By Scott Barancik, Editor

Valencia shows off his new Israeli passport

Valencia shows off his new Israeli passport

Israel’s bid to play baseball in the 2020 Olympics just grew a little more believable.

Danny Valencia, a 34-year-old infielder who spent nine years in the Major Leagues, obtained Israeli citizenship today and is headed to Germany to play in the European Championships later this week. The top 5 finishers in that 12-team tournament will move on to the Olympic qualifiers in Italy.

A Miami native who was bar mitzvahed there, Valencia debuted with the Minnesota Twins in 2010 and finished third in voting for American League Rookie of the Year that season. The right hander went on to play for a total of 7 Major League franchises before the Baltimore Orioles released him in August 2018. Valencia finished his career with 96 home runs, a .268 batting average, and a .408 slugging percentage.

Valencia spent the bulk of his career at third base and may end up playing there for Israel. But with substantial experience at first base and in the outfield, he gives head coach Eric Holtz some options.

Multiple American ballplayers have obtained dual Israeli-American citizenship this year in anticipation of Israel’s Olympic bid. Recent additions include Ty Kelly, a second baseman who retired from pro ball last month, just days before obtaining an Israeli passport. But no one on Israeli’s current roster has as much Major League experience as Valencia.

Unlike many of his new teammates, this will be Valencia’s first time representing Israel on the diamond. American players dominated Israel’s roster in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, but for that tournament, a player needed only to have Jewish heritage to qualify. By contrast, both the European Championships and the 2020 Olympics require citizenship.


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