Eric Berger Video Still

Eric Berger pitching for Team Israel. Video capture courtesy of WorldBaseballClassic.com.


Eric Berger
 was the starting pitcher for Team Israel vs. South Africa in the first game of the qualifying rounds of the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

Pitching without his signature mustache (see locker room photo and ‘stache photo below), Berger threw three scoreless innings, giving up two hits while notching three strikeouts and yielding no runs, to earn the historic win for Team Israel (the team’s stats can be found on the WBC web site). 

Eric Berger TI Locker Room

Eric Berger in the Team Israel locker room. Photo courtesy of Nate Fish,
kingofjewishbaseball.wordpress.com.

The achievement was the fulfillment of a discussion Beger started during 2011/2012 Winter Ball in Venezuela, according to an interview Berger conducted with JewishBaseballNews.com.

Berger’s enthusiasm about playing for Team Israel grew as the 2012 season went on.

During a nearly 30-minute pre-game interview with JewishSportsCollectibles.com in June, Berger told me “to represent Israel would be really cool. We have a chance to open people’s eyes about Israel and Jewish baseball players.”

Selected by the Cleveland Indians in the eighth round (#261 overall) of the 2008 Draft while he played college ball for the University of Arizona, Berger split the 2012 season between the AA Akron Aeros and the AAA Columbus Clippers, working as both a starter and relief pitcher.

Raised in a Reform Jewish household, Berger was bar mitzvahed, but has had “a lot less involvement” in regular daily observance since then. While he says he “does occasionally catch a service,” Berger’s “full-time focus [has been] on baseball since seventh grade.”

Berger says he has never faced anti-Semitism during his baseball career, Berger wishes he had.

“I kind of want to see what it feels like,” Berger told me. “How does that make you feel? I want to experience some real life stuff. I play baseball every day. How much of the real world do I really know? And, it would motivate me. There’s nothing more that motivates people than negativity.”

A self-described fan of Sandy Koufax, Berger is not, himself, a sports memorabilia collector. “I’m not into memorabilia too much,” he said. “But, I can appreciate how someone can connect with it.”

Berger says he keeps his own baseball cards in a draw and shares them with fans and family.

Eric Berger Razor

Eric Berger 2008 Razor Signature card. Photo courtesy of Joshua Platt.

These cards include a 2008 Razor Signature Series (#58) — with autographed and limited edition color and printing plate variations — a 2010 Bowman Prospect autograph card (#EB), and a 2010 Upper Deck World of Sports card and autographed issue, which features Berger in his Arizona uniform, according to Beckett.com.

The cards sell for between $1.25-$16 on eBay, and and $0.29-$12 on Amazon.com and in the Beckett Marketplace.

Eric Berger Carolina League All Star

Eric Berger 2009 Carolina League All-Star card. Photo courtesy of
Joshua Platt.

Berger’s minor league cards include cards from the 2009 Kinston Indians, 2009 Carolina League All-Star set, the 2010, 2011 and 2012 Akron Aeros, and the 2012 Columbus Clippers. These are available for a range of prices on eBay, mostly as part of complete team sets. Collectors may also be able to find these sets on the minor league teams’ web sites.

Describing it as “surreal” when he is asked for his autograph by fans, Berger is a generous in-person signe, who makes an earnest effort to connect with fans, in-person and online.
For example, I corresponded with Berger via Twitter before I met him after a Columbus Clippers game early in May.

Eric Berger Twitter Exchange
When I introduced myself and mentioned our Twitter connection, Berger offered a genuine handshake and seemed to remember me from our brief social media exchanges.

He autographed eight cards for me that day. Berger also signed for me in response to through-the-mail requests in Kinson two years ago.

Eric Berger Mustache

Eric Berger with full ‘stache. Photo courtesy of the Columbus Clippers.
In 2011, during the off season, Berger says he grew a full beard. Reporting to 2011 Spring Training, he shaved everything except the mustache, which he then grew out into a full handle bar.

The ‘stache became a team and fan favorite, and he grew it out again again for the 2012 season. This made it easy for fans to spot Berger. 

“The guys enjoy it,” Berger said. “The fans enjoy it, too. I get recognized, even though I’m not looking for recognition.”

Whether he’s looking for recognition or not, Berger gets it, in part because of the ‘stache, but mostly because he’s a good guy.

I expect the recognition will be more now with Berger’s Team Israel experience.

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Certainly the pitcher has collectibles other than his pasteboard. What Eric Berger cards and memorabilia do you have in your Jewish baseball collection? Let other JewishSportsCollectibles.com readers know by commenting below.