Tuesday, March 4, 2008

ISRAEL BASEBALL EXCLUSIVE: IT AIN'T OVER! (At least not 'til it's over. IPBL quietly negotiates, IAB backs down and summer dream stays alive.)

As a great (honorary) Jewish ballplayer (and a great half-Jewish rock star) once said: It ain’t over ‘til it’s Passover. Er, "over."

And though time’s run out on self-imposed, common sense deadlines and there’s little chance anyone can get a baseball league together in Israel in time for summer, we must recall that in the days before he wrote off the 2008 season for us, Our Man Elli in Israel had told us something very intriguing:

“… One source told me, and I quote, ‘We've heard that Jeff Rosen's group (The Israel Professional Baseball League) remains interested in proceeding for 2008 and is hoping the IAB’—that’s the Israel Association of Baseball—‘relents in not requiring that 2007 obligations be settled as part of a licensing arrangement. I don't believe any final decisions have been made.’ I do know that the IPBL has been working on the ground in Israel. They’ve found playing fields and housing for the players.”

The Israel Professional Baseball League, the rebel would-be replacement for the crumbled IBL that was first announced in November by a group that included IBL players Andrew Wilson and Alan Gardner, Bet Shemesh Blue Sox general manager and IBL investor Michael Rollhaus and aforementioned billionaire investor Jeffrey Rosen, may have canceled the February 24th (coed!) tryouts on Miami, but as Our Man Elli reported, they’ve rescheduled them back for April 6th and is quietly pushing ahead to mark baselines on Israel fields before the end of summer.

What’s more, the IAB’s president has backtracked on his demand that they must pay their predecessor’s debts if they want a licence to play.

Elli, who will soon be heading Stateside on another lecture tour, is packing shirts and working the phones and email at the same time. He’s gotten in touch with the reticent billionaire Rosen and IAB president Haim Katz to find out what’s going on behind the scenes. First, he asked the who, what, when and where questions (which add up to “how”— and we already know why) of the IPBL honcho:

“Jeff, has the IPBL been certified by the IAB? Is there going to be a baseball season this summer? On which fields will it be played? How many teams will there be?”

“Eli, we are trying--"

"It's Elli. And you know it!"

"--We hope to. We have many issues we are working through everyday. Peter Kurz (The IAB’s secretary-general) is here in the USA and our negotiation for the contract have started. Will advise when we can...”

Elli also tried to pull a few more teeth and get some answers from IAB president Katz (he’s the guy who gave us that nice plug when he said, “Tabloid Baby will not determine when the process will be finished!”):

“I have nothing to add to our last conversation,” Katz began. “When I do, I will put out statement. When I’m ready.

“When everything’s closed (Translation: When deals are finalized), I will put out a statement.”

“But it’s already Match 4th!” Elli exclaimed.

“There won’t be baseball till the end of June the earliest,” said Katz, “As of today, there could be baseball.”

“Well, have you sanctioned anyone as of today?”

“We have not sanctioned anything as of today.”

“What about the IBL debts?”

Katz: “The IBL were the ones who promised the money. They didn’t pay them. They have the major responsibility (to pay it back).

“Didn’t you say you would not sanction a new league unless the debt was paid?”

“I don’t remember.” (Whoa!)

“Will the debts hold up a new league?”


“Will the issues be resolved?”

“I’m not a forecaster.”

When that Katz-and-mouse game was over, Elli spoke to another source who confirms that Rosen and Katz are still negotiating.

Stay tuned!

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