Eric Madenberg, a sophomore at Great Neck South High School, won a gold medal with the East Hills/Sid Jacobson (EH/SJ) Jewish Community Center (JCC) 16-year-old baseball team at the Maccabi Games, which were held from Aug. 6 to 10 in Albany.
Jewish athletes from 20 JCC delegations, representing the United States, Canada, Mexico and Israel, competed in the five-day Olympic-style event in many individual and team sports.
The EH/SJ team had players from across Long Island and Westchester. The coaches assembled a talented group, but they had never played together before these games.
During the week, the team was undefeated, including pool play, a medal qualifier and the gold medal game. The competition was tough. The most exciting contest was against Pennsylvania, featuring a 10-run comeback for a thrilling 16-15 win.
In the final, the EH/SJ JCC beat a seasoned team from Fort Lauderdale, which hadn’t lost a baseball game in the previous two years at Maccabi.
With only 10 players on the roster, each team member played a key role during the tournament. Madenberg played shortstop and second base, and was also called on to pitch four innings in a tight game against the New Jersey team. Offensively, he batted .666 (10 for 15) with nine RBI and five stolen bases.
“The team played great baseball, on both sides of the ball,” Madenberg said. “Everyone did something to contribute, which you have to do if you’re going to win.”
All the athletes stay with local host families during the event. Beside their sports competitions, they take part in social events and service activities with the other delegations.
“The spirit at Maccabi was more meaningful than a typical baseball tournament,” said Madenberg. “The games were intense, but beyond that we got to know a bunch of the other kids from around the world. It felt like being with a big family.”