Robbie Libman first got into baseball when he was just three years old. This summer, the 17-year-old Thornhill native has a chance to put those years of training to the test at the 2009 Maccabiah Games.
Libman, a lefthanded pitcher with the Thornhill Reds, will be representing Maccabi Canada at the games this year in Israel.
This will be Libman’s first time in Israel, and he’s excited about it.
His team will be playing for the first few days and will spend the rest of the time touring the country. He sees the experience as a good way to reconnect with his Jewish roots beyond Toronto.
“I feel connected to other Jewish people around here, but I don’t know about Israel yet, because I’ve never been there,” he said. “I think it will be a learning experience.”
Libman, who cites Toronto Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay and former Pittsburgh Penguin great Mario Lemieux as his sports heroes, already has some experience competing against other Jewish athletes. In 2007, he was on the Toronto baseball team that travelled to Orange County, Calif., for the JCC Maccabi (youth) Games.
It was “a lot of fun,” he said.
The recent Vaughan Secondary School graduate, who plans to study engineering at Queen’s University this fall, is familiar with a few people on his team – including the coach – both from school and from baseball practice, but the group will be meeting as a team for the first time just before they leave for the games.
He also knows some of the players on the Israeli team from a tournament last summer.
“I actually played most of the Israeli team last year in Pittsburgh. They were a good bunch of guys,” he said.
It costs $7,500 to send an athlete o the Maccabiah Games and some competitors have had to do some fundraising to cover the cost. That can be an ordeal.
Fortunately, Libman was able to get some assistance from his parents.
“We did some fundraising a few weeks ago from the bank of mom and dad,” he joked. “They’re pretty helpful about it.”