Alvin M. Levin grew up a nice Jewish boy, playing varsity baseball at Temple University and even post-collegiate ball. But he abandoned dreams of a career on the diamond “to do what Jewish boys do — support their families,” recalled Robert Levin, Alvin Levin’s son and business partner.
Alvin took over his family’s real estate and development company in Philadelphia and became very successful. When he passed away in 2004, his family decided to honor the man who often carried a transistor radio to listen to Phillies games by remembering what he loved most: baseball.
On Dec. 27, the Alvin M. Levin baseball and softball field was unveiled in Maor, Israel in partnership with the Jewish National Fund.
Robert Levin and his wife, Michele, were in Israel with their family as co-chairs of the Mega Mission of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, which included 200 local travelers to the Jewish state.
Robert’s mother, Marcy Levin, who was Alvin’s childhood sweetheart and wife of almost 50 years, said her family wanted to build the field in Israel after learning about the Jewish state’s growing interest in baseball.
According to Ami Baran, a baseball enthusiast from Maor, a small agricultural village located between Tel Aviv and Haifa, around 1,500 youth play baseball and softball in Israel. He’d like to see that number grow to 5,000 in five years. A key part of this strategy is to build more baseball and softball fields, especially in small towns and villages with open space like Maor.
Not surprisingly, most of the enthusiasm for the game comes from North American immigrants. Among the passionate enthusiasts is Maor resident Corey Vyner. Originally from Toronto, he moved to Israel with his wife two-and-a-half years ago to teach Israeli children how to play.
“What better way to give back, somehow, in some way, than to teach the children of Israel a wonderful sport,” Vyner said. “We did it as frontiersmen, living a dream.”
The Israeli children are loving it. “Corey is like a second dad,” said 12-year-old Itay Harush. This despite the fact that Corey coaches entirely in English and most of the children speak little to no English.
Robert Levin remembers his own father coaching him, his siblings and many family members. One of his last memories of his father was of him trying to teach his then 5-year-old grandson, Andrew, how to swing a bat.
Laughing, he thought, “My dad probably didn’t think I was qualified to teach him myself.”