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).
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.”
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.