Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The End of Israeli Baseball?

It’s a sad day. Actually, it was a sad day several weeks ago when Haim Katz, president of the Israel Association of Baseball, told The Jerusalem Post that the Israel Baseball League has been cancelled for 2008 and its future is in jeopardy. I just learned about this recently through Walk Off Walk.

Anyway, there seems to be a disconnect between the Israel Baseball League and its website. The IBL website still has a countdown to opening day featuring a rematch of last year’s championship game between the Modi'in Miracle and the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox on June 29, 2008. I hope that they are not still selling tickets! (Update: When I originally drafted this post, the countdown was active; it is not anymore.)

I was actually very excited about the league and briefly wrote about it last year. Although it was essentially another minor league, the fact that it started from scratch and included players from all over the world was unique. It seems that the league was more than just a gimmick based on the fact that last season’s co-MVP, Eladio Rodriguez, was playing at the New York Yankees’ AAA team in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, although it now appears that he’s back at AA Trenton.

As a side note, I also just learned that there was a movie made about the league called "Holy Land Hardball." The film debuts at the Silverdocs AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival on Thursday in Silver Spring (unfortunately, the screening takes place at 4:00pm; there’s a second screening Sunday, June 22 at 10:15am.) You can also read more about the making of the movie though Express’ interview with the filmmakers. Of course, you may want to disregard this portion of the interview (that disconnect thing again):

» EXPRESS: I saw on the Israeli league site that it looks like they will try a second season after all. Are you surprised able to get it going again and do you think it will be long-term success?

» KESTEN: That's a very hard question to answer. We're not privy to everything going on from business sense of the league. It's not easy. Stripping baseball away, it's a start-up business that's taking place 3,000 miles away from everyone's home base. They weren't expecting to take the country by storm; they knew it would be a long process getting Israelis interested.

» RAPKIN: We know they can get players over there from all over the world. The quality of the league went far beyond what Larry originally envisioned. Originally, you would have found a lot of players you saw in the first tryout who were mostly American Jewish kids who would love to spend summer in Israel and had some reasonable baseball skills. When Dan Duquette got involved, it became very much about finding the best players who they could convince to play for $2,000 in Israel for the summer. Having fields to play on is the real challenge. It's about raising money.

Finally, I found a great blog dedicated to Baseball in Israel.

Update 6/19: Possibly inspired by reading Sean's Ramblings, the Israeli Baseball League decided that the season must go on. But it's not a done deal yet.


Anonymous said...

That is sad. Though I still might make it to the screening on Sunday.

Sean said...

I'd like to see the screening too, but I'll be back in the Burgh this weekend.

I posted an update above, but it looks like the Israeli Baseball League may be back for 2008.