Feb 2, 2006 — It has been called America’s pastime. But it has never been Yeshiva University’s pastime.
Welcome to a new era. The era of Yeshiva University baseball.
Since the mid-1930s, YU has outfitted a basketball team. In subsequent years, the university added, for the men, wrestling, volleyball, fencing, tennis, golf, cross-country, and soccer teams. And for the women: basketball, tennis, and fencing.
Now, through perseverance and sacrifice, the YU men have a baseball team. Beginning March 12, 2006, 22 YU baseball players will take the field for the first time in the school’s history. The team will be a bonafide NCAA baseball team, part of the City University of New York (CUNY) Conference and will play a planned 18-game schedule against teams from City College, John Jay College, Lehman College, Baruch College, Mitchell College (Connecticut), and College of Staten Island. The inaugural season will end April 26. YU’s home field will be at Taft High School in the Bronx.
“It’s going to be real baseball,” said Coach Norman Ringel, a 39-year coaching veteran of high school, and now, college baseball and an Orthodox Jew. “It’s been a dream of mine to one day coach Orthodox college baseball.”
Coach Ringel said two primary forces made the YU baseball team happen: A band of devoted, hard-working students and longtime YU men’s basketball coach, former YU athletic director, and YU alum Jonathan Halpert.
Most of the players are entering a world they have never experienced. In fact, none of the YU players have college baseball experience. Few have any organized baseball experience. Coach Ringel refers to YU squad as “a team of all rookies.”
“I always wanted to play baseball,” said David Beinenfeld, a senior from New Rochelle, NY. “But you grow up in Orthodox Jewish circles and you’re playing softball all your life. When I came to Yeshiva, I asked if there was a chance we’d ever have a baseball team. I was basically told it was never going to happen.”
Junior David Dayan from Toronto said he, like teammate Beinenfeld, has always been interested in baseball.
“But I never had an opportunity to play for a school or at this level,” said David Dayan. “It feels great to be out there representing your college. But it also feels great to see the effort all the guys and Coach Ringel and (assistant) Coach (Howard) Blitz are putting forward. Last year, we woke up at 5:30 to daven and then get to practice.”
One YU player with legitimate baseball experience is Dovid Green, a senior from Boston. Dovid played high school baseball at Maimonides. His commitment to making the YU team become a reality led to him being named team captain by Coach Ringel.
“The dedication of all the guys made this happen,” Dovid said. “Not to take anything away from anyone else, but I think we’re the only team to get up at the crack of dawn to start practicing. Other schools have training grounds and fields and indoor facilities. We don’t have any of that. In addition, we have a dual curriculum with classes from 9 am till 6 pm or later. It’s a tremendous sense of fulfillment.”
One definition of dedication: The YU baseball team gets up at the crack of dawn and davens till about 6:20 am, said Coach Ringel. Practice then runs from about 6:30 till 9 am and then it is off to class. After class, the players will occasionally meet to work out in the Max Stern Athletic Center gym from about 8 pm till 10:30 pm. Coach Ringel said the team will practice under the lights at the Taft High School Field from 7-10 pm on Tuesdays.
The Yeshiva University men’s baseball team is an opportunity of a lifetime for every player who wears the Yeshiva uniform. And speaking of the uniform, Coach Ringel said players initially thought Maccabees should be written across the front of their jerseys. Coach Ringel said, “We’re going to put Yeshiva on there. So everyone knows where were from.”
The players surely know where they are from. And they know the significance of their endeavor.
“It’s going to be something special,” David Dayan said. “Before last year, this was never even in my mind. We’re breaking ground. Hopefully this is something that continues at YU far into the future.”
Lou Gehrig may have been known as the Pride of the Yankees, but at YU every single player who wears a uniform on March 12 will forever be known as the Pride of the Yeshiva University Maccabees.