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September 15, 1989 - Image 54

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-09-15

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

SPORTS

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Israel's Abner Doubleday

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Texas native Randy Kahn introduced, and oversees,
Little League baseball in Israel.

MIKE ROSENBAUM

Special to The Jewish News

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Most Americans think of
Abner Doubleday, the Civil
War general, as the inventor
of baseball. Though histor-
ians have disproved the story,
Doubleday remains a symbol
of baseball's evolution in the
United States.
In Israel, however, ex-Texan
Randy Kahn is the real thing.
He did not invent the game,
but he introduced organized
baseball to the Jewish state
and is primarily responsible
for the sport's development
there. So much an influence is
he, that Jerusalem Mayor
Teddy Kollek has called Kahn
the "father" of Israeli
baseball.
As a boy, Kahn was an en-
thusiastic little league
baseball player with average
talent who later played on his
high school's freshman team.
"I'm not that great a player,"
he says. "I just love it and I
love kids."
In 1985 Kahn, working as
an outstide sales represen-
tative for Kraft in 'Texas, took
a three-month leave of
absence to visit his sister who
had moved to Israel and mar-
ried an Israeli.
Randy Kahn had first
visited Israel in 1976, living
on a kibbutz for four months.
This time, however, he took a
baseball and three gloves
with him. One spring day,
Kahn unpacked the equip-
ment, rounded up nephews
Yaacov and Yona, and began
tossing the ball around.
"The kid next door came
over," Kahn recalls. "Then his
friends came over. Before I
knew it I had 20-25 kids. And
they all wanted to learn
baseball."
Before Kahn's three months
were up, he decided to move to
Israel and introduce baseball
to the nation. "Only because
of baseball did I even go back
at all," he explains. "I had a
great sales job. I was doing
just fine in Houston. But I
needed a change. I felt like I
was just doing the same old
thing every day.
"I wanted to go to Israel —
and it certainly is different —
and I wanted to make a
change there. In Houston, I
could never make a change in
my surroundings. I was only
a spot on the map whereas, in
Israel, I'm changing lives of
kids and that means a lot to
me. I feel like I'm needed."

William Serman, IAB-Detroit membership chairman, presents a check to
Kahn as Phillip Applebaum, far left, and Robert Sternberg look on.

He is helping to change
children's lives through
baseball leagues. "Where
kids who normally were very
quiet and didn't assimilate
among the Israeli youth, now
they are on the baseball field
and they're a part of a team,"
Kahn says. "It's changed
their lives. They've now
become a little bit more self-
confident. They're a part of
something, a team, and their
peers look up to them."
Kahn established a non-
profit organization, Israel-
American Baseball, in Thxas,
and made several trips to the
U.S. to gather baseball
equipment.
At first, Texas parks and
recreation departments and
Jewish community centers
were his prime sources. Then
the Houston Astros chipped
in 60 used baseballs. Kahn
went to New York, where he
solicited Jewish owners at
sporting goods stores at a na-
tional sporting goods
manufacturers convention.
Louisville slugger, a prime
supplier of bats to the major
leagues, donated several large
bags of them. A major league
team owner anonymously
provided support money for
several years.
Today, Bill Mazur, one of the
Chicago White Sox' owners, is
the national chairman for
Israeli-American Baseball.
Kahn returned to Israel,
learned Hebrew at Tel Aviv
University, then began tak-
ing coaching classes at
Jerusalem's Wingate In-
stitute. He will soon graduate
as a certified athletic coach.
Kahn is now executive
director of the Israel Associa-
tion of Baseball — not to be
confused with its partner,

Israel AmericanBaseball —
as its only paid employee. His
father, Leonard, a retired
lawyer who made aliyah in
1985, is an LAB volunteer.
The IAB is affiliated with the
International Little League.

Despite his title, Kahn says
he earns much less money
than he did at Kraft. "But
that doesn't bother me," he
says. "I know that later on
down the road I'll make a liv-
ing." He adds that his "liv-
ing" will always be made

'Only because of
baseball did I even
go back at all.

from his baseball work. "It's
more exciting for me to live
this kind of life, where I run
an organization that is grow-
ing."
Through the years, the
number of teams and players
in Israel has steadily grown.
Four teams played informal-
ly in 1986.

They were from Beth It-
zhak, where Kahn introduced
baseball and which now is
known as Israel's
Cooperstown; Herzlia,
Netanya and a remarkable
combined team from the
Ramat Hakovesh Kibbutz
and the Arab village of Tira.
That team, which stayed
together through 1988, did
not play last year because its
coach emigrated to the U.S.

"When it was happening, it
worked," Kahn says of the
Arab-Jewish team. "There
was very little hostility. They
got along pretty well. They're
kids. "The parents were very,

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