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Israel Baseball League at 2007 Mid-Season

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

               Netanya Modiin action      Jason Rees

The fledgling Israel Baseball League’s mid-season standings show a bunch-up at the top as three teams, of the six team league, are either at or within 1 1/2 games of the league lead.

The Beit Shemesh Blue Sox, who got off to a flying start winning their first 10 games, sit atop the league with a 16-7 record. 

Close behind the Blue Sox, are the 2nd place Tel Aviv Lightning with a 15-7 record — 1/2 game away, and the Modi’in Miracle — 1 1/2 games out with a 14-8 mark as of play at July, 23. 2007.

Netanya, Ra’anana and Petach Tikva make out the 2nd division of the league as the All Star game approaches in 4 days.

In the coming All Star game, to be played at Yarkon Field, home field for the Ra’anana Express and the Petach Tikva Pioneers, the North team, comprised of Netanya, Ra’anana and Tel Aviv will oppose the south team comprised of Beit Shemesh, Modi’in and Petach Tikva.  In the days leading up to the game, the South team is favored by a FanPoll by 66% to 34 %.  And why not?  Two of the three league-leading teams are part of the South’s composition.

A look at the individual and team batting and pitching leaders’ stats will give fans a good indication of details behind the league standings.

The League has recently announced Comcast West will be telecasting IBL games on Monday nights at 7 pm PT, 10 pm ET.

The IBL is great entertainment and competitive on a high level.  For those baseball fans travelling to Israel, its a must-see attraction.

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Phillies Lose Opener to Houston

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007

                Pat Burrell       Shane Victorino

The Phillies loaded the bases with one out in the first inning off of Houston Astros starter Woody Williams but let Williams off the hook scoring only single runs in the first and second innings.   Williams found his rythym as the Astros took leads of 4-2 and 6-3 enroute to a 7-5 win in the opener of a 3 game series through July 4th.  Williams won his 4th game of the season against 10 losses.

The Phillies lost no further ground on Monday to either the Mets or the  Atlanta Braves as they both also lost.  And as it turned out, Monday was not a good day for the 40-plus club as only Williams and Yankees’ Roger Clemens won out of the 6 over 40’s hurlers who started games. For Clemens, the win was number 350.

After the Phils scored their one run sandwiched within a weird double-play in the first and after leftfielder Pat Burrell’s leadoff 2nd inning solo homer, once Williams found his stride, he limited the Phils to 3 scattered hits from the 3rd through the 7th innings with the Phillies scoring only on rightfielder  Shane Victorino’s one-out solo shot in the 6th.

AP Sports Writer Chris Duncan explains how the Phils’ first inning ended;

Williams struggled early.  Jimmy Rollins beat out a bunt and Victorino singled to right before he’d thrown five pitches. After Chase Utley grounded out, Williams intentionally walked  Howard to get to Aaron Rowand, a .571 hitter this season with the bases loaded.

Rowand flied out to right and Rollins beat Luke Scott’s throw home to make it 1-0. Astros catcher Brad Ausmus alertly threw to Mike Lamb at third base and Victorino was caught in an inning-ending rundown.

The Astros tied the Phils after both early runs with single runs in the bottom of the first and and third innings.  Then Houston went ahead for good on a 2 run homer in the 5th by hot-hitting centerfielder Hunter Pence.  All runs scored off of losing pitcher lefthander Jamie Moyer who pitched 6 innings giving up 4 runs on 9 hits, walking 2 and striking out 2.

                           Jason Rees

Between the 3rd and 7th innings, outside of Victorino’s homer which cut the score to 4-3, the Phils did absolutely nothing offesively.  They sure could have used some of those runs being piled on by outfielder Jason Rees and the Beit Shemesh Blue Sox who are undefeated in the first six games of the new, professional Israel Baseball League.  Is it only a question of time before Rees gets the “Howard treatment” from IBL pitchers?

Houston scored two more runs on one hit in the 7th inning on Phils’ reliever Brian Sanches’ two bases loaded walks and their final run in the 8th on leftdfielder Carlos Lee’s solo blast to leftfield off of Jose Mesa.

