Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Israel Baseball League fields new foul calls

Now there’s physical detritus in wake of the controversial first season of the Israel Baseball League that Our Man Elli wrote about so effectively and shockingly in its final week. While various fans and factions continue to debate the blunders, potential and future of the league, what was a field of dreams is a new Israel battleground—and again the spinmeisters are jostling for credit and avoidance of blame.

At issue is the baseball field at Sportek in Tel Aviv's Hayarkon Park, which was renovated earlier this year with funds donated by North American Jews for use by the Israel Baseball League in its inaugural season. In a deal with the city, the IBL made improvements, built an extensive fence to deliniate the outfield and made it the home field for the Tel Aviv Lightning and Netanya Tigers.

But the deal with the city mandated that the upgrades be revered at the end of the season. Now the city wants the fence removed and the grounds returned to its crappy condition.

Israel Baseball League founder Larry Baras (left) told the Jerusalem Post: "We spent the money necessary to improve the baseball field so that the growing community baseball program in Tel Aviv, which is mostly comprised of children, can have a good, safe field on which to play,"

And that’s where the new PR trouble kicks in for the Boston-based Baras.

Sources tell us that “the field sucked beyond belief” all season: “Metal was coming up from the ground! And he should say the field is so pristine it should be left as is? Baloney!” (NOTE: Elli wrote about the "potentially dangerous field conditions," and quoted Bet Shemesh Blue Sox catcher Scott Jarmakowicz saying, “There are rocks, glass, and pieces of rusty metal we pulled out of the ground. You can slide on a rock anywhere, but most fields aren’t gong to have three bars sticking out of it. And these are hard fences, you can really get hurt.”)

The IBL is taking another hit because despite squawks from Baras, the IBl is considered a nonentity-- anonplayer-- in Israel. The fight to keep the baseball field is being led not by the IBL, but the non-profit Israel Association for Baseball. The IAB brought baseball to Israel 20 years ago, and has launched the last-ditch, international campaign to save the field, encouraging people in Israel and abroad to write to Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai in an effort to convince him to change course.

The IBL? They’re walking away. Boston-based Baras says “We plan on playing elsewhere.” The IBL will find a new place to play, content to leave Israeli kids in Tel Aviv without their own field of dreams. The decision, and attitude is only adding to the claims that Baras and his league don’t give a hoot about native Israelis.


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