Itai Goldner, a 19-year old Israeli National Team baseball player, played baseball for the Patriots in the Piedmont League in the Richmond area this summer, and was hosted by the Stutman and Bender families as well.
‘Made me feel at home’
“The families were incredible,” Itai noted. “They made me feel at home. While I had been to the states many times, I had never been to Richmond. They made me feel part of their families, and we did many things together.”
During his stay in Richmond, Itai was hosted for several weeks each by Jodi and Greg Stutman and their three children, Alec, Levi and Elle; and Hilary and Elliot Bender and their children, Emory and Izabella.
Jodi Stutman said, “Our kids, 13, 11 and 7, loved having Itai with us. And a baseball player too.”
She said they went to his games and also spent time on his off days doing fun things like Pickle Ball and more. “We also all helped celebrate his 19th birthday here too.”
Jodi added, “We even saw him drive in the winning run in a championship game. “That was great.”
First Time in Richmond
While he had spent summers in the U.S. in past with his grandparents in New York, this was his first time in the Richmond area.
“My dad was born in America,” he told the Reflector in a phone interview, “so I played in our backyard in London in my early years and later when we moved to Israel when I was 7. I told my dad that I wanted to play baseball in Israel. So, I have been playing baseball since I was eight.”
As he grew, he played as often as possible in Israel and also in the U.S. during summers on travel teams. Itai has been part of the Team Israel baseball program since he was 11 and also trained with the Team Israel Olympic Baseball team at its camp in the Northeast for about a week this summer.
He wound up playing in Richmond this summer with the assistance of Nate Mulberg, assistant baseball coach and recruiting coordinator at the University of Richmond. Mulberg also was an assistant coach with the Team Israel Olympic baseball squad and made contacts with officials from the Piedmont League for Itai to be on the Patriots.
The league has a number of college baseball players on its teams. He played about 15 games as an infielder, mostly shortstop, and also pitched.
He found the league very competitive and a good experience for him. “It was great that I could hold my own there. All the guys were great. It was a good environment to be in.”
His goal after his IDF service is to go to college in the U.S. and play baseball for the school. After that, he would like to play professional baseball.