A Jewish journey to the front office of Major League Baseball
Zack Raab's stint selling Team Israel merchandise led to an eventual position with Major League Baseball
There were moments in Zack Raab’s extended funemployment from 2019 to 2021 when people asked him if he would consider a job outside baseball. He had spent thousands of dollars following the Israeli national baseball team to Korea, Japan, Germany and South Florida; hundreds more to attend the Major League Baseball (MLB) Winter Meetings in San Diego; and countless more in lost income by quitting his lucrative job at a jewelry startup in Israel to move back to the United States and pursue a career in baseball. Still, no job.
Raab, 30, knew he was being stubborn, but he said to himself, “I’m gonna stick to baseball. I know something’s gonna fall into place if I keep working hard, building the right relationships and treating people the right way.”
Raab, now the only kippah-wearing Orthodox Jew in the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, spent most of two years pursuing his dream to find a job, any job, in baseball. “I lived out my dream for almost nine years living in Israel,” he told Jewish Insider. And to pursue “another dream” — his dream to fulfill his “drive and a passion to work in baseball” — he would have to come back to the U.S. And in the end, he found his breakthrough on the back of work he did with Israel Baseball.
A lifelong baseball fan, Raab built his love for the game in South Florida, following the hapless Miami Marlins. Before moving to Israel, he attended Weinbaum Yeshiva High School (now named Katz Yeshiva High School), and attended as many Marlins games as he could. Once in Israel, baseball was less accessible, but the challenge made it that much more satisfying when he got to watch a game.
After years of following baseball from afar, the Israeli National Baseball team offered a chance to root from up close. His fandom took him across the world, but not to a job in baseball. Articles about Israel’s Baseball superfan popped up left and right as he followed his beloved team, and in 2019, as Team Israel prepared for a run at the Tokyo Olympics, Raab chose to formalize his relationship with the team.
“My professional background in Israel was ecommerce and marketing,” Raab said, and he noticed a demand for Israel Baseball merchandise that wasn’t being met. “I made the connection between Peter Kurz — the president of the Israel Association of Baseball at the time and now the general manager of the national team — and Jon Kaweblum from Klipped Kippahs.”
As with all of Raab’s involvement with baseball, he had no ulterior motives. “I just wanted to help grow Israel Baseball around the world and just grow awareness for Israel baseball with merchandise and get Jewish fans wearing Israel baseball merchandise around the country, around the world.”
The Olympics were delayed due to COVID, but the demand for Israel Baseball products stayed steady. Israel Baseball reached out to see if Raab would run its merchandise website and build out the product offerings and marketing.
Raab approached the consultation like his job, creating unique products, including a customized bobblehead of pitcher Shlomo Lipetz, the “the forefather of Israel baseball.” For seven months, Raab’s life was Israel Baseball merchandise.
His efforts culminated with a call from MLB on the same day Israel played at the Olympics, offering him a full-time job as an MiLB Services Coordinator within the Office of the Commissioner in midtown Manhattan. Team Israel bowed out of the Olympics on Aug. 3, 2021. Raab was in his new job before the month was out.
Life is different now that Raab is on the inside. He knows more about the inner workings of the game. “I read an article and it’s funny digesting the article and realizing pieces of it aren’t being talked about.” He also stepped down as commissioner and left a fantasy baseball league that he had been in for a decade. “I need some detachment from baseball, like in the evenings,” he admitted.
During the day, Raab is doing exactly what he’s always wanted to: helping baseball be the best it can be. He speaks daily with any of the 120 minor league teams about new promotions, merchandising and whatever else they’ve got going on. He also played a linchpin role in a yearslong collaboration between Minor League Baseball and Marvel, to make Marvel-themed logos for more than 90 participating ball clubs.
Yet much is still the same for Raab. Team Israel is set to return to the World Baseball Classic stage in March, and Raab will not be missing a single game. “I told my manager, ‘the World Baseball Classic is coming. I don’t know the schedule yet [or] where Israel is going to be playing. But I’m gonna really need to be at those games.’”
Team Israel (ranked 20th in the world) has the unfortunate pleasure of playing in the “group of death” with Puerto Rico (13th), the Dominican Republic (9th), Venezuela (6th) and Nicaragua (17th), and they are significant underdogs to advance past the first round of the tournament, but Raab is unfazed. He purchased a one-way ticket to Miami for the games.
“The World Baseball Classic is a collaborative effort between the players and the league to just grow the game of baseball around the world,” Raab says. So as a fan committed to the health of baseball, and as an employee of MLB, he plans to support in the way he knows best: wearing Israel Baseball’s original cap, and cheering on the Israel Baseball team proudly from the stands.
“I will be toned down a little bit now as an employee of Major League Baseball, but yeah, I’m very much going to be rooting for Israel.”