“It’s a great cause to help grow the game in Israel,” Mervis told MLB.com on Thursday, “and try to build some fields over there.”
Mervis, who is Jewish and a hotly anticipated addition to the Cubs this year, played for Team Israel at the World Baseball Classic in March. He is nicknamed “Mash” because of his home-run hitting power, a moniker that some fans and retailers spell out with asterisks, the way the 1970s Korean War sitcom of the same name was stylized.
That nickname, spelled in Hebrew — asterisks included — along with his last name (in sum, M*A*S*H Mervis) is found on the new merchandise Mervis is selling in tandem with the Israeli baseball association. He tweeted out images of the design on men’s and women’s shirts and caps.
Baseball has not been a popular sport in Israel, which has only a few baseball fields. But Team Israel leaders and many on its roster of mostly American Jewish players have in recent years become invested in boosting the sport there. A surprising Cinderella run at the 2017 World Baseball Classic gave the team’s profile a lift, too, helping it attract higher-profile MLB players, such as Joc Pederson and Dean Kremer.
The team’s recent manager, former Jewish MLB All-Star Ian Kinsler, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last year that he wants to build more “buzz” around baseball in Israel.
Mervis told MLB.com that his grandmother lived in the Israeli city of Givatayim, adjacent to Tel Aviv, before immigrating to the United States.
“I learned a lot,” he said about his experience on Team Israel. “Just talking to everybody and learning more about the culture and life in Israel and things that my grandmother grew up with.”
Mervis, 25, has had a rocky start to his rookie season in the big leagues, batting just .165 with three home runs through 25 games.
He’s filling big shoes, that of beloved Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo who played for the team from 2012 to 2021 and made the out that clinched the team’s first World Series win in 108 years. Rizzo’s legacy has earned Mervis another nickname, this one Jewish: At least one writer has dubbed him “Bris-zo.”