The first Major League Baseball designated hitter Ron Blomberg earned the nickname “Designated Hebrew” because of his position and pride in his Judaism. Arizona softball’s designated hitter Tamara Statman can relate.
After going on her own journey to Israel this summer, Statman is celebrating Passover, the Jewish holiday, with a new perspective.
Statman, like most Jews, is refraining from eating bread or anything else made from wheat, barley, oats, spelt or rye and is given time to rise. The product is a flat cracker called matzo. The reason for this tradition is the Israelis left Egypt so quickly after being granted freedom that they did not wait for their bread to rise and carried it on their backs.
Statman. a speedy slap hitter, is used to leaving in such a hurry. Arizona softball will play at home for the first weekend of the holiday but will travel to Eugene, Oregon, for the second weekend. “We’ll be away, so I’ll have to bring matzo,” Statman said.
Statman played for Team USA at the World Maccabiah Games. The games are an international competition similar to the Olympics but instead is reserved for Jews to compete against each other. Statman won the gold medal with Team USA while competing against Mexico and Israel.
Statman said she was taken aback by the passion of the Israeli team, despite them losing every game they played. This included 12-0 and 10-0 losses to the Americans.
“It is cool to see how sports really can bring people together, especially at that level. Because we played the Israeli national team, and you have religious girls on that team,” Statman said. “We had married women wearing the skirts and having their hair covered. That was really cool and eye-opening. They’re playing the sport because they really, really love it, because they had older women on that team and because they have conscription and everyone there goes to military service.”
Statman found a strong connection to Am Yisrael, the Jewish People, at the games.
“The best part of the opening ceremony was singing the Israeli national anthem, ‘Hatikvah.’ There was something magical about everyone in the stadium standing with arms around each other singing. I’m getting chills right now thinking about it. It is just an incredible feeling that we may all be from Jewish countries, but being Jewish brings us all together to the land of Israel,” Statman said, according to the fall 2017 issue of SportScene, the Maccabiah USA’s biannual publication.
Evidence of Statman’s trip can be heard around Hillenbrand Stadium. Her walk-up song on March 16 was “Tudo Bom,” an Israeli pop song by Static and Ben El Tavori.
“It’s just so bad and so good at the same time,” Statman said of the rather outrageous song, whose title means, “It’s OK.”
The song talks about the beauty of the Israeli city Tel Aviv, among other things.
Judaism has always been a part of Statman’s life, not just after visiting Israel. She was a member of the National Counsel of Synagogue Youth, an orthodox Jewish youth group, as well as the Friendship Circle, an organization pairing teens with children with special needs founded by Chabad of Arizona, Statman’s home synagogue.
Passover, also called “pesach,” the Hebrew name for the holiday, began at sundown on March 30, as days in the Jewish calendar start when there are three stars in the sky. Sundown took place around 6:40 p.m. on Friday, so Passover for Statman actually happened in the middle of her softball game against California. It was quite fitting.
Follow Max Cohen on Twitter