Fri Sep 14 02:29pm EDT
On Friday, a glut of young Jewish American minor league baseball players converged on Jupiter, Fla., to put on a jersey most never thought they'd ever wear -- one with 'ISRAEL' scrawled across the front.
Among them are two names which should be familiar to fans of the California baseball program.
Former Bears catcher Charlie Cutler -- a San Francisco native and former 14th-round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals -- will play alongside former college teammate Josh Satin -- who hit .286 this season at New York Mets Triple-A affiliate Buffalo, slugging 14 home runs, driving in 60 RBI and tallying 25 doubles. Satin was drafted by the Mets in the sixth round of the same 2008 draft where Cutler was taken by St. Louis.
Israel -- consisting mainly of American Jewish minor leaguers, due to the Right of Return under Israeli law, which states that anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent is eligible for citizenship, and therefore, to play for the Israeli team -- will start play next week in the qualifying round of the World Baseball Classic in Jupiter, Fla., and all the games for the team from the Promised Land in that round are sold out. If Team Israel wins -- which is a distinct possibility -- it advances to the full World Baseball Classic in March.
"It's going to be epic," Cutler said via text. "First time ever. It's like a Jewish All-Star team."
Cutler was particularly taken by all of the Team Israel swag, including the official cap -- which features a silver, script capital 'I' inscribed in a stylized white Star of David on royal blue fabric.
The two former Bears last played together in 2008, when Satin was named a first-team All-American by Baseball America, first-team All-Pac-10 and a second-team All-American by Rivals.com, thanks to a .379/.500/.723 season at the plate with 18 home runs -- including one hit in his last at-bat at Evans Diamond to provide the winning margin in the 10th inning against UCLA on May 25, 2008.
Cutler hit .321 that season, with 52 hits, 38 runs, six doubles, two homers and 17 RBI.
This past season with the Altoona Curve -- the Double-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates -- Cutler hit .296 in 55 games, scoring 25 runs, clocking seven doubles and three triples, slugging two home runs. Cutler drove in 19 runs, posted an on-base percentage of .407 and a slugging percentage of .421.
Serving as player-coaches for the Chosen Team will be former Big League all-stars Shawn Green and Gabe Kapler, who will be a part of a staff headed by manager Brad Ausmus.