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May 9, 2023

Drew Maggi's Incredible Journey and Lag Baomer

Drew Maggi's Incredible Journey and Lag Baomer

A 15th-round pick in 2010, Drew Maggi climbed the Pittsburgh Pirates' system to Double-A Altoona but was released in 2015. He bounced around the minors with five organizations. On Sept. 18, 2021, the Minnesota Twins promoted Maggi for a short period but he did not appear in a big-league game. Last summer, the Philadelphia Phillies traded Maggi back to the Pirates, and he continued playing in their minor league system.

Things had come full circle, when, on April 23, 2023, Maggi - 33-years-old - was called up by the Pirates and after 13 years and 1,155 games in the minors, he finally appeared in his first big-league game. According to the MLB, Maggi became the ninth-oldest player to make his AL/NL debut in the Expansion Era (since 1961).

"I always believed this moment would come," Maggi said. "There was a little bit of me that was like, 'You love playing baseball. Keep going, no matter where you’re at. Crazy things happen in this game.' So, I'm very thankful that I'm here and I get to enjoy this."

The fact that he struck out at his first at bat didn't really matter. And the fact that he only played in three games before being optioned back to the minors didn't matter either. Maggi achieved the improbable; he made it to the big-leagues!

Asked what lessons he's learned from his call-up, Maggi said, "Anything's possible. Never give up."

A reporter at the game asked Maggi's parents, "How do you put this moment, and this night and this trip, into words? Craig Maggi, his father, responded, “It's just a really exciting time. I mean, it's never about the at bat, it's about the journey that he has and that he's done. I've never met anyone with more determination than him.”

This incredible story of Maggi was emotional, inspirational, and exciting, and it got the sports world into a buzz; it was a story of strength, resilience, and determination. Maggi could have and perhaps should have given up on his MLB dreams. But despite being in the minors for 13 years, and despite his age – 33-years-old – Maggi never gave up hope; Maggi’s story became a national feel-good story.

Perhaps, it’s not a coincidence that this national feel-good story with 33-year-old Maggi took place specifically during the Days of Sefiras Haomer, right before Lag Baomer – the 33rd day of the Omer.

You see, the story of Maggi reminds us about our national story, the story of the Jewish people, which can be summed up in one calendrical day, the 33rd day of the Omer, or Lag Baomer. The holy day of Lag Ba’Omer marks the time when not only the 24,000 students of Rebbe Akiva stopped dying, but even more importantly, it marks the time when Rebbe Akiva started rebuilding.

Let’s remember, this was the famous Rebbe Akiva who observed the water on the rock and said, “If water can make a dent in a rock, then surely Torah – which is compared to water – can make a dent in me,” and at the age of 40, he reignited his spark of commitment to a life of Torah study. He subsequently spent many years of his life dedicated to the teaching of Torah and built a tremendous dynasty of Torah scholars. But tragically, in a span of only a few weeks (hence, the mourning period of Sefiras Haomer) the 24,000 students of Rebbe Akiva died. His aspirations, crushed. His dreams, destroyed. Everything he built collapsed before his very own eyes.

Rebbe Akiva could have and perhaps should have given up hope. He had every excuse to do so. But guess what? He didn’t. He never lost hope and he never gave up, even during the most difficult of times. Instead of feeling buried in the ground, he used this episode of darkness as an opportunity for spiritual planting and growth. He founded five new students – Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Yehuda, Rabbi Yose, Rabbi Shimon, and Rabbi Elazar ben Shammua – and from them, the world of Torah Jewry was revived.

This is the joy and celebration of the 33rd day of the Omer. The holiday of Lag Baomer, a day associated with flames and bonfires, is a testament to the internal and eternal flame that is, the Jewish people. It is a day in which we celebrate our survival as an expression of our drive and resilience to never give up hope. It’s a celebration of perseverance; a celebration of determination and drive. Throughout the various exiles, persecutions, antisemitism, and so much going against us, the 33rd day of the Omer reminds us that our flame cannot and will not go out.

For us, the words of Maggi ring so true at the core of who and what we are: “Anything’s possible. Never give up.”