Dodgers prospect Joc Pederson was playing meaningful games last week, perhaps more meaningful than any the big-league club will play anytime soon.
They were the first — and so far, last — World Baseball Classic games for Team Israel. Pederson, who was at Dodger Stadium on Friday to receive his Branch Rickey Award as the organizational hitter of the year, couldn’t say enough about the three games in Jupiter, Florida.
“It was a great experience, something I’ll never forget,” he said. “We were only together for I think it was maybe 10 days, and I’ve never seen a group of guys have so much team chemistry. It was an unforgettable experience.”
Israel won its first two games but was eliminated from WBC contention Sunday with a 9-7, 10-inning loss to Spain.
For fans and players — none of whom are current major leaguers — the results were secondary to the experience.
Israel doesn’t have much baseball in its history and has never had a national baseball team before. To field a team required a little creativity and few actual Israelis — three, only one of whom (pitcher Shlomo Lipetz) saw any game action.
Pederson’s mother, Shelley, is Jewish. His father, Stu, appeared in eight games with the Dodgers in 1985.
“Spring training is when they were going over all that. My roommate was shortstop Jake Lemmerman,” Pederson recalled. “He was talking about it. I said, ‘my mom’s Jewish, I grew up in a pretty Jewish community.’
“I had enough information and Jewish background, or heritage, that I could play.”
Most of Team Israel’s players and coaches had a similar story.
Former Dodgers catcher Brad Ausmus managed the team. Former Dodgers outfielder Shawn Green was the designated hitter. Former Dodgers infielder Mark Loretta was the team’s hitting coach. Former major leaguer Gabe Kapler was on the roster but did not play in any of the three games.
“They’re great people,” Pederson said. “They just gave me the inside view of what they had to go through, what helped them become a better player, hitter, how they went about their business.
“Maybe I’ll learn quicker because they’re helping me out.”
Pederson sounded content to soak it all in but he did more than that. In three games — two against Spain, another against South Africa — the 20-year-old batted second and hit .308 (4 for 13).
Pederson, an 11th round draft pick by the Dodgers in 2010, batted .313 in 110 games for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga this season.