerusalem/Gezer Li­ons in the first match of the sea­son. I do not know too much about the team other than the fact they are based in Pe­tah Tik­vah where my par­ents and sib­lings live.”

The fa­ther-of-two praised the work of IBL or­gan­is­ers, who have set up clubs in six com­pet­ing cities while try­ing to raise the profile of the sport.

“At the mo­ment there is a strong Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion in Is­rael who un­der­stand and ap­pre­ci­ate the sport,” he ex­plained. “The chal­lenge is to in­crease the ap­peal among Is­raelis and it is clear they are do­ing a great job. In terms of venues they have also made sig­nif­i­cant progress with three lo­ca­tions set to be used. One is a foot­ball field in Ne­tanya which will be con­verted into a base­ball pitch for the sum­mer and an­other is a beau­ti­ful field which has been mod­i­fied to fit more peo­ple in the stands.”

Hav­ing spent much of his ca­reer as a semi-pro­fes­sional, “the ex­pe­ri­ence I have picked up down the years could be one of the rea­sons I was se­lected. I have coached at col­lege level all the way down to youth base­ball and de­spite my age, I be­lieve I am get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter.”

While phys­i­cal prow­ess is an im­por­tant el­e­ment, “as a pitcher it is also about ex­pe­ri­ence and hav­ing a men­tal un­der­stand­ing of the game. In terms of fit­ness, I now need to take it up a notch and stay flexible, which be­comes even more im­por­tant at my age.”

Alexenberg, who refers to base­ball as a “Jewish sport,” says, “it is a mag­nif­i­cent game, but what I love the most is the in­cred­i­ble in­te­gra­tion of the men­tal and phys­i­cal. The anal­y­sis, dis­cus­sion and de­bate which is of­ten in­volved con­nects well with the Jewish way of think­ing.”

Ari Alexenberg, 45, is set to make his pro­fes­sional de­but in Is­rael in June

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