Spider coach prepares for Olympic debut with Team Israel

July 27, 2021

SPIDER PRIDE

Spiders assistant baseball coach Nate Mulberg recently headed to the Tokyo Olympics where he’s on the coaching staff for Team Israel. He’s joined by former Spiders pitcher and 2017 Richmond grad Jonathan de Marte on the team — one of only six in the world aiming for a gold medal — which faces South Korea on Thursday morning. (Read more about their road to the Olympics in this University of Richmond magazine feature.)

Mulberg recently talked about his experience in the Olympic competition, joining world-class athletes in Tokyo, and what it means to him to represent Israel on the world’s biggest stage. 

What it’s like to be in Tokyo as the Olympics return after a year-long delay?

“It’s still surreal to be here. It seems like a lifetime ago that we clinched our spot on that field in Italy, but I couldn’t be happier to be in Tokyo. It’s been an amazing experience to walk through the Olympic Village, seeing these athletes that are the best in the world at what they do. It makes you realize how special it is to be here.”

For Spiders checking out the game against South Korea, any thoughts on what to look for? How do the teams match up? 

In the 2017 World Baseball Classic, we defeated South Korea during the opening game of the tournament. There is some competitive history between our two teams. Because of that, I’m certain the game will be exciting and hard-fought on both sides, especially since we are opening the tournament once again with them. In the Olympics, every game is extremely important, with each feeling like a Game 7. Every win is crucial in getting to the medal round. Knowing how important each one is will make our game against South Korea very exciting to watch.

What are you most looking forward to during your time at the Olympics?

With the restrictions that are in place, we can’t take advantage of seeing some of the sites we might normally have while we’re here. It may seem like a small aspect of the experience, but the bus rides to and from practice have been something I’ve been looking forward to and trying to soak in. There might not be another time I get to see the Tokyo skyline. So taking in some of the sights, even if just from my bus seat, has been a highlight so far.

And I’ve loved getting to know all the athletes around the village. It’s been cool to interact with and meet people like Yao Ming, Novak Djokovic, and the best athletes and coaches in the world. It’s been extremely beneficial for me personally to be around such elite athletes and coaches. I’ve learned so much already and am excited about the next week or so that we have left here. I am so much looking forward to bringing all of the knowledge I’m collecting here in Tokyo back with me to Richmond to help our baseball players develop and grow both as players and people during the upcoming school year. 

You and Jonathan de Marte are only the sixth and seventh Spider Olympians. Any reflections on that?

It’s truly special to be here representing Israel, the University of Richmond, and my friends and family. These athletes put in so much time, hard work, and dedication to perfect their craft and be considered the best in the world. To be here, coaching some of these men, and getting to interact with athletes from all over the globe, is amazing.

I’m also honored to be here alongside a fellow Spider in Jon, and for all that he has overcome to get to this point. He’s a former player of mine but also one of my role models. Jon is the most resilient, hard-working, and devoted baseball player I have ever been around. Many at Richmond know his story, but he’s overcome countless surgeries and injuries that occurred during his six-year career at Richmond. John’s reached the Olympics largely due to his immense talent, but his ability to overcome adversity is the biggest reason why he’s here in Tokyo today. I am so proud of him and admire him a ton. I’m so excited to see him pitch during the tournament, because he’s earned this opportunity for all the challenges he’s battled through and defeated. 

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