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Playing baseball professionally is normally not the dream of every Jewish mother for her son, but for Arlene Binder of Oak Park, California, it may soon become a reality. Her Jewish All-American son, Seth Binder, a senior at Oberlin College in Ohio, has been offered a contract to play in the inaugural season of the new Israel Baseball League beginning this summer and is excited by this possibility.
"I really never had the time to visit Israel before," Seth Binder said. I have been playing baseball since I was five years old and haven't stopped playing since, much to the detriment of family vacations. I have always dreamt about playing professional baseball. I follow Major League Baseball religiously, but I really never imagined that I would be offered a contract to play professionally, and of all places, in Israel."
A star shortstop, he has started for Oberlin since his freshman year. Hitting .389 in his junior year, Binder was named to the All-Conference Team (North Coast Association of Colleges - NCAC). That year' s performance led to team highs in slugging, steals and even being hit by opposing pitchers.
His outstanding season led to Israel Baseball League tryouts in Miami, where he outshone dozens of other collegiate and post-college athletes and was proffered a contract.
As Binder is still playing NCAA Division III ball, he cannot agree to any form of professional sport contract and can only consider the offer after he graduates this May.
"The new Israel Baseball League is a great opportunity for Seth to continue playing competitive baseball after his graduation," said Oberlin baseball coach Eric Lahetta. "This is a new experience for me as a coach and I am really proud of everything Seth has accomplished.
"Usually our student-athletes go to graduate school, medical school or even law school, so if he does land in Tel Aviv, I will look forward to hearing about his experience," he added.
For Binder, a history major, the focus is still on studies and his last collegiate baseball season.
Studying 20th century European history has been key for his identity. As the grandchild of Holocaust survivors, the opportunity to play baseball in Israel is even more pronounced.
"My mother's parents survived World War II in Poland and arrived penniless in America," Binder said. "My Jewish identity was formed through this prism, and now the dream of coming to Israel is somehow ironic.
"Imagine, coming to play the quintessential American game in the Jewish state that rose up from the ashes of the Holocaust. Now that is a strange yet exciting mix."