Baseball in Israel has started to take off with a new youth academy and a recent European World Series win. Does Israeli baseball have what it takes to make the Major Leagues?
Israeli sports fans have traditionally followed soccer and basketball, but baseball had never really caught on – until now.
Twenty-five years ago, the Israel Association of Baseball (IAB) opened its doors, hoping to instill the love of America’s game in the Holy Land. It has taken some time, but within the last year, there has been an upsurge in baseball interest.
IA National Director Nate Fish, the “King of Israeli Baseball,” believes that the sport presents new opportunities for education and culture in Israel. Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, he said:
“It’s our goal to grow baseball in Israel. We want to actually have a domestic impact. We want baseball to be a sport in Israel that people identify with, and are knowledgeable about, and can enjoy. We’re not only focused on the high-end programming. We want to have a strong youth league. We just want to give kids the experience of playing baseball.”
Following Fish’s appointment to national director over a year ago, the IAB has seen an extraordinary 30% increase in participation.
Israeli Baseball Competes on the World Stage
Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus led Israel’s baseball team to success in the European championship’s C-pool this summer, giving them a chance to qualify for the B-pool and A-pool, the WBC’s 2016 qualifier.
Their summer triumph means Israel is fast becoming an internationally recognized talent pool for young baseball players.
Last month, IAB launched Israel’s first-ever baseball academy, finding talent to send to Europe’s “elite camps.” Fish spoke about the impact of this development. “Major League Baseball officially recognizes the Israeli Baseball Academy as the elite training program for youth players in Israel,” he said, according to the Post.
“Jews have been huge in the sport of baseball,” Fish commented. “It’s sort of the most Jewish sport. There have been lots of Jewish baseball players. It doesn’t always necessarily translate to Israel, but it’s the most Jewish sport in that sense.”
Time will tell whether Israel produces new Jewish stars that can match the legends of Hall of Famers like Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg.
Tell us in the Comments below: Compared to other countries new to baseball, such as India, how do you think Israel will stack up in the long run? How long until we see a Major League baseball star emerge from the Holy Land?
Author: Felicity Kay, UWI Freelance Writer