With the Astros up 7-3 in the 9th inning, things got a bit dicey for Houston reliever Dan Wheeler.  With bases loaded and one out, catcher Carlos Ruiz doubled to centerfield scoring Pat Burrell and Ryan Howard and moving Wes Helms to 3rd base. 

With the tying runs  on 2nd and 3rd, Wheeler was replaced by Trever Miller who got pinch hitter Chris Coste on a groundout to 3rd and Jimmy Rollins on deep flyball to centerfield to end the game.

For the scores, boxscores on this and all of Monday’s games, click here.

In game 2, Adam Eaton tries to knot the series for the Phillies and is opposed by Roy Oswalt.  The series finale features young lefthander Cole Hamels, still seeking his 10th win, vs Chris Sampson for Houston.

For the scores, boxscores on this and all of Tuesday’s games, click here.

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Israel Baseball League Begins Inaugural Season

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

                      Jason Rees      Jeff Mor                                                Jason Rees and Jeff Mor of the Beit Shemesh Blue Sox

Just over one month ago, this blog reported on media coverage of the new  IBL baseball league forming in Israel.  June 24, 2007 marked the league’s opning day.

Since making my Aliyah to live in Israel over 8 years ago this past March, whenever baseball fans/Torah scholars got together an talked a little baseball, that oft-used biblical pun, “In the big inning…” was always bandied about.  The Israel Baseball League opener in the Yarkon Sports Complex in the city of Petach Tikva was indicative of that great old pun that we all chuckle about.

The game ended up as something of a laugher with Modi’in putting it to Petach Tikva by a 9-1 score as the Israeli announcers had no clue as to hebraicized baseball jargon.

I missed the league opener on Sunday, although early in the afternoon I had thoughts of busing it over to Petach Tikva’s Yarkon Field.  But then a number of pressing matters plus intense Beit Shemesh heat prevailed and I ended up locked-on to the computer for the duration. 

 The game pitted Manager Art Shamsky and his Modi’in Miracle against the  Petach Tikva Pioneers.   

Hillel Fendel of Israel National News records how Modi’in turned a close game into something of a rout in the 3rd inning;

The game blew open in the third inning, when the Miracle from Modiin managed to turn only two hits - both singles - into no fewer than five runs. They were helped along by four walks and two sacrifice flies. Meanwhile, inning by inning, Petach Tikvah was going down quietly, making little trouble for Modiin pitchers Matt Bennett of Australia and Audy Alcantara of the Dominican Republic. The serenity of their “offense” was disturbed only by a solo home run by Ryan Crotin of Amherst, NY, among four other harmless hits. The game ended softly with a ground out by right-fielder Ben Dashefsky of New York.

But on Monday, with game tickets in hand, and with old tunes in mind like ”it’s a beautiful day for a ballgame, for a ballgame today…” and that old Phillies beer commercial, “Baseball and Balantine”, a group of us Ramat Beit Shemesh residents headed for “for the sticks”, for the proverbial “boondocks” known as Gezer to root for the Beit Shemesh Blue Sox in their inaugural game of the Israel Baseball League season against the Netanya Tigers.

It was Beit Shemesh’s favorite son, starting pitcher Jeff Mor facing Netanya’s Leon Finegold who brings some heavy heat by way of a 90+ mph fastball, not exactly on par with a healthy Joel Zumaya, but pretty rapid by Israeli standards.

We arrived at the Gezer field by way of winding, twisting roads and in time for the 2nd inning.  We missed Mor striking out 2 of the first 3 hitters he faced in the 1st inning as the fans chanted “We want Mor[e].”

After Netanya broke through for a run in the second inning on rightfielder  Brian Pinchuk’s RBI single in the second to lead 1-0, Bet Shemesh got the run back in the 4th on an RBI single by second baseman Jim Pierce. Rightfielder Jason Rees’ hit drove in the winning run in the fifth as the Blue Sox held off the Tigers in the 6th inning to emerge with the victory.  The umpires called the game after six innings due to darkness, or rather poor lighting which the IBL will undoubtedly rectify once it resolves it’s sometimes quirky website

League games are normally 7 innings, as opposed to American baseball which goes 9 innings and extra-innings in event of a tie.  In the IBL, ties in regulation play would be broken by a homerun derby.

