Fields of Dreams: Baseball & Medicine

Einstein Student Chases Two Fields of Dreams: Baseball & Medicine

In the movie “Field of Dreams,” Archibald “Doc” Graham must choose between his two passions, baseball and medicine. While Aryeh Rosenbaum didn’t have quite the same dilemma, the second-year Einstein medical student does share the same two passions. Unlike Doc, however, Mr. Rosenbaum was fortunate to play a season of professional baseball — in Israel, where he helped to introduce the American pastime — before pursuing medicine.

“Israel is very important to me, and when I learned I was chosen to play in a league whose main objective was to bring the sport I love to Israel, I was thrilled,” he said.

His interest in attending medical school actually evolved from his athletic endeavors. Through basketball and baseball, he had enough sports-related injuries to become well-acquainted with his orthopedist and found the work fascinating. There also was a freak accident in high school, resulting in a two-inch gash in his pitching hand that required emergency surgery to repair a severed artery and nerve. He emerged with 15 stitches forming a “Z” on his palm, numbness in his fingers, and uncertainty about recovery. Fortunately, a year later he was able to use the hand, although concerns related to nerve damage lingered. He still lacks complete sensation in two fingers.

“The experience made me realize how worrisome it can be sitting in a hospital bed and wondering about your future,” he said. “It made me appreciate the healing benefit surgeons can provide and led to my interest in surgery, orthopedics and neuroscience.”

“Aryeh was very competitive from an early age,” recalled his father, Rabbi Yehuda Rosenbaum. “He really loved baseball and played it intensely, running out every hit and making diving catches to take away extra-base hits. I played catch with him, but eventually he was throwing so hard that I had to give that up.”

When the young Mr. Rosenbaum entered Yeshiva University (YU), he made the baseball team as a starting pitcher, setting school records for strikeouts and innings pitched. Then, his coach mentioned that the fledgling Israel Baseball League (IBL) was having open tryouts in Massachusetts, so Mr. Rosenbaum and some teammates decided to participate for the fun of it.

Pitching amid Israel’s “field of dreams,” with a field of sunflowers backing the outfield. Photo Credit: Yehuda Boltshauser
“We never expected to make it, but three of us were offered contracts to play in the league,” he recalled. “At first, I hesitated to sign since I was planning on going to medical school and I was concerned about how it would be viewed. Pre-med students are supposed to do research and volunteer work over their summers, not play baseball.”

He continued, “Fortunately, I spoke with Dean Kerrigan [associate dean for admissions], who told me with a smile that if I didn’t go and play professional baseball, it would be an enormous mistake.”

Ms. Kerrigan, explained, “I tell students that this is the time of life to make their dreams come true. There’s always time to come back to medical school. We’re looking for people with passion, with a sense of humor, and who have room to absorb a lot of information… people who have a life outside of their studies, so when we put more on their shoulders, they can handle it.”

After signing his contract, Mr. Rosenbaum was placed on the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox, the team that ultimately won the championship during the IBL’s lone season of play.

“As one of the youngest members of the team, I spent much more time learning and watching than actually playing,” he said. Still, he managed to make seven respectable pitching appearances in the 42-game season and had a single in his only plate appearance.

Breaking for prayers during a game
“I’m actually the answer to a trivia question:  Who is the only player in the IBL’s one-year history to bat 1.000?” he said.

Although the “boychiks of summer” would only enjoy one season in the Promised Land — due to the IBL’s financial woes — Mr. Rosenbaum has continued to tap into his love of the game. The following summer, while preparing to take the MCATs, he gave lessons to little leaguers, hoping to instill in them his love for the art and science of pitching.

“I learned a lot about pitching and about life from my more-experienced teammates. Now, I get enjoyment from passing along that knowledge in the form of pitching lessons to little leaguers and the occasional classmate.”

In the near future, that love may strike even closer to home, as his two-year-old son is already demonstrating a penchant for throwing things. “He’s like every other two-year-old,” said Mr. Rosenbaum. “I’m not the type of parent to force him to learn how to pitch, but if he wants to, you can bet I’ll teach him everything I know.”


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Breaking for prayers during a game

Posted on: Monday, February 06, 2012