Dodgers make baseball history by signing Israeli citizen

Dean Kremer, a right-handed pitcher from Stockton, has become the first Israeli citizen to sign a contract with a Major League Baseball team.

On June 17, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Kremer, a 20-year-old Israeli American, after selecting him a week earlier in the 14th round of the 2016 MLB Draft.

Born in the United States to two Israeli parents, Adi and Sigal, Kremer grew up in Stockton, where he attended Lincoln High School and San Joaquin Delta College. He has two brothers, Ron and Niv.

Dean Kremer is the first Israeli to sign with an MLB team.

Kremer already made baseball history in 2015 when the San Diego Padres drafted him in the 38th round, making him the first Israeli to be drafted by an MLB team. However, the dual Israeli and U.S. citizen opted not to sign at that point, instead transferring from San Joaquin Delta to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

The 6-foot-3, 175-pounder has played for Israel’s national baseball team for the past three years, though he wasn’t part of Israel’s 28-man roster when it competed in a qualifying round for the 2013 World Baseball Classic. He could be a consideration for the Israeli squad that will attempt to qualify for the 2017 WBC in a round-robin event against Pakistan, Brazil and Great Britain in Brooklyn, New York, this September.

Kremer was named the European baseball championship’s most valuable pitcher in both 2014 and 2015, and he helped lead Israel out of the tournament’s C pool into the stronger B pool last year. National team officials recruited him after spotting him when he played for Team USA in the 2013 Maccabiah Games in Israel.

“I was born here in the United States, but I go back and practically live [in Israel] for two months out of the year in the summer, so it’s definitely home,” Kremer told the Las Vegas Review Journal in February.

Asked by the paper about being the first Israeli drafted by an MLB team, he replied, “Any time you can be the first to do something is pretty cool, especially representing my country.”

In his profile on the San Joaquin Delta athletics website from two years ago, he listed his favorite team as the Boston Red Sox and his favorite player as Red Sox relief pitcher Koji Uehara, a right-hander from Japan (not Hall-of-Famer lefty Sandy Koufax, probably the greatest Jewish pitcher ever).

At San Joaquin Delta, Kremer went 13-1 with a 2.00 ERA in 17 appearances, 16 of which were starts, and was named a third team All-American for community colleges. As a sophomore at UNLV, he went 4-5 with a 4.92 ERA in 12 starts.

This summer, Kremer is expected to play for the Dodgers’ lowest-level minor league team, their rookie league squad in Arizona. At spring training in Florida next year, he might get a chance to meet Joc Pederson, the Dodgers’ center fielder from Palo Alto; Pederson’s mom is Jewish, and he played for Israel in the 2013 WBC qualifying round.

Of his decision to sign with the Dodgers, Kremer was quoted in the Israeli daily Haaretz as saying, “I felt that I was ready this year to start my career, so I am taking advantage of the opportunity I was given. I just hope that the higher I go up in the system, the more baseball will become popular in Israel. I just want to set the example that it can be done.”