Monday, January 14, 2008

Could George W broker baseball's future in Israel?

He’s not likely going to bring peace to the Middle East, but could President George W. Bush be the right man to bring together the warring factions in Israel’s professional baseball quagmire? That potential upside to his presidency is in the air tonight in wake of Bush's recent visit to Israel— his first as president-- coinciding with the departure of his former employee, New York Mets general manager Omar Minaya.

Yesterday we told you about Minaya's visit as part of a delegation promoting Israeli-Palestinian youth sports programs s comments about the IBL, and his comments there about the Israel Baseball League’s disappointing first season.

New York Times sportswriter Murray Chass, who stepped into the IBL story months after Our Man Elli in Israel broke and developed it (and who since has been handed information from parties in the free-for-all that’s followed the first season), writes in tomorrow’s New York Times that when Minaya met Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Olmert declared that baseball “That’s a game I don’t understand.”

Chass reports that Minaya said he replied:

"If you want anyone to explain baseball to you, the guy who can really explain it and who loves the game as much as I do is the president. He’ll talk to you about baseball. I worked for him, and he really understands baseball. You can tell him that O told you that.”
Minaya said Olmert replied that he was going to tell Bush, "I’m going to tell him I spoke to you, and tell him you told me that."
One more thing Minaya said he told Olmert: "He doesn’t call me Omar. He calls me O. Tell him you talked about baseball with O and he’ll know what you’re talking about."
So Olmert did precisely that, and Bush, the former managing partner of the Texas Rangers, knew exactly whom Olmert meant.
“O says hello,” Olmert told Bush, among other things more critical to Middle East peace.
“Oh, you mean Omar?” Bush replied.

Minaya also threw Chass another reference to the troubled IBL: “We have to find a way to help baseball there,” he said. “I’ve worked on building four or five baseball fields in the Dominican Republic. We have to do something in Israel to bring baseball there and give the kids the opportunity to play baseball.”

We know that George W. Bush had dreamed of being the commissioner of Major League Baseball. Brokering baseball peace in Israel could be a great first step-- and he could do it in New York, where the big Israel baseball summit is set to soon take place.

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