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Baseball and banking

Meet the New York analyst who will be a baseball pitcher for underdog Team Israel at the Tokyo Olympics

Baseball and banking

A player from Team Israel is greeted by teammates after scoring a run during a game against Team Cuba at the Tokyo Dome in 2017 in Tokyo, Japan. (Yuki Taguchi/WBCI/MLB via Getty Images)

A New York moment: 

I had lunch with Eric Brodkowitz, 23, who by day is an analyst at Goldman Sachs and by night is preparing to be a starting pitcher for Israel’s Olympic baseball team. A Jewish New Yorker, he has taken on Israeli citizenship to join the Israeli team and helped lead it over the last year to one of the six spots in the Olympic baseball tournament. 

Brodkowitz sprinkles training into a high-stress, 60-hour-a-week, finance job. He keeps dozens of baseballs at work and takes an hour at 2 p.m. every day to sneak out to a baseball field near the Goldman Sachs offices, just in the shadow of the World Trade Center. 

“I don’t know how I got so lucky,” he said about having a baseball field near his office. He works until 7 or 8 p.m., and then does yoga. On weekends he and another teammate drive north of the city to train with their coach.

Though baseball began in the United States, the American baseball team has not yet qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. So far Mexico, South Korea, Japan, and Israel have the slots. Almost all of Team Israel are Jewish Americans by birth, so they’re encouraging Americans to root for the underdog team if the United States doesn’t make it into the Olympics—and if the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t halt the games.

The coronavirus outbreak caused officials to postpone qualifiers for Team USA.

Major League Baseball—which canceled the rest of its Spring Training Thursday and delayed its opened day because of the coronavirus—will not allow active players to go to the Olympics, which derailed Team USA’s prospects at the last summer games. South Korea (the previous gold medalist) and Japan are allowing their professional players to represent their countries.

“The caliber of talent is very high,” Brodkowitz said of facing South Korea and Japan’s top players. “But the Jewish spirit is there!” 

Yale University recruited Brodkowitz as a starting pitcher, but after four years of pitching he didn’t think a professional team would draft him. He focused on securing a job. But between graduation and starting his job, the Israeli national coach called and asked him to join the team. His new bosses at Goldman-Sachs assented, though Brodkowitz assured them the team had a “very low probability” of making it to the 2020 Olympics. 

He was wrong. The team went 17-4 in international tournaments over the summer to win an Olympic slot. The upstarts have been fundraising from American synagogues and groups like the Jewish National Fund to support their Olympic journey. 

Brodkowitz grew up a Yankees fan, and his dad is from the Bronx. 

“Baseball had been my entire life for 20 years,” he said. But playing for Israel felt more meaningful than playing “for me,” he said, especially when he hopes team sports in Israel will help heal divides between Jews and Arabs. In the meantime, he’s looking forward to July in Tokyo, and hoping the coronavirus doesn’t cancel the games. 

This week I learned: 

It’s popular for New York politicians to go after big developers constructing luxury buildings. But new studies find that as high rises go up in a city, housing prices go down, although middle-to-high income residents tend to benefit from the price decrease. 

A court case you might not know about: 

A blockbuster trial in Manhattan ended with a conviction of former CIA coder Joshua Schulte for lying to the FBI. But the jury deadlocked on whether Schulte leaked information to Wikileaks, in what the agency says is the largest loss of top secret data in its history. 

Culture I am consuming: 

The Possibility of Prayer, a new book by John Starke, my pastor! I’m biased but I think it’s good. 

Email me with tips, story ideas, and feedback. ebelz@wng.org