If you have been to Israel and traveled between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, you likely missed it. If you’re going to Israel and plan on traveling between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, stop at kibbutz Gezer. Why? Because you will be able to see the Israeli Field of Dreams.

Kibbutz Gezer is where the new Reds assistant pitching coach, Alon Leichman, was born and raised in Israel. This kibbutz failed to exist after 1948. Alon says the kibbutz “was revived when several American emigrated to Israel about 1974.”

David Leichman and Marilyn Gold are Alon’s parents living in Israel. They emigrated separately from America and met in Israel. David was a builder and a baseball fan and later you may learn that dad is a foodie. Mom, Marilyn was a rabbi and a baseball fan.

Dad also played fast pitch softball in his youth. “My dad was in charge of building in the kibbutz and he and my mom wanted to give the kids a piece of American culture.”

Courtesy of Richard Katz. 
Alon Reichman

Baseball was introduced to Israel in the 1970’s. Alon is 33 years old and was born in the kibbutz where baseball was introduced to Israel. Alon could be called a baseball leader (mahn-heeg in Hebrew) in Israel. Growing up he led other kids to the baseball field.

“No one really knew what baseball was.” So, as he learned so did the other kids, “from surrounding areas in Israel and other countries like Canada, America, South Africa, Great Britain, Morocco and other countries” Alon added.

Alon is the first Israeli born citizen to coach on a major league baseball team. There are other Jews in major league sports in the US, but no major league baseball coaches born in Israel. For example, there is Ethan Katz, the pitching coach for the Chicago White Sox, who were in Cincinnati to play the Reds several weeks ago. He was born in LA. He and I are not related.

So, when I met Alon I asked him if he knew there were multiple pages of links to him on Google. They appeared to be all about his career. He shook his head no; he hadn’t googled himself. I had to do some research on him before I met him so at least I could be reasonably knowledgeable.

Alon has two siblings. Growing up Alon also “played soccer from the fifth through the eighth grade and for baseball, my parents would get a big van and would take us to away games such as in Tel Aviv. There were small pockets of Americans there playing baseball.”

After high school he spent three years in the Israeli Defense Forces. He saw no combat. I learned that he has a black belt in jujitsu. He attended Cypress College in Cypress California leading them to a state championship in baseball. After two surgeries to his pitching elbow, he said, “I had no elbow left” and his pitching career was over, so he thought. But like Tom Brady, Alon came back.

Coaching became a real opportunity. “I went to the Cape Cod league” for coaching opportunities. In the off-season, he plays and coaches Team Israel. He coached Team Israel at the 2019 European Baseball championship. In addition, he pitched for Team Israel at the 2020 Summer Olympic Qualification tournament in Italy. Team Israel won and played the US in baseball. He pitched in pain.

Alon pitched one perfect inning against Team USA in the 2020 summer Olympics.

There is much more factual history of this 33-year-old. (See Alon Leichman, Google). He spent six seasons as a minor league pitching instructor with the Seattle Mariners, 2017-2022. After the 2022 season he had a flight scheduled to return to Israel. That’s when the Reds opportunity came.

The night before the flight to Israel he received information that the Reds were interested in an assistant pitching coach at the major league level.

“David Bell called (manager of the Cincinnati Reds) and asked me to change my flight for the next day and come to Cincinnati for an interview. I was told the Reds were looking for an assistant pitching coach”. Alon was surprised though because he knew that the Reds had hired a bullpen coach “and I thought they were done (hiring)”.

“When I landed in Cincinnati the Mariners (Seattle) called and said they were looking for a bullpen coach, but I was pretty excited about the Cincinnati opportunity.”

Alon added “I interviewed with David Bell and DJ (Derek Johnson, Reds pitching coach) in person and General Manager Nick Krall by zoom. I was offered the job during the interview. I didn’t say yes right away because I also knew that the NY Mets were interested in me.”

It was a bit complicated. “I had an offer on the table. I got in touch with the Mets, and they wanted me to interview with them the next morning. I knew that I had to give Cincinnati an answer. I couldn’t say no to the Reds because they (the Reds) made a dream come true. I am happy where I am at.”

His parents are active in the Jewish community in Israel. Though he would like to be involved in the Cincinnati Jewish community he has no time to do so. He is at the Reds ballpark all day and all evenings for night games. Then there is the travel and 81 games on the road. And when the season is over, I speculate he will return to Israel to continue his coaching for Team Israel.

He lives in the Pendleton area and likes the fact that he can walk to his job. Living in Pendleton he has sampled the food in Over the Rhine. He is a Mideast kind of food guy. Mediterranean, like Syrian.

Yep, he has tried Greaters but he makes his own ice cream. He learned the ice cream making from his dad who also makes ice cream and who he describes Dad as an “ice cream fanatic”. Speaking of dad, he will be visiting Alon for a few weeks coming up soon. I have Alon’s contact info so I may invite myself over to try some of this Leichman’s ice cream. Dad bought Alon an ice cream maker for his Bar Mitzvah.”

Maybe, if Alon stays in Cincinnati for a while he can start a new ice cream brand. He did say he makes a “pretzel ice cream an Israeli favorite.”

“Opening day was pretty cool,” he says but all of Cincinnati’s triumvirate food hasn’t been at the top of his menu. He doesn’t really like ribs and you could tell coming from Israel and then the west coast Cincinnati chili would not be an option. That may change if he stays here a while.

Besides he cooks for himself, “I like food and I like to make good food. I make neapolitan pizza.” I didn’t ask. Then came a futile question, have you sampled any delicatessen food. “Deli’s are Jewish American”. So, the answer was no. There are no “American Deli’s” in Israel.

Kibbutz Gezer is all of about 300 people, probably easy to miss but it is a legend in Israeli baseball lore. Don’t miss it when you are traveling between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. You need to visit Israel’s “Field of Dreams.”