pederson on the field in a Giants uniform
Joc Pederson, seen here playing with his hometown team, is returning to Team Israel for the 2023 World Baseball Classic. (Photo/JTA-Jim McIsaac-Getty Images)

Giants slugger Joc Pederson joins Team Israel for 2023 World Baseball Classic

Palo Alto High School graduate Joc Pederson, the San Francisco Giants’ outfielder starting in Tuesday’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game, will compete for Team Israel in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, the team announced Sunday on Twitter.

The competition starts next March, and Israel will compete in Miami in Pool D, a bruising division consisting of some of the sport’s strongest national teams: the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela, plus a qualifying team yet to be determined.

Pederson, currently in his first season with the Giants, will add a big bat to Team Israel. On track for one of the best seasons in his nine-year career, the Jewish slugger is batting .252, with a .517 slugging percentage and 17 home runs, one shy of his total for all of last season.

Pederson first competed for Israel in the 2013 WBC qualifier, prior to making his MLB debut in 2014. There, Israel was defeated by Spain, failing to advance to the main round of the competition.

In the 2017 WBC, Team Israel for the first time qualified for the tournament’s main draw, but Pederson wasn’t on the roster. Peter Kurz, then president of the Israel Association of Baseball, said at the time that Pederson instead opted to pursue a regular season starting role for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Pederson missed out on an Israeli squad that surprised the baseball world, winning its first four games before being eliminated in the second round. Three of the wins came against South Korea, Chinese Taipei and Cuba — No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 in the world, respectively, at that time.

Israel currently is No. 20 in the World Baseball Softball Conference rankings, below all of the teams in its pool: No. 6 Venezuela, No. 7 Dominican Republic and No. 16 Puerto Rico. (The D.R. was No. 1 in the previous rankings.)

Joc Pederson practices with his new team. (Photo/©S.F. Giants)
Joc Pederson practices with the Giants shortly after joining the team. (Photo/©S.F. Giants)

This year’s All-Star Game in Los Angeles features 11 players from the D.R. and eight from Puerto Rico. So far, Pederson is the only All-Star committed to playing for Israel.

Ian Kinsler, a four-time MLB all-star who won the 2017 WBC as a player on Team USA, will manage Team Israel next March. He obtained Israeli citizenship in 2020 and played for Team Israel at the last Olympics in Tokyo, where it finished fifth in baseball.

“I was very excited when I was asked to manage Team Israel at the WBC and it didn’t take long for me to accept the position,” Kinsler said on the website Israel Baseball. “I enjoyed my time playing in the tournament and now that I know Israel baseball well from my time in the Olympics, I am convinced that we will have a very competitive squad that will go far.”

Pederson is competing in his second All-Star game, alongside fellow Jew Max Fried of the Atlanta Braves. Fried is among the frontrunners for this year’s National League Cy Young Award, given to the league’s best pitcher.

Gabe Fisher
Gabe Fisher

Gabe Fisher is a freelance journalist who served as interim editorial assistant at J. in 2022. Follow him on Twitter @ItsGabeFisher.