Attorney Mark Rattner — head of the Financial Institutions Group at the law firm of Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti LLP in Morristown — is known throughout New Jersey for his key role in transactions that resulted in the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, the construction of luxury boxes in Giants Stadium, and the purchase of the New Jersey Devils hockey team.
But these days, he’s also committed to scoring accomplishments as chair of the Baseball and Softball Task Force at Jewish National Fund (JNF) USA. Rattner, 69, a past president of JNF’s Central New Jersey region (2011-14) and a lover of baseball, is busy growing his favorite sport in Israel. His task force’s mission is to build and maintain baseball facilities and support the overall development of the sport there.
“Israel is starting to be recognized in the baseball world because of its participation in the World Baseball Classic in 2017,” said Rattner, 69. With the Israeli team’s win in September at the Africa-Europe Qualifying Event in Italy, he said, there is talk about its entry into the 2020 Olympics. “But there is a lot more going on with the Israel Association of Baseball (IAB), which has five age groups. We are looking to help that group, through the JNF, in areas such as fields and facility management, equipment, and strengthening teams and leagues.”
Rattner told NJJN that most of the 80 registered teams in Israel — which have players age 6 to adult — practice on subpar fields, only a few of which have batting cages or pitching machines, bullpens, or indoor facilities. “This hinders the growth of the game in Israel,” he said. “We also need to standardize coaching and training methods.”
Rattner’s support helped push forward what will be a new state-of-the-art regulation baseball facility in the town of Beit Shemesh, a town of 120,000 located 19 miles west of Jerusalem. This will give Israel’s baseball teams access to a full-service ballpark and enable the country to host international tournaments. Israel now has regulation ballparks in Kibbutz Gezer, Petach Tikva, and in the Tel Aviv Sportek complex.
Rattner has been working with his friend and, as an Israel partner, fellow task force participant Peter Kurz, who has long been involved with the sport in Israel, as president of the IAB and general manager of Team Israel. “Mark has been a very strong supporter of Israeli baseball for the 12 years we have known each other,” said Kurz. “He has always been curious to see what we do, asks a lot of questions, and stays very engaged. He has donated generously toward the new fields we are building, also toward the [national] team.”
In addition, said Kurz, Rattner, as Baseball and Softball Task Force chair, “speaks on our behalf at JNF events…. Mark is a true friend.”
Rattner and his wife, Lenore, members of Temple Shalom in Succasunna, traveled to the 2019 European Baseball Championships, held Sept. 7-15 in Bonn and Solingen, Germany. Israel qualified to participate in the next Olympics qualifier, which it won, a few weeks later, providing Rattner with a deep sense of satisfaction. “To see a team from Israel playing that well, in Germany, provided me with a feeling of triumph,” he said.
His efforts combining baseball and the JNF — Israel’s afforestation and land reclamation agency that has in more recent years branded itself as an environmental protector and a community development advocate — have been nurtured over more than a decade. The relationship started back when he had family connections with the Israel Baseball League, which played a single 41-game season in 2007. Rattner’s son Eric was a catcher for the Tel Aviv Lightning team, while his other son, David, was the league’s operations manager.
“That experience really got me excited about the possibilities of baseball in Israel, and I have been working to make more people in our community here aware of what is happening,” said Rattner. “Team Israel’s appearance in the 2017 World Baseball Classic did boost recognition. With the new fields being built, more and more Israeli youngsters are being introduced to the sport.”
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