May 24, 2024

Like the Dodgers, the Baltimore Orioles are playing a division series Game 3 on the brink of elimination.

Unlike the Dodgers, the Orioles’ starting pitcher will have been drafted and signed by the Dodgers. And he broke ground as the first Israeli pitcher selected in the MLB draft when he was taken by a team other than the Dodgers.

Dean Kremer‘s groundbreaking journey to becoming an established big leaguer is singular. But he will take the mound Tuesday against the Texas Rangers with a heavy heart and no small amount of anxiety. Kremer, who holds Israeli and American citizenship, has many family members living in Israel, where he still spends two months a year.

After a surprise attack Saturday by the militant group Hamas, Israel declared war on Hamas and launched airstrikes on the Gaza Strip that is home to 2.3 million people. Hamas on Monday responded by threatening to kill captured Israelis. At least 1,600 lives have already been lost on both sides and perhaps hundreds more.

“Is there a hesitation? No. I still want to pitch,” Kremer said. “But, I mean, it’s going to be in the back of my head.”

Kremer, 27, split his time as a child between his parents’ home in Stockton and his grandparents’ homes in Israel. He became the first Israeli taken in the draft when he went to the San Diego Padres in the 38th round out of San Joaquin Valley College in 2015.

Kremer opted to attend Nevada Las Vegas and a year later was drafted by the Dodgers in the 14th round. He signed, spent parts of three seasons in their farm system, advancing to double-A before being traded in July 2018 to the Orioles along with four other minor leaguers for Manny Machado.

Today he’s a key member of the American League East champion’s starting rotation and will try to keep their hopes alive against the upstart Rangers, who lead the ALDS series 2-0. Kremer said he is “grateful” that his teammates and manager Brandon Hyde have expressed concern and support for his family, which he said is “OK right now.”

“I gave him my support and sympathies for him and his family that’s involved, and he seemed OK,” Hyde said. “He seemed like he was ready to pitch. He seemed like he felt comfortable with where his family situation was at with the whole thing.

“Obviously, he’s very disturbed, and there’s a lot of things going on. But I think he’s really looking forward to pitching tomorrow, so I didn’t think it was going to affect him.”

Kremer has represented Israel several times. He won a gold medal pitching for Team USA in the 2013 Maccabiah Games and was most valuable player of Team Israel in the European Championship qualifiers in 2014 and 2015. He also pitched for Israel in the 2017 and 2023 World Baseball Classics.

His parents, Adi and Sigal Kremer, are Israeli, and after completing service in the Israel Defense Forces they moved to Stockton. Adi Kremer played tennis at University of the Pacific and was inducted into the school’s sports hall of fame in 2018.

Kremer has two younger brothers, Ron and Niv. His grandparents live in Tel Aviv and in Rishon LeZion, and his great-uncle is American Israeli businessman and philanthropist Haim Saban, founder of Saban Entertainment, a producer and distributor of children’s television programs in the U.S. including “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.”

Kremer’s teammates have no doubt that he will be focused against Texas. He finished the regular season strong after giving up a hailstorm of home runs early, posting a 3.09 earned-run average with 75 strikeouts in 81⅔ innings over his last 15 starts.

“All year he’s been that guy that’s helped guide us through those little swing starts that we needed,” Gunnar Henderson said. “And being able to have him on the mound [Tuesday] is going to be great. I’m really looking forward to playing behind him.”

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