February 18, 2007

Israel Baseball League: An Inside Look

The following is a special report submitted by a friend in Israel by the name of Asaf, aka The Pirate to PiratesLive Board frequenters. Asaf is a seventeen year old baseball loving true Pirate fan. Reading his submission almost gave me the same feeling I had when my son started hitting line drives at the age of 2. It is great to see someone from outside Western Pennsylvania love the Pirates and baseball as much as Asaf. I hope you all enjoy this, I know I did.

Asaf worries "There are probably some grammar mistakes". I believe he has done a fine job with this and a much better job than I could do writing in Hebrew.

By Asaf Yanko, Israel

As a 17 baseball player, you're normal dream should be to get to the major leagues. This is not really the case over here, in Israel.

All my life I was taught, heard and even played soccer. We used to play all day long, from sunrise to sunset. However, everything changed for me at the age of 13.

My father, as a part of a special delegation from the Israeli Ministry of Defense, went to USA, to Pittsburgh. He saw a baseball game, of the Pirates, over there and just drawn into the game. When he got back home, he gave me a Pirates shirt, a glove and a bat. I remember this day now… just as a reborn. Since that day, baseball has taken a big part of my life, a part that never got taken by soccer, for example. This was just pure lust and love for the game, that I never felt before – and I, just like my father before, got drawn to the game.

About 3 months later, I found out that there is an amateur baseball league. I was amazed. I've started playing ball, and since then – I haven't stopped.

The thing about the Israeli league, has always been that we've known we has no chance to fulfill our dream and get to the MLB or even to the minor leagues. Even for the really talented guys over here. At Israel, every 18 years old person, have to enlist the army. By doing that, all the baseball players are getting block of playing ball for 3 years and when the finish those 3 years, they're already 21 years old and too old.

This is why building a professional league in Israel is so important. By doing that, it opens a window for those talented players to play (even through the army… with certain approvals) and maybe finally even make it to the major leagues – and fulfill their dream.

On November 10th, I was one of 70 players whom tried out for the 1st Israeli Baseball League. Short, tall, thick, fat, young and old – we've all stood over there, smiling and hope to impress the judges (Former Red Sox GM, Dan Daquett for that matter). I was trying out for the middle-infield positions, and got 4 ground balls from the SS position to show my skills. I completed the task successfully.

After everyone else have taken their tryouts, Daquett has called all of the players and read a list of the last 25 players whom passed the 1st cut and reached the last level. When he started reading, he passed over some names from the Israeli national team, and since I wasn't part of it, I was positive I'm going to get kicked off. However, he suddenly said "No. 51, Asaf Yanko". I was absolutely shocked as I went with the rest of the small group to the batting cage.

This was the end of the fun part, though. I sucked during batting practice and at the simulated game I got struck out twice. The IBL (Israel Baseball League) has chosen only 12 players out of these tryouts. Unfortunately, I wasn't one of them.

There is some chance this is not the end, though, some friends of me, whom past the tryouts and got contract offers from the league, told me the league is planning on signing another 6 Israeli guys to the league, base on performance in the usual spring season. I really hope to impress them this time, and come up big. This will be extremely hard for me, though, as I'm probably one of the youngest players in the league at the age of 17 (as almost the entire league is 18 or older).

Even if I won't make it, this league will be great in promoting baseball over here in Israel. I believe it can work and that it will work, finally.

So, I guess I would see you all in the season opener of the 2008 Major League season over here in Israel (where it will be :] ), huh? :]

Thank you Asaf. I hope you get that call to be one of the additional players. Enjoy the game, and don't give up on the dream. Please keep us posted on league news and events as they happen.

Israel Baseball League homepage
Post a Comment