10 QUESTIONS FOR JEREMY WOLF

Ken Hoffman tosses 10 questions to a Texan-Israeli baseball star

Photo courtesy of Jeremy Wolf

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

The first time I watched Jeremy Wolf hit a baseball was in 2016. He was the slugging leftfielder for Trinity University in San Antonio. I was at the game because one of Trinity's relief pitchers sleeps down the hall from me. (He's my son.)

Actually, I was impressed by Wolf before he even came to bat. His walkup song was "Helter Skelter" by the Beatles. I had to ask him, "How do you even know that song? It was recorded 26 years before you were born." Wolf said, "My mother was a Beatles fan and played their music all the time when I was growing up. I've loved the Beatles my whole life."

Wolf, a senior that year, was named Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year, and Trinity won the D3 World Series, the first Texas school to take the title. Wolf was drafted by the New York Mets and played two years in the minors before a back injury cut his career short … but not for long.

This year, injury-free, Wolf is an outfielder on the Israeli national baseball team. They've already survived three preliminary tournaments in their quest to play in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. The team is competing this week in the final Europe-Africa qualifying tournament in Italy. Six teams are entered, with the winner gaining automatic entry to the Olympics.

Unlike most sports, only six countries will play baseball in the Olympics: one from the Americas, one from Europe/Africa, two from Asia and two at-large teams to be named later.

The Israeli team is 2-0 in the Europe/Africa tournament, with a shutout win over Spain and a shocking 8-1 blowout of reigning Europe champion, The Netherlands. Games remain against the Czech Republic, Italy, and South Africa. Win them all, and come Sunday night, Israel will be headed to the 2020 Olympics – an amazing feat considering that Israel has only one baseball diamond and the team doesn't play games regularly, in fact, rarely practices together.

Wolf is one of 10 U.S. players, including three former Major Leaguers, who became Israeli citizens this year in order to be eligible for Olympic qualifying events. I caught up with Wolf shortly after The Netherlands stunner.

CultureMap: Where do you live now?

Jeremy Wolf: I'm living in Tel Aviv. I will be there for the next six months or so, possibly a year. Saturday nights here are epic. It's like Miami, very relaxed. I live a block from the beach. The cost of living in Israel isn't crazy. My total Internet and phone bill is about $30 a month. Food is cheap but there are little things, like deodorant and toothpaste, that cost double what they cost in the U.S.

CM: Tell me about becoming an Israeli citizen.

JW: The Olympics require that athletes be a citizen of the country they represent. The process for a Jew to become a citizen of Israel is called Aliyah, the law of return, and usually requires being in Israel for a year. The process for us was simple, we got an athlete's exemption. I have two passports and dual citizenship now, U.S. and Israel.

CM: What’s been your biggest adjustment to living in Israel?

JW: The time zone difference when I call family back home. I've had to adjust to Israeli norms, things like crossing the street at the right time or how much to tip at restaurants. I'm trying not to stand out. I want to look and act like another Israeli.

CM: Do you feel like a temp employee or an Israeli?

JW: I feel comfortable knowing everyone is Jewish. Even though I'm half-Italian, I've always identified more as a Jew. But now that we're in Italy this week, I'm telling everybody that I'm half-Italian. Identity crisis is a real thing.

Continue on CultureMap to find out how the players stay sharp without playing games or practicing regularly.

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After blowing a four-run lead and wasting the chance to win the series on Tuesday, the Astros tried to remedy things with a win on Wednesday night behind Zack Greinke on the mound. Here is a recap of the rubber game of the three-game set between Houston and San Francisco:

Final Score: Astros 5, Giants 1.

Record: 8-10, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Zack Greinke (1-0, 2.53 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Caleb Baragar (2-1, 11.25 ERA).

Greinke with another strong start

San Francisco carried over their momentum from the night before into the top of the first against Zack Greinke, getting a leadoff triple that would result in a quick 1-0 lead after an RBI-single. Greinke would do well after that, though, dealing with some traffic but keeping the Giants off the board over the next five innings.

He would keep going into the seventh, but with his pitch count rising and putting two on base with a single and walk, he would have his night come to an end as Houston went to Brooks Raley, who would get the second and third outs. That finalized Greinke's line: 6.1 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K.

Astros bats stay hot, Houston wins the series

Greinke would leave with a lead, thanks to an RBI-single by Alex Bregman in the bottom of the fifth to tie the game 1-1 before Houston would put together a four-run sixth. Houston loaded the bases with no outs to allow Carlos Correa to score on a wild pitch to take a 2-1 lead, then Martin Maldonado followed with another big hit in 2020, a three-run home run to extend the lead to 5-1.

That left two more innings for the bullpen to cover with a four-run lead. In the top of the eighth, Raley would return and retire the Giants in order. Still a 5-1 score in the ninth, Blake Taylor would take over on the mound to try and finish off the game. He would get through the scoreless frame, wrapping up the win and the series victory for Houston.

Up Next: The Astros have a day off on Thursday before continuing this homestand with a three-game weekend series with the Mariners starting Friday at 8:10 PM Central. The expected pitching matchup is Yusei Kikuchi (0-1, 5.28 ERA) going for Seattle, opposite of Framber Valdez (0-2, 2.04 ERA) for Houston.

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