This past Sunday, the Israel Baseball League (IBL) inaugurated its first 45-game season, 6 teams playing on 3 fields. With a roster of 120 players (only 20 native-born sabras), the league is overseen by a group of American Jews who are hoping to create a new national pastime that will eventually reach beyond the initial North American immigrant fan base. Former major leaguers occupy many of the coaching and league front-office roles. Ken Holtzman (former Cubs, Oakland, Orioles & Yankees), Art Shamsky (Mets, Oakland, Cubs), and Ron Blomberg (Yankees & White Sox) are coaching, and Don Duquette (former GM of the Red Sox) is Director of baseball operations.
But this of course is baseball Israel style. Attendees reported awfully long waits at the concession stands. On-line ticket ordering is disorganized. The Hebrew web site has many broken links. There is still no useful Hebrew term for a double play: pesilah kefulah, and the Hebrew-English on-line lexicon doesn't have a phrase for a ground rule double. Already the coming week's games slotted for the Sportek stadium in Tel Aviv have been postponed or moved to the Yarkon park (due to poor field conditions at Sportek), and games are being rescheduled haphazardly at the two working fields. When week one is hardly begun, and half the week's schedule is TBA, there is no joy in Israeli Mudville.
Kudos for trying, and who knows? Maybe it will work. The Israeli game is designed for entertainment -- the DH, 7-inning games, ties after 7 innings decided by a home run derby -- so there is a real chance that ADD Israelis will find comfort in all the hyped-up action. Over 3000 fans came to the opener in which the Modi'in Miracle crushed the Petah Tikvah Pioneers 9-1. My buddy Yoav (who wishes he was American) watched the first live game broadcast on the Israeli Sports Channel, and still will never understand the double-switch (because the IBL uses the designated hitter -- in Hebrew: hovet memuneh). But I've decided to throw my support to the Tel Aviv Lightning, which won their first game, coached by Steve Hertz, who appeared in 5 major league games in 1964 for the Houston Colt .45s (now the Astros). I've already ordered my team T-shirt and baseball cap -- we'll see how long it takes for the merchandise to arrive.
Erik, I see a future for you on the Pioneers -- they need pitchers!