This is the third in a series of profiles of Minnesota athletes who are competing for Team USA in the Maccabiah Games – also known as “the Jewish Olympics” – in Israel from July 12-26.
Once Drew Charney watched Team Israel play in the World Baseball Classic, he knew he wanted to play for that team. While that may have to wait, he does have the opportunity to play in Israel for Team USA’s junior baseball team.
“I kind of want to connect with the Jewish community because I don’t know many Jewish baseball players,” said Charney, a rising senior at Hopkins High School. “There’s one on my team this year. There are not any other minorities on my club teams at all, let alone a Jewish person. I just thought this was a great opportunity for me to connect my Jewish side, go to Israel and play baseball. It’s everything that I haven’t got to do.”
Charney committed in the fall of his junior year to play baseball in college at Butler University in Indianapolis, which he said took the pressure off going into this year – which included trying out for the Maccabiah team. He plays catcher, which is in his blood: his grandfather played in college at Kansas, and his father played it until he was 16.
“There’s just something about seeing the whole field and kind of being in charge,” he said. “like, you feel like you’re directing like if there’s a ball hit the outfield, you’re directing the cuts, the pitcher, you’re telling them what pitch.
“Now being older I feel the most comfortable [catching]. Which is really weird to say, because most people would say they feel uncomfortable catching.”
Allan Charney, Drew’s father, said that watching his son get to this point in his baseball career has been an interesting experience.
“As a father, I could see he had the drive and skill set to succeed and continue his path,” he said. “He’s the type of kid who always liked to put in extra work. He’s always in the [batting] cage working on stuff. Before the high school playoffs, he really wanted to work on catching and defense. He always wants to work, which makes me happy.
“For him, [going to Israel] will be a great experience,” Allan Charney said. “There’s a lot more to life than sports, so you’ve got to open your mind and be receptive to new things. He’s going to have a good time and hopefully do well, and make his coaches happy.”
For Charney, the opportunity to play his sport at a high level often conflicted with Judaism.
“Sometimes I’m on the side that maybe I should stay home for development because it’s so important that I just keep playing baseball,” he said. “But on the other hand, I think it could be even more important for me to learn more about my culture because I’ve really, in the last year to two, embraced being Jewish more than I had in the past.
“I was trying to go get recruited, so I just never got the Jewish experience. And then this kind of fell into my lap, play baseball, go to Israel, be with a bunch of other Jewish athletes. What else can you ask for in an experience and an opportunity?”