That’s how former Pomona-Pitzer baseball player Simon Rosenbaum PO ’16 described the moment Israel’s national baseball team — which he plays for — qualified for the 2020 Olympics.
Rosenbaum and the rest of the Israeli team won the Europe/Africa Olympic qualifying tournament in Italy on Sept. 22, marking the first time an Israeli team sport qualified for the Olympics since 1976, according to the Jerusalem Post.
“Being able to represent Israel on such a global stage is surreal. It’s hard to put into words what that means,” Rosenbaum said. “It is really, really difficult to believe I’m in this position.”
During the tournament, Rosenbaum played both right-field and designated hitter as Israel defeated South Africa, Italy and the Netherlands on their way to the tournament victory.
In the final game of the tournament, a sacrifice fly from Rosenbaum kicked off Israel’s scoring streak in the top of the second inning. He also hit another sacrifice fly to stretch the lead to 6-0.
Israel won decisively: 11-1.
Rosenbaum’s time at Pomona College led him to the Israeli team. Another P-P baseball player introduced Rosenbaum to Peter Kurz, the general manager of the Israeli team, who invited Rosenbaum to join the program.
The former Sagehen has now been playing for Israel since 2014 — a fact that for Rosenbaum, means more than just a name on the front of his jersey.
“For me, my grandfather was born in Germany as a German Jew in the early 1930s, and he was kicked out of his home [during] World War II and the Holocaust,” Rosenbaum said. “After that, he was able to get a home in Israel.”
Rosenbaum, who majored in mathematics and economics at Pomona, initially served as a player-coach for the Brussels Kangaroos, a Belgian baseball club, after graduating. Soon after, Rosenbaum secured his current position as an intern for the Tampa Bay Rays, where he’s spent three seasons working as a coordinator for baseball development.
Rosenbaum played multiple sports as a child, both basketball and baseball in high school, and chose to focus on playing baseball in college.
He earned numerous accolades during his years as a Sagehen. After undergoing ‘Tommy John’ surgery, in which a ligament in the elbow is replaced with a tendon, during his first year, Rosenbaum returned to the field and was named a Division III All-American and SCIAC Player of the Year during his sophomore season.
He finished his college career with a .376 batting average, .484 on-base percentage and .634 slugging percentage. Yet these achievements aren’t what Rosenbaum remembers the most about his time at Pomona.
“At the Division III level, in the fall, you don’t get a lot of time with coaches, so you’re around [your teammates] a lot on the field and in the weight room,” Rosenbaum said. “So when you play and compete for each other, it means a little bit more because of your relationships that you have with your teammates outside the field.”