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Israel Baseball League

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Israel Baseball League
Israel Baseball League
Sport Baseball
Founded 2007
No. of teams 6
Country Israel
Current champions Bet Shemesh Blue Sox
Official website

The Israel Baseball League (IBL) (Hebrew: ליגת הבייסבול הישראלית, Ligat ha-Beisbol ha-Israelit) was a professional six-team baseball league in Israel. The first game was played on June 24, 2007. The 2008 season was cancelled due to financial difficulties.[1]


The six league teams were the Tel Aviv Lightning, Netanya Tigers, Bet Shemesh Blue Sox, Petach Tikva Pioneers, Modi'in Miracle, and Ra'anana Express.[2]

The teams played games at three ballparks. The Yarkon Sports Complex, seating 15,000, in the Baptist Village in Petach Tikva, just outside of Tel Aviv, is home to the Ra’anana Express and the Petach Tikva Pioneers. Gezer Field, about 25 minutes from Jerusalem, approximately halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, sits on Kibbutz Gezer, in one of Israel’s wine districts. It is home to the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox and the Modi’in Miracle. And Sportek Baseball Field, in the southern end of Tel Aviv’s largest outdoor public park, a 10-minute walk from seaside Tel Aviv hotels, is shared by the Tel Aviv Lightning and the Netanya Tigers.[3] A fourth field, which will be the home field for the Blue Sox, is under construction in Bet Shemesh. It is expected to be ready for the 2008 season. Template:IBL

2007 seasonEdit

The league had an eight-week, 45-game season. Bet Shemesh (29–12; .707), led by hitters Gregg Raymundo and Jason Rees,[4] had the best regular season record in the league, and finished with a 2.5 game lead over Tel Aviv (26–14; .650), led by pitchers Aaron Pribble and Daniel Kaufman.[4]

August 19 in Petach Tikva, Ron Blomberg’s Bet Shemesh Blue Sox shut out Art Shamsky’s Modi’in Miracle 3–0 in the IBL’s inaugural championship game. Californian RHP Rafael Bergstrom (7–2, 2.44) pitched a complete game shutout for Bet Shemesh, downing Dominican RHP Maximo Nelson (5–3, 3.55 ERA) who pitched for Modi’in.

The Israel Baseball League announced on February 20, 2008 that eight of its players who starred in the inaugural 2007 IBL season have been given the opportunity to advance their baseball careers and pursue their dreams.

"One of our stated goals has been to become the 'Go To' league for the international player. It isn't easy to establish credibility on the professional level, so it is extremely heartening to see the opportunities that have presented themselves to our players after just our first year of play," Dan Duquette said.

The eight players are:

The IBL had many objectives when it was launched. It particularly wanted to provide its players with a great experience while also showcasing their skills so that they could continue their career pursuits.


The IBL had 120 players from nine countries in 2007: the United States (77 from 19 states), the Dominican Republic (16), Israel (15), Canada (9), Australia (7), Colombia, Japan, New Zealand, and Ukraine. The league had hoped to be made up of at least 25% Israelis by its fifth year. About 40% of the league is Jewish.[5]

The League held tryouts in 2007 in Los Angeles, Massachusetts, Miami, Israel, and The Dominican Republic. Those selected were current and former U.S. minor leaguers, professional baseball players from other countries, and starting college players. The quality of play is similar to low Class AA ball in the United States.

The first pick in the draft was infielder Aaron Levin, 21, who played for Cuesta College and was selected by Modi'in.[6] The first player signed was former Midwood High School and Binghamton University left-handed hitting outfielder Dan Rootenberg. He hit .407 for Binghamton during his senior year, garnering All-SUNYAC and All-State honors, played in the Frontier League, the Swiss professional league,[7][8] and for the Pleasantville Red Sox, and in 2006 batted .351 in the Westchester Rockland Wood Bat League. Right-handed 6' 5" pitcher Leon Feingold, among the players first signed, pitched for the State University of New York at Albany, and then in the Cleveland Indians system from 1994–95, was signed by the independent Atlantic League in 1999, and later pitched for the Pleasantville Red Sox.

Pitcher Sandy Koufax was the last player chosen in the draft. Koufax was picked by the Modi'in Miracle. "His selection is a tribute to the esteem with which he is held by everyone associated with this league," said Art Shamsky,[6] 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."[9] He'll be working on 14,875 days rest, as has been pointed out.[10] Koufax would not pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series for Los Angeles, so that he could observe the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.[11]

2007 seasonEdit


Catcher and former Boston Red Sox minor leaguer Eladio Rodriguez of Modi'in was the league batting champion (.461) and had 16 home runs in 102 at bats, and 23-year-old Australian right fielder Jason Rees led the league with 17 home runs and 50 RBIs in 130 at bats.[4] Rodriguez, 28 years old, and Rees, 24 years old, were both subsequently signed in October to minor league deals by the New York Yankees[12] and will report to the Yankees minor-league complex in Tampa for spring training.[13] Third baseman Gregg Raymundo, who hit .292 in 7 minor league seasons and played for the Texas Rangers' and Pittsburgh Pirates' AAA teams,[14] was a close second in batting with a .459 batting average.[4]


