Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
The Washington Nationals may have better ballplayers, but the Hebrew Nationals have way cooler uniforms.
A local Jewish men’s softball team is now sporting full baseball regalia in ketchup red and mustard yellow, courtesy of the company that makes Hebrew National hot dogs.
The team, on which many of the players are affiliated with Congregation Albert, is part of the Church League that plays under the city Parks and Recreation Department’s adult softball program. It’s one of only two teams from the Jewish community, said Hebrew Nationals coach and manager Scott Fliegel, who has played on the team for about six years.
The team previously played as the Matzo Ballers and the Lions, but decided it needed to beef up its brand. It entertained a number of possibilities, including the Kosher 10 and Sons of Zion, but none passed mustard, so to speak.
When someone suggested the Hebrew Nationals, the members voted with relish to pursue that.
Because there are lawyers on the softball team, and because Fliegel is naturally cautious and considerate, he reached out to Conagra, which owns the Hebrew National brand, and talked with Dan Skinner, the brand communications manager, “just to make sure they were good with it,” Fliegel said.
“Not only were they good with it, they loved the idea and wanted to provide the team with new uniforms. They sent us four mock-ups of uniform designs and we selected one.”
Ultimately, Hebrew National sent 14 full uniforms with jerseys featuring player names and numbers on the back, pants, belts, socks and caps. They even threw in a few wooden bats adorned with the Hebrew National logo.
“We don’t use wooden bats …, but they’re really cool so we’re using them as rally sticks,” said Fliegel, 55, a project manager for a video teleconferencing company.
“No doubt we have the coolest uniforms in the league,” he enthused. “It was incredibly generous of them and these are really high-quality uniforms. … We couldn’t feel happier or feel luckier.”
Hebrew National’s Skinner said the company’s marketing team is always looking for “quirky and fun” things to get behind. “Sometimes we proactively find them, and sometimes they come to us, as with Scott. We ran it up the corporate flagpole, but even if Scott didn’t ask if the team could use the name, we probably would never have found out, and if we did we probably would have just sent them coupons. I doubt we would have gotten the lawyers on them.”
Although the uniforms are adorned with the Hebrew National logo, the team will refer to itself using the plural, the Hebrew Nationals. Reworking the company’s logo to pluralize it would have been too involved, Skinner said.
Regardless, the company’s gesture seems to have hit a home run, and everybody is a wiener. Not only are the players beyond excited, but social media erupted with comments about it, and it has been a topic of discussion and amusement on TV and radio sports stations.
“We have not sponsored a baseball team before, but one of our brands is David Seeds, the official sunflower seed of the Chicago Cubs,” Skinner said.
He was careful to explain that Hebrew National is not technically “sponsoring” the team. “It’s more of an act of goodwill and support for a bunch of guys who love to play baseball. In fact, we’re going to try come and see a game as soon as a full season schedule for the team is made available.”
Of course, they shouldn’t expect Washington Nationals-quality players – not that the Hebrew Nationals are horrible.
Longtime player and former coach, Charlie Brown, offered the ringing endorsement: “Well, we don’t suck.”
Congregation Albert’s Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld was also amused by the team’s new name and their colorful uniforms.
“I think I can comfortably say it’s the first time a softball team of players affiliated with the temple has been named for a hot dog.”
He noted that when he was the rabbi at a congregation in Anchorage, Alaska, “we had a softball team named the Ten Commandments, but we kept losing, so we changed … to the Ten Plagues.”