The Olympics are just over a month away, and while baseball won’t be a part of the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, it made its return to the world’s stage in Tokyo 2020, and will be back in 2028 when the games come to Los Angeles. 


Boxcars pitcher Alex Katz was a member of the historic team Israel which qualified for the Olympic Games for the first time in the nation’s history in 2020. The reliever, who at the time was with the White Sox organization, did not hesitate when he got the call to represent the side for the very first time, at World Baseball Classic Qualifiers several years earlier. 


“I remember, it was July or August of 2016, I was with the White Sox in Kannapolis, and got an email asking if I wanted to be a part of team Israel for the WBC qualifiers happening in Brooklyn. Within about thirty seconds of me receiving the email, I wrote back ‘Absolutely.’”


Katz and team Israel ranked 41st in the world at the time, but went on a run, including a dominant 9-1 victory over Great Britain to qualify for the Classic. 


“We had the qualifiers for WBC in Fall of 2016, we won that. Then we advanced to the World Baseball Classic in March. We had a successful run from that. Then I got invited to actually go to Israel, and that’s when I received my passport, which would allow me to play for an Olympic team.”


At the Classic, Katz pitched four games, going 3.1 scoreless innings. As the World Baseball Classic is the only international tournament that does not require a passport, Katz explained that he, along with 10-15 teammates took the trip to Israel after the tournament to receive their citizenships and become eligible to represent their country at the Tokyo games. 


“The team won all those tournaments [to qualify for the Olympics], became one of six teams to play in the Tokyo Olympics. Once we qualified, I was healthy again, and got to play on that team.”


In the leadup to the Olympics, Katz also would see some of his first experiences in Atlantic League stadiums, explaining that they offered his family and friends a rare opportunity to see him play live for his national team.


“What was special about the leadup to the Olympics was that we played six or seven exhibition games in the US and a lot of them were actually at Atlantic League stadiums. Long Island, Lancaster, Aberdeen. That was the only place where family and friends could actually watch us in person. I was glad I was able to have some people come to those games.”


Katz will forever be etched in Israeli baseball history, as a member of the first side to ever qualify for the Olympic games. However, while suspense for the tournament grew, the Olympics inevitably got pushed back to 2021 due to the COVID pandemic, adding another piece to the story.


“It was amazing. The toughest thing was that everything got pushed back a year because of COVID. There was a ton of anticipation, definitely grateful for that amazing experience.”


“It was kind of a weird playing environment because we were playing on the biggest stage in the world but no fans there. Definitely had to keep each other motivated and hyped up because you don’t have that natural adrenaline from leaving the bullpen, and going on the mound in front of 40,000 screaming fans.”


Katz recalls just how special it was to be a member of that class of elite athletes that get to represent their countries at the Olympics, noting how great it was to see so many of the world’s idols gathered in one place – with him. 


“My favorite part was probably just walking around the Olympic Village and seeing Luka Doncic, all these NBA, all these world famous athletes just walking around, not really in the public, because the village is only really for athletes and coaches. So just walking around and seeing all these fan favorite athletes from all over the world, from all different sports.”


Katz began his 2024 season as a member of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, and was traded to the Flying Boxcars in the midst of a series between the two sides at Meritus Park, seeing him switch bullpens between games. His experiences in Maryland however, have also extended back to when he was a member of the Baltimore Orioles organization, playing for the Frederick Keys. 


“Definitely familiar with this part of Maryland. I love it over here. I have a bunch of family and friends not too far away.”


Becoming a member of the Boxcars’ inaugural season, Katz understands the importance of the project, and is excited to show what he can bring to the squad. 


“The stadium is absolutely beautiful. Probably one of the nicest minor league parks I’ve ever played in. Definitely first class all around. I don’t know if there’s many ballparks who even come in close second. They did a great job here.”


“As far as team expectations go, obviously win as many games as possible. We have a good team here. Even games that we’ve lost, a lot of them were very close and good games. Great group of guys, a lot of talent, and from a personal standpoint, just keep improving every day. 


Katz made his first start of the year on June 15th, going three innings, striking out five and allowing no hits. The reliever will look to bolster the Flying Boxcars’ pitching staff as we head into the second half of the season.