One of the leading pitchers was Juan Feliciano of Bet Shemesh, who had pitched for the 2005–06 Hiroshima Carp in Japan. He was 7–1, with a 1.97 ERA, and in 50.1 innings gave up only 28 hits while striking out 73. 6' 5" lefthander Aaron Pribble of Tel Aviv was 7–2, with a league-leading 1.94 ERA. Rafael Bergstrom was 7–2, with a 2.44 ERA. Daniel Kaufman, who pitched for Emory University, held opposing batters to a .170 batting average. And 6' 6" Maximo Nelson from San Pedro de Macoris, in the Dominican Republic, led the league with 85 strikeouts; he pitched for the Gulf Coast Yankees in 2004 (posting a 6–5 record, with a 2.63 ERA). Israel native Shlomo Lipetz (3–1) 1SV 0.98 ERA of Netanya, Mike Etkin (4–0) 2SV of Tel Aviv, and Scott Perlman(2–2) 1SV 1/13 P INH Rr of Bet Shemesh were the leagues top relivers.


The Hank Greenberg Award for Most Valuable Player was shared by Eladio Rodriguez and Raymundo.[15] The Commissioner's Award for Sportsmanship and Character went to Pribble and infielder Brendan Rubenstein (Ra'anana Express).[15] The Commissioner's Award for Distinguished Service was awarded to shortstop Eric Holtz of Bet Shemesh, a player-coach who also filled in as player-manager.[15] The award for best pitcher went to Feliciano, and the Most Valuable Israeli Player was pitcher Dan Rothem of Tel Aviv.[15]


Among the first managers of the IBL were three of the best-known Jewish former major leaguers: Ron Blomberg manages league champion Bet Shemesh (he is a former New York Yankee, and the first Designated Hitter in the major leagues). Due to other commitments, Blomberg had to turn over the managerial duties to player/coach Eric Holtz, while Scott Perlman took over as bench coach for several weeks during the middle of the season. Art Shamsky manages Modi’in (he hit .300 for the '69 World Champion New York Mets), and Ken Holtzman managed Petach Tikva, a sister city of Chicago (his 174 career victories are the most in the major leagues by a Jewish pitcher), until he resigned a week before the season ended.[16] In addition, Steve Hertz manages Tel Aviv, Shaun Smith, an Australian, manages Ra'anana,[17] and Ami Baran, an Israeli originally from Chicago, manages Netanya.[18]


File:Israel Baseball League Original Logo.jpg

The League is the brainchild of Larry Baras, a businessman from Boston.

Martin Berger, President and Chief Operating Officer, is a Miami trial attorney. The league's Director of Baseball Operations is Dan Duquette, former General Manager of the Boston Red Sox and Montreal Expos. Berger and Duquette were involved in selecting the inaugural season players. Bob Ruxin is Director of Business Operations; Ruxin has served as vice president of a sports products and management business. Leon Klarfeld is Director of Israeli Operations; he is a resident of Even-Yehuda, and has been involved in Israeli Baseball for over 20 years, was the president of the Israel Association of Baseball (IAB) between 1994 and 2002, and is a certified umpire for the Confederation of European Baseball. Jeremy Baras is the Director of Game (fan) Experience.

The Commissioner in 2007 was Dan Kurtzer, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel and Egypt. The league's Board of Advisors in 2007 included, among others: Bud Selig (Major League Baseball Commissioner), Wendy Selig-Prieb (former Milwaukee Brewers owner), Marshall Glickman (former president of the NBA Portland Trail Blazers and former president of a minor league baseball team), Professor Andrew Zimbalist (baseball economist), Marvin Goldklang (minority owner of the New York Yankees and principal owner of four minor league teams), Randy Levine (President of the Yankees), and Marty Appel (former NY Yankees public relations director).

On November 15, 2007, Kurtzer and nine advisory board members (including Zimbalist, Goldklang, Levine, and Appel) resigned.[19] They commended Baras for having the vision to bring pro baseball to Israel, but in their letter of resignation, summing up the concerns of all, Goldklang and Zimbalist wrote that: "it has become apparent that the business leadership of the league has ceased to perform in an effective, constructive or responsible manner and has failed to manage its capital and other resources in a manner likely to produce successful results." [20] The advisers who resigned said the league was unwilling to provide financial information. Berger, the league president, said: "They were asking us for things that we didn’t have yet. We haven’t done our financials for this year. We are upset and disappointed that they’re leaving, but we are going ahead for next year. We have been talking to people who potentially are going to purchase the teams." Duquette will continue to be the league’s baseball operations director.[21]


  • PBS aired the opening game, which had attendance of 3,112, on a one-week delay (July 1, 2007), in Boston, New York, Chicago, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and Miami. carries coverage of the league's games.[22]
  • Tickets are $10 and $6 at all locations for regular season games.
  • While most of the umpires are international, some are Israeli. There are two umpires per game, with three on Sunday nights.
  • Games are seven innings, with a home run hitting contest (a "home run derby") to decide a tie. Games take approximately two hours to play.
  • Sometimes, the mix of nationalities leads to a veritable Tower of Babel. One on-field dispute included "an umpire who spoke primarily German and maybe some Hebrew, a pitcher who spoke little but Japanese and a Dominican infielder who spoke nothing but Spanish."

