In just a few short months, Briarcliff High School junior Benjamin Raphael will be in Israel, soaking up the historic sites, enjoying the local cuisine and playing baseball under the warm Israeli sun.
Benjamin was recently selected to be one of 18 American baseball players to take part in the U.S. delegation at the 21st Maccabiah, also known as “the Jewish Olympics.” The world’s largest Jewish athletic competition features over 40 different types of sports competitions, with teams from over 80 countries and has been taking place in Israel every four years, since 1932.
Benjamin, who plays on Briarcliff’s Varsity Baseball as well as Varsity Football teams, began his baseball journey at a very young age, due to his father’s love of baseball.
“My dad really loves baseball, so I started playing T-ball when I was four at the Briarcliff Rec League and moved on to Little League and then travel baseball,” he said. “When I was around 11 I started playing competitively with different travel teams throughout New York.
Benjamin has never been to Israel, but last summer when he heard that a friend of his was trying out for the Junior baseball team in the Maccabiah, he decided to try out as well.
“They were holding tryouts in New Jersey, Florida and California, so I went to the New Jersey tryout,” he said. “The only requirement is that you are Jewish and for the Junior category you have to be 15-18 years old.”
Benjamin, who plays all positions in baseball but mostly shortstop and pitcher, ended up making the team along with his friend. They will participate in a training camp in early July and then fly to Israel on July 5th.
“During the first week in Israel we will be travelling all over Israel, and then we will participate in the Maccabiah games until July 22,” Benjamin said. “My parents, grandmother and cousins are also going to Israel this summer.”
According to Benjamin, playing sports at Briarcliff School District has helped him succeed in many ways.
“Playing at Briarcliff has definitely prepared me well,” he said. “The athletics program that Athletics Director Chris Drosopoulos put together has really helped me, especially in high school. I get a lot of support from the coaches and the physical education teachers – it’s a great community. They always push you to be better and encourage you in both athletics and outside of athletics.”
John Schrader, Benjamin’s baseball coach, is proud of Benjamin.
“Ben is a hard-working and very enthusiastic young man,” he said. “It is an absolute pleasure to have the privilege to coach him. He has a very good head on his shoulders and I feel the sky’s the limit for him. We are all so proud of him and I know that he will represent our baseball program as well as the district with his qualities of focus, discipline, and respect.”
Benjamin, who is hoping to continue to play baseball in college, is looking forward to the trip and the Maccabiah competitions.
“I am really excited about the opportunity to participate and also to visit Israel,” he said. “It’s a really cool opportunity and I am fortunate to be a part of this. I’m excited to learn about the Israeli culture, meet athletes from all over the world, and also to play baseball there.”