<
>

Israeli baseball league looking for U.S. players

12/29/2006

MIAMI -- Ivan Gluck is a utility man who can pitch and play
first base, third and the outfield. But at 67, the Holocaust
survivor would settle for being a waterboy in Israel's fledging
baseball league.

"I'm not looking for stardom," he said. "I just want to make
the team."

The enthusiastic but unsuccessful Gluck was one of 65 hopefuls
at Friday's tryout for the Israel Baseball League, which is
welcoming Jews and gentiles alike in hopes of exporting America's
pastime to Israel and turning the violence-torn Jewish state -- a
country with only one full-size diamond -- into the next great
baseball power.

"Hopefully, the region will be stable so we can play ball in
the summertime," said player development director Dan Duquette, a
former general manager for the Boston Red Sox and Montreal Expos.
"But you know, baseball could very well be a unifying force for
the country. And wouldn't that be something if it was?"

The league has attracted castoffs from major league teams,
former college and high school players who never got a shot at the
pros, and ordinary fans with a dream.

Rabbi Yaakov Green, 26, did not get the chance to play in his
college years, and got cut again during Friday's tryouts, but he
was grateful just for the opportunity.

"I never thought I was going to play on this kind of level or
get a chance to play on this kind of level," he said.

Duquette has spent the past few months scouting players in
Israel and Massachusetts and plans to hold additional tryouts
before the six-team league opens its season on June 24. The teams
will be the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox, Netanya Tigers, Petach Tikva
Pioneers, Jerusalem/Gezer Lions, Haifa/Nahariya Stingrays and Tel
Aviv Lightning.

"This is what Israelis need. Israelis need family time, time
away from the stress," said operations director Martin Berger, a
Miami lawyer.

Officials also said they hope to compete in the 2009 World
Baseball Classic with Jewish major and minor league players such as
Jason Marquis of the Chicago Cubs and Boston's Kevin Youkilis.

Berger said the league will also bring equipment to Israel,
build baseball fields, improve the few smaller diamonds and offer
youth training.

"Baseball, to us, is the great American game and there's so
many Americans in Israel and there's so many great supporters of
Israel in America," Berger said. "It's just a logical thing to
do."