By Sara Appel-Lennon
Former San Diego Padres catcher Brad Ausmus, 43, said he can walk in his Del Mar neighborhood without being recognized since he only played for the San Diego Padres for three years, from 1993-1996.
“I’m just like anyone else. Works for me” said Ausmus.
But Ausmus played in the Major League a lot longer. Ausmus retired in 2010 after 18 seasons as a Major League catcher with the San Diego Padres, Houston Astros, Detroit Tigers, Colorado Rockies, and Los Angeles Dodgers.
His career achievements include: 1999 American League All-Star team as a Detroit Tiger.; three-time Golden Glove Award winner (2001, 2002, 2006); 2004 inducted into the National Jewish Museum Sports Hall of Fame; played in the 2005 World Series; and 2007 Darryl Kile Award for Integrity and Courage. (After high school graduation in 1987, Ausmus signed with the Yankees just before attending Dartmouth. He would go to college in the fall and winter, and play in the minors during the spring and summer.)
However, Ausmus credits his wife, Liz, for his greatest accomplishment — his two daughters, since she raised them when he was gone during the summers.
Ausmus now stays fit by working out five to six days per week. He is currently serving as special assistant to the San Diego Padres. Ausmus coaches catchers in minor and major leagues and works in the baseball operation’s front office.
In addition, for the first time, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association invited an Israeli baseball team to be an international contender in the upcoming World Baseball Classic (WBC).
Last November, Haim Katz, Israel Association of Baseball (IAB) president, and IAB Secretary General Peter Kurz met with former Major League Baseball players Ausmus, Shawn Green and Gabe Kapler to join Team Israel. They all agreed it would be an honor.
Kurz hired Ausmus as Team Israel manager. Ausmus has contacted many current and former Jewish Major League baseball players to take the field for Team Israel.
Shawn Green, considered the best Jewish player since Sandy Koufax, retired in 2007. He will be a player/hitting coach. Gabe Kapler, the “Hebrew Hammer” known for his Jewish star tattoo, played in the 2004 World Series, and retired in 2010. He will be a player/bench coach. Jason Hirsh will be a pitcher.
WBC rules permit a team member to represent a country if the member or parent is eligible for the country’s citizenship. In 2006 and 2009 some American Major League Players represented Italy, South Africa, and the Netherlands under citizenship laws.
Israel’s Law of Return grants Israeli citizenship to a team member if the member or spouse has one Jewish parent or grandparent. Ausmus’ mother and grandparents are Jewish.
The WBC Championship will be held in March 2013 in San Francisco, with one qualifying round in September.
In the WBC this fall, there will be four qualifier tournaments: in Germany, Panama, Taiwan and Florida. In each qualifier, four teams will be competing (for a total of 16 teams). The four winning teams of the 16 will compete in the main WBC in March 2013.
Team Israel will compete against South Africa in the Florida Qualifying Tournament on Sept. 19 and against France or Spain on Sept. 21.
In the second round in March 2013, the four qualifying winners from the fall qualifier tournament will again compete, this time, against 12 “baseball power houses” that received automatic bids to qualify.
Both the qualifying tournament and the WBC Championship permit each team to lose two games before being eliminated from the tournament.
The 12 “baseball power houses” include: Australia, China, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, The Netherlands, Puerto Rico, United States, and Venezuela.
The Team USA manager is former Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Joe Torre. Jewish American Major League players Ryan Braun and Ian Kinsler may need to choose between competing for Israel or the United States. Kevin Youkilis said he would play for Team Israel next March if Israel wins the qualifier and if he’s healthy. Braun is the reigning National League MVP and this year’s home run leader.
Ausmus spoke of qualities he looks for in a good manager.
“The best baseball managers I’ve been around have been very good communicators and they understand that in baseball, unlike maybe football or basketball, it’s not so much the “x’s” and “o’s” that you’re managing but it’s people,” Ausmus said. “In this tournament where Team Israel’s playing, it’s much shorter... It’s less than a week long, this first tournament. So you still have to be able to communicate and understand the players that you’re managing, but it’s win or get out. It’s win or go home.
“So it’s a little bit less about managing people and a little bit more about the bottom line. In a five-day tournament, it’s still important but not nearly as important. So if somebody’s ego gets trampled on in a five-day tournament, so be it. Sometimes it’s not about the person, it’s about the team and if you lose that day, you’re out of the tournament …” Ausmus said. “Good managers remember what it was like to be a player. What it felt like to go through a slump, to let your team down when you failed, what it felt like to pick your team up when you succeeded. The best managers do that and you can use that information sometimes to motivate.”
Baseball fans in Israel have been playing on soccer fields but only one playable lit soccer field exists in Israel. It’s in Petach Tikva, 15 minutes east of Tel Aviv. Plans are underway to build a baseball stadium in Ra’anana, Israel. The city’s mayor approved the construction and the land will be donated, provided the IAB raises $3 million. Recently the IAB held fundraising events in Chicago and New York City.
At “Ra’anana’s Field of Dreams,” dugouts were formed with player and spectator benches erected in memory of Israeli National Team baseball player Paul Gutman.
There’s talk Ausmus may become a Major League manager.
“At this point I’m pretty happy where I am. I work for the San Diego Padres. I’m doing this Team Israel stuff. I just retired from playing two years ago. I’m enjoying having summers off, going on vacation, being around my family so… Is it something I’ve thought about? Yeah, I’ve thought about it. It’s something that intrigues me. But there’s certainly nothing on the horizon and I feel no urgency to make any decision… I’m OK right now where I am. I just have one goal — win,” said Ausmus.