Simon Rosenbaum at the 2014 European Pool C Championships in Slovenia

Simon Rosenbaum at the 2014 European Pool C Championships in Slovenia

By Stuart M. Katz, Jewish Baseball News correspondent

Even among followers of Jewish baseball players, Simon Rosenbaum is not a household name. Not yet, anyway.

A 20-year-old junior at Pomona College in California, Rosenbaum ranked 2nd in the nation among Division III players last season with a .474 batting average. and ABCA/Rawlings both named him a Division III First Team All-American. At 6-foot-6-inches and 215 pounds, it may not surprise you to learn he also starred on his high-school basketball team.

The larger world got a glimpse of the northern California native this summer when he led Israel to a first-place finish at the 2014 European Pool C Championships in Ljubljana, Slovenia. He walked away with MVP honors, going 9-for-17 with four home runs and 10 RBIs.

In a recent interview from school, Rosenbaum discussed the European tournament, his connections to Judaism and Israel, and his aspirations for the future. Following is an edited version.

JBN: Tell me about your childhood.

Rosenbaum: I grew up in Los Altos, California, which is south of San Francisco. I have two younger brothers. Although my family wasn’t super observant, I attended Jewish day school through 8th grade. My family had Shabbat dinner most weeks, often with my grandparents. I remember learning to read Torah for my bar mitzvah, and then for my brothers’.

JBN: Have you been to Israel?

Rosenbaum: My father and his family are actually from Israel. My father moved to the U.S. as a child. I have been to Israel 3 or 4 times, but my most memorable trip there was the one I took with my 8th-grade day school class.

JBN: Did you play a lot of sports before college?

Rosenbaum: Growing up, I played soccer, flag football, baseball and basketball. By high school, I narrowed my focus and played baseball and basketball all four years. I miss basketball now but really love playing baseball.

JBN: How did you choose Pomona College?

Rosenbaum: It was really important for me to pick a college with great academics. The Claremont Colleges are great schools. And I wanted to stay in California and attend a school where I could play baseball. Pomona was a great choice for me, for all of these reasons.

JBN: What positions do you play?

Rosenbaum: I pitched my freshman year, but I tore my UCL and needed Tommy John surgery. I switched to first base while I was rehabbing. I hope to pitch again, so we’ll have to see about that.

JBN: Who are some of your favorite ballplayers?

Rosenbaum: J.T. Snow was a great defensive first baseman, so I always admired him. Growing up in San Francisco, Barry Bonds was a lot of fun to watch. Omar Vizquel was really smooth in the field. And Hunter Pence. He’s someone who plays the game hard and the right way.

JBN: How did you end up playing for Team Israel?

Rosenbaum: One of my teammates at Pomona had played for Israel the year before and asked if I was interested. He introduced me to Peter Kurz, who runs the Israel baseball program. Peter and I spoke by phone and eventually met. He invited me to join the team for the 2014 qualifying round in Lubljana (Slovenia). I was excited for the opportunity. I wasn’t able to travel to Israel earlier to practice with the rest of the team, so I just met them there.

JBN: Describe your experience playing for Team Israel in the tournament.

Rosenbaum: It was a great experience. Half of the team is Israeli, and the other half is from the U.S. and Canada. Everyone was really welcoming; great teammates. Our team played very well and we were able to win the tournament and qualify for next year’s round. Baseball allowed me to have this experience. Everything I got out of it was important. It was cool to meet the guys on the team, and also great to meet players from other countries where baseball isn’t as developed. It was particularly rewarding to represent Israel, the country that my dad came from, and which my family still has a strong connection to.

JBN: What are your plans for after college?

Rosenbaum: I came to Pomona for the academics, but I have been playing really well, so I think I have a chance to get drafted, which would be a dream come true. Either way, I hope to stay in sports. I am studying economics, so I could see working for a Major-League team, doing analytics or scouting. I would also consider working in a front-office job, or maybe even in broadcasting or marketing.

JBN: Do you ever think about being a role model for Jewish kids?

Rosenbaum: I don’t think I have done enough to be looked at as a role model. I’m not too famous yet. I’m not playing in the Majors. But hopefully I can make it there. Baseball is a great sport. Jewish players haven’t always been among the most successful players – although there have been some like Koufax and Greenberg – but there’s no reason they can’t be.

JBN: Do you play in games that fall on the High Holidays?

Rosenbaum: I remember a couple of times when I was younger, and there were games that fell on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur. I didn’t play. I figured if Koufax could sit out a World Series game, I could miss a 12u tournament. It is hard to say what I would do if I faced that situation as a Major League ballplayer in the future. It is a really tough question. I hope I get that opportunity.

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Stuart M. Katz is a die-hard Yankees fan. An attorney at Cohen and Wolf in Bridgeport, Conn., he chairs the firm’s Litigation Group, practicing mainly employment law, and represents employers as well as executives.