Secretary General of the Israel Association of Baseball
Baseball in Israel may have started up in the 1980s, but now it’s going through dramatic changes that are putting it on the world baseball map and generating an excitement for baseball in Israel that never existed before.
With nearly 1,000 players playing baseball all over Israel–from Misgav and Carmiel in the north, to Beer Sheba in the south, and Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Bet Shemesh, Modiin, Gezer, Ra’anana, Tel Mond, and more in the center–Israeli baseball is thriving.
Israel has moved up in the European and world ranking over the past year, boosted by the senior national team’s win in the C-Pool of the European championships in July, moving the team up to the B-Pool for 2015. Earlier in the year, the under-16 national team secured a second place finish in the PONY European championships held in Prague. This year, Israel sent a total of five national teams to tournaments around Europe.
At home, the local leagues are thriving. Teams all over the country, with players ages 6 and up, train and play for their local teams throughout the year, thanks to Israel’s excellent weather that enables winter play for most of the season. A popular enrichment program is held once a week for players looking for additional coaching from national team coaches. This program, for players from ages 10 to 16, works on advanced skills and culminates in tryouts for three of the Israeli national teams.
The Israel Baseball Academy was launched this year. Eleven elite baseball players between 14 and 21 years old from all over Israel were selected to participate in the yearlong intensive program, which is recognized by the MLB. This will enable the participants to gain access to Major League Baseball’s high-level programs for top European baseball players. The academy is headed by Israel Baseball national director Nate Fish and assisted by David Schenker, national team coach, and Dan Rothem, former college pitcher and longtime Israel national team player. The goal of the academy is to develop the top players in Israel so that they are ready to compete at the highest levels, can train in the U.S., and can play college and even professional baseball.
In addition, Israel Baseball runs programs for underprivileged children and offers programs to increase awareness of the sport in schools and community centers throughout Israel.
With so much happening in Israel baseball, it was a natural step to move into merchandising. In August, IsraelBaseballShop.com was launched online to offer a wide selection of Israel Baseball merchandise, including sweatshirts, T-shirts, bats, kippot, and more, for sale to Israel Baseball fans around the world. An exciting project grew out of this venture in the form of a partnership with the JNF. The bats sold on the Israel Baseball Shop are handmade in Georgia, in the U.S., by the T3 Bat Company. Each bat includes a custom engraving with the purchaser’s name, the model number for the year “Genuine 5775,” and “Israel Baseball.” For each bat sold, Israel Baseball will buy and plant a tree in a JNF forest in Israel in the person’s name that is engraved on the bat.
For more information and news about Israel Baseball, visit www.baseball.org.il/en/ or the Israel Baseball Facebook page.