Dan's Dugout: Next Hall-of-Famer Spends Induction Weekend in Israel • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: Next Hall-of-Famer Spends Induction Weekend in Israel

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Where was next year’s first-ballot Hall of Famer during this year’s inductions?

He was in Israel on an interfaith mission sponsored by the New York Board of Rabbis and coordinated by Galore Travel, another Manhattan-based enterprise.

Mariano Rivera had a record 652 career saves.
Image Credit: Daniel Budasoff

That’s right, readers: Mariano Rivera spent 2018 Induction Weekend in the Holy Land.

Instead of saving games, he was saving lives.

Rivera, who spent his entire 19-year career as a star relief pitcher with the New York Yankees, visited the active-duty personnel at the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] Michve Alon base in the Galilee area of Northern Israel. The base, which houses nearly 6,000 soldiers, offers special programs for soldiers with diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds.

According to Rivera, who saved a record 652 games plus 42 more in post-season play, “I’m privileged and honored to learn about the young men and women in the IDF training to be a better person, a better citizen, and a better human being. For me, it was something special that I will take with me throughout my life.”

The soft-spoken Panamanian posed for pictures, signed autographs – in English, not Hebrew –
and made one of the biggest hits of his career. Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) arranged the base visit.

Mission participants learned about the FIDF programs carried out at the IDF Alon Educational and Instructional Center, located on the base. Among the FIDF courses are those that teach Hebrew, Israel’s official language, to newly-arrived immigrants and soldiers from minority groups.

“We were thrilled to host Mariano Rivera at Michve Alon to witness FIDF’s important programs in action,” said Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir, FIDF National Director and CEO.

“Considering Rivera’s own remarkable philanthropic endeavors, including his foundation’s work helping impoverished communities and providing education assistance, we believed that he’d recognize and appreciate how valuable FIDF’s programs are for IDF soldiers of all backgrounds.

Mariano Rivera receives an award from Latino Sports. Credit: Bill Menzel

“The IDF is the melting pot of Israeli society. It not only protects the Jewish homeland but also cares – with FIDF’s support – for all its soldiers, from a mosaic of religious, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds.”.

The 48-year-old Rivera is a Panamanian who played 19 seasons for the Yankees and is widely regarded as both the best closer in baseball history and a humanitarian. He is involved in several philanthropic initiatives, primarily through the Mariano Rivera Foundation and the Christian community.

Long considered a model citizen in the colorful and sometimes controversial world of Major League Baseball, Rivera has even been mentioned as potential unanimous selection to the Baseball Hall of Fame. No player has ever achieved that distinction.

Winners of the next vote by the Baseball Writers Association of America will be announced in January. Edgar Martinez, long-time designated hitter for the Seattle Mariners, is also likely to gain entrance.

Edgar Martinez should reach Cooperstown next year. (Photo courtesy of mlbreports.com)

The New York Board of Rabbis, comprised of all branches of Jewish life and working closely with the interfaith community, is the largest interdenominational rabbinic body in the world.

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Executive Vice President of the board, was lavish in his praise of the IDF. “We can never say thank you enough to those who are ready to sacrifice their lives for the people of Israel,” he said. “They are not just our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers; they are their saviors.”

The NYBR delegation, Rivera, and members of Refugio de Esperanza – Refuge of Hope (the Church where Clara Rivera is the Pastor) met with soldiers who study and serve on the Michve Alon base, including several Lone soldiers – those with no immediate family in Israel.

Among them were Sgt. Emily, a Lone Soldier from Illinois, and Pvt. Sivan, a Lone Soldier from Colombia, who spoke Rivera’s native language of Spanish.

FIDF’s educational and scholarship programs transform the lives of thousands of IDF soldiers each year, especially through the IMPACT! initiative that grants four-year, higher education scholarships to combat and combat-support soldiers from challenging socioeconomic backgrounds.

Established in 1981 by a group of Holocaust survivors as a 501(C)(3) not-for-profit organization, FIDF offers educational, cultural, recreational, and social programs and facilities that provide life-changing support for the soldiers who protect Israel and Jews worldwide. Today, FIDF has 20 chapters throughout the United States and Panama.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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