by Raphaella Ruggiero, Photographer and Communications Specialist

Former professional Houston Astros pitcher, Josh Zeid, paid Camp Coleman a visit last weekend! His baseball career led him to playing for the gold-medal-winning Team USA Youth National Team in 2003 and pitching for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, with a top speed of 97 mph for his fastball.

Josh was raised in a Jewish household and went to Jewish summer camp in Texas. In a team of underdogs who out-performed expectations, Josh is an inspiration at camp. Despite playing for team Israel, Josh spoke about how a number of players on the team had lost their connection to Israel, himself included. In doing so, they knew it was time to claim back their Jewish identity by taking a trip to Israel in January 2017. During this time, they brought a film crew with them and documented their experiences and time in Israel in a film titled “Heading Home”. The movie is about 25 baseball players going to Israel, re-connecting with their Jewish roots and Jewish identities, and combining the experience with their passion for baseball and how they navigated the views of their families. It was a powerful way to show the campers that they can follow their dreams, whether it be becoming an athlete, doctor, actor, or anything else. Josh is passionate about encouraging people to follow their dreams and stated, “if one person watching the movie learned anything, then that’s enough”.

Josh worked with all of the units, taking part in baseball games during sports, but he worked particularly closely with Kesher and Chalutzim. Specifically, during an evening program these campers got to watch “Heading Home” with Josh; following the film, they had a question and answer session with him. The majority of the questions were about the film, but a number of questions really struck a chord with with Josh throughout his time at Coleman. The most memorable of them all, Josh said, was from a Kochavim camper called Danny, who asked, “what did your parents think of your dream?” He explained that some parents have expectations of their children going into higher education studies such as law school or medical school and certainly not pursuing an athletic profession. Josh reminded Danny and other campers that having support from your family is very important, especially when you’re 10 years old, but you also need to believe in yourself and go for your goals and dreams no matter what.

After talking with some campers from Chalutzim, we found out a little bit more about what they thought of the movie. Jake said, “I really enjoyed the movie and thought it was awesome to see so many Jewish athletes pursuing their dreams and playing for their country”. Adam stated, “I found the movie to be powerful in its message, especially watching an idol on screen and then being able turn around and see him right there and talk to him”. Ben found the experience surreal, saying, “I saw these people as untouchable because you usually only every see these people on screen, but having the opportunity to actually meet Josh was incredible”. Lastly, they all added that it was an amazing opportunity to get to play baseball with him and they had a ton of fun!