The closely-fought pitcher’s duel and tight defensive battle was only marred by a 4th inning hit batsman which went largely unreported in media coverage of the game.  The Petach Tikva pitcher Leon Feingold lost control of a fastball which hit Beit Shemesh catcher Jake Ayers in the neck, just below the ear.  As Ayers lay on the ground seemingly motionless for a few moments, it looked serious as he was surrounded by players from both teams and a stretcher was wheeled in.  But then, Ayers was helped up and left the field under his own power with what seemed to be an ice-pack being applied to the affected area.  He was then taken to the hospital for tests.  League officials informed me by email that as of 28 June, 2007 Ayers is ok but is day-to-day.

The food was top drawer, glatt kosher and economic.  Although there was not the broadcasting balagon of the league-opener where game announcers struggled with adapting loshen Kodesh (the holy tongue of Hebrew) to baseball lingo, this game’s Anglo public address announcer has what to learn in terms properly announcing each hitter of the lineup, what position each plays, etc.

But a great time was had by all, and the hometown club won.  Can even the most demanding Phillies or Cubs fan ask for anything more?

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Professional Baseball Comes to Israel

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

Last summer, I started to see occassional articles about a new pro baseball league to be formed in Israel.

                           Larry Baras

A Boston financial consultant, Larry Baras had a passion — to bring a strong brand of professional baseball to Israel and to spur aliyah by encouraging some of the best Jewish baseball talent to come to Israel to live and to play baseball.  Baras is now the Managing Director of the Israel Baseball League (IBL).

When some of the names were bandied around in the media last year, talent like Boston infielder Kevin Youkilis or New York Mets rightfielder  Shawn Green, many dismissed the IBL as a dream that would never happen. 

But here it is near the end of May, 2007.  The league has held it’s first  player draft and opening day for the 6 team league is set for June 24, 2007 as the Modi’in Miracle faces the Petach Tikva Pioneers at Yarkon Field in Petach Tikva to kick off the innaugural season.. 

                           Daniel Kurtzer

Among the league executives with Baras are Commissioner Daniel C. Kurtzerformer US Ambassador to Israel, former general manager of the Montreal Expos and Boston Red Sox — Director of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette and Martin I. Berger — the IBL’s President and Chief Operating Officer.  

                    Ron Blomberg        Ken Holtzman

Team managers include former MLB players Ron Blombergmanager of the Beit Shemesh Blue Sox, Art Shamsky manager of the Modi’in Miracle and former pitcher Ken Holtzmanmanager of the Petach Tikva Pioneers.

No they didn’t manage to draft Youkilis or Green, but they did draft 120 players to fill 6 teams.

AP recently reported on the Haaretz website;

The league begins play June 24 with the six teams playing a 45-game schedule.

Players from nine nations were drafted, and about a dozen of the 120 players in the league are expected to be Israeli citizens. 

The last player chosen in the draft may have actually been an honorary choice.

The AP report states;

                                  Sandy Koufax

Sandy Koufax was the final player chosen in the draft to stock the six teams for the inaugural season of the Israel Baseball League.

Koufax, 71, was picked by the Modi’in Miracle in the draft conducted Thursday night by former major league general manager Dan Duquette, who heads baseball operations for the league.

“His selection is a tribute to the esteem with which he is held by everyone associated with this league,” said former big leaguer Art Shamsky, who will manage the Miracle. “It’s been 41 years between starts for him. If he’s rested and ready to take the mound again, we want him on our team.”

Whether or not Koufax actually dons a Miracle uniform and cleats and plays, a number of great promotions are being planned throughout the season to boost attendance at games. 

Opening Day for the IBL is eagerly awaited by Israel’s Baseball fans.

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