Greetings, sports fans! Call me Bob Uecker because this post is juuuuuust a bit outside my regular range. Tonight, instead of drafting a column or taking in a draft beer or plugging up the cracks in my windows so I don’t feel the draft, I attended a draft. And it was full of Jews.
You know the joke about the book about Jews in sports. (“It’s a pamphlet.”) But tonight’s player draft was for the inaugural season of the Israel Baseball League, and the event, co-sponsored by the David Project, Taglit-birthright israel, Heeb and a few others that (sorry, others) I can’t remember right now, celebrated the arrival of America’s national past-time in Israel.
While I didn’t write down all of the names of the draftees, I can tell you that all the players are guaranteed to look familiar. One early draft pick looked like he was follicularly channeling Nathan Englander. There was only one who didn’t resemble someone I knew, and he looked like any minute he’d be auditioning for the next Superman movie.
There are some differences: 7 innings, not 9. Tie games are broken by a home run derby. And stadium vendors will sell shvarma-im-tzchips in a lafah instead of hot dogs. (Maybe not the last one. But maybe yes the last one. We’ll see.)
The four teams–the Tel Aviv Lightning, the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox, the Ra’ananna Express, the Petach Tikva Pioneers, the Netanya Tigers and the Modi’in Miracle–named undoubtedly for Chanukah’s oil/military victory, but with the added resonance of sporting as its manager Miracle Met Art Shamsky. Three other coaches, Ron Blomberg (Yankees/Bet Shemesh), Ken Holtzman (Cubs and As/Petach Tikva), and Steve Hertz (Astros/Tel Aviv), are also former Major League players. An Australian manager, Shaun Smith, will manage Netanya, and the Tigers have yet to name their manager.
The June 24th opening night game, the Miracle vs. the Pioneers (which sounds like a conference on contemporary Zionism), will be shown live on Israel’s Arutz Sport (like ESPN, but in Israel); public broadcasting stations in the US will also carry the game a week later. Full schedules will be available on israelbaseballleague.com and needless to say, these teams don’t pitch on Shabbos. (And yes, there are plenty of other “Jews in baseball” jokes to come. So stay tuned.)