Following the conclusion of the IBL Duquette managed to place over 25 players in other professional sports around the globe.

Baseball in IsraelEdit

Baseball was first played in the British Mandate of Palestine on July 4, 1927.[23] The first field in Israel was built in Kibbutz Gezer in 1979, and the country now has a baseball field at the Yarkon Sports Complex in Petach Tikva. Israel sends national teams of various age groups to international baseball tournaments each year. The best recent showing to date in International Play (Pool A) was a 1st place by the Israeli Juvenile (ages 10–12) in the 2009 European Championships (CEB). Between 500 and 1,000 Israelis regularly play baseball in amateur league play. Baseball is growing at an accelerated pace, with much greater baseball identity associated with the country.[24]

In November 2007 it was announced that a new six-team league, the Israel Professional Baseball League, was taking shape, and would play its first season in 2008. Those behind the new league include billionaire Jeffrey Rosen, a major IBL investor who also owns the Maccabi Haifa basketball team, which he bought in the summer of 2007, and is the chairman of Triangle Financial Services of Aventura, Florida; Andrew Wilson, who was a facilitator on the ground for the IBL and now works for Rosen; Alan Gardner, a lawyer from New York, who was the centerfielder for the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox; and Michael Rollhaus, a businessman from Queens and major IBL investor.[25][26]

World Baseball ClassicEdit

Israel applied, unsuccessfully, to participate in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.[27]


  1. Wohlgelernter, Elli. "Field of Failed Dreams", July 24, 2008. Retrieved on July 28, 2008.
  2. Edelstein, Nathaniel (December 26, 2006). "Israel Baseball League locks in three ballfields for six teams". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved on April 29, 2007..
  3. "Batter-up"!, New Jersey Jewish Standard, 2007-04-27. Retrieved 2007-07-09.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Stats. Retrieved on June 15, 2008.
  5. Wohlgelernter, Elle. "Israel baseball takes the field" Israel21c, 2007-06-27. Retrieved 2007-07-09.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Israeli league team drafts Koufax as tribute – Israel Culture, Ynetnews. Retrieved on June 15, 2008..
  7. "Former BU baseball player Rootenberg signs pro contract in Israel," Sports News Binghamton University, 2006-10-23. Retrieved 2007-07-09.
  8. 2005 Binghamton Baseball Guide. (PDF). Retrieved 2007-09-07.
  9. Koufax Drafted By Israeli Baseball Team, Yes, That Koufax, 71-Year-Old Former Dodger Pitching Great; Threw 4 No-Hitters – The ShowBuzz. Retrieved on June 15, 2008..
  10. Baseball Toaster: Humbug Journal : He'll be working on 14,875 days rest. Retrieved on June 15, 2008.
  11. "Koufax Drafted By Israeli Baseball Team", CBS News, 2007-04-27. Retrieved 2007-07-09.
  12. Kepner, Tyler. "Yanks' Manager Pick Not as Easy as 1, 2 or 3", The New York Times, October 25, 2007. Retrieved on May 5, 2010.
  13. Jason Rees And Eladio Rodriguez. Retrieved on June 17, 2008..
  14. Gregg Raymundo Statistics – The Baseball Cube. Retrieved on June 17, 2008..
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 Press Releases. Retrieved on June 16, 2008.
  16. Last, Jeremy. IBL: Holtzman leaves Pioneers with one week to play. Jerusalem Post. Retrieved on June 15, 2008.
  17. Shaun Smith Profile, Retrieved 2007-07-09.
  18. Ami Baran Profile, Retrieved 2007-07-09.
  20. Template error: argument title is required.
  21. Chass, Murray. "Rumors of Drug Use Have Damaged for Decades", The New York Times, November 18, 2007. Retrieved on May 5, 2010.
  22. Berkman, Jacob. "Israel Baseball League starts in June", St. Louis Jewish Light. Retrieved 2007-07-09.
  23. Recent History. Retrieved on June 16, 2008.
  24. Embassy of Israel.
  26. Sports Shorts – Haaretz – Israel News
  27. Hopeful Israeli ballplayers take a shot at the big leagues – iht, news,Israel Field of Dreams – News & Features – International Herald Tribune. Archived from the original on November 14, 2006. Retrieved on June 15, 2008.

External linksEdit

Template:Israel Baseball League

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