Tuesday, July 29, 2008

IBL's biographer admits first season may be its last

Ron Kaplan, the authorized biographer of the Israel Baseball League and its founder Larry Baras, has been one of the most unapologetic supporters of the IBL, and an early public critic of the investigative work of Our Man Elli in Israel-- calling is original explosive IBL expose "a bit unnecessarily harsh." But this morning, the sports editor of the New Jersey Jewish News and blogger behind Ron Kaplan's Baseball Bookshelf has, for the first time, admitted that the future of the IBL is not as bright as he would have liked to imagine.

In a posting today on the burst of publicity over a possible documentary film about IBL vet Ari Alexenberg (which mistakenly refer to the 45-year-old as the "IBL's oldest player"-- that distinction goes to Scott Cantor, 51-- Kaplan calls Alexenberg "a 45-year-old Boston man who played in the first (and perhaps only) season of the Israel Baseball League last year."

Kaplan's admission that the 2007 IBL season may be "perhaps" its "only season" is a major admission from someone who is so closely tied to the IBL inner circle.

From Film Stew: "Forty-Five and Steroid Free"

July 28, 2008 at 11:50 AM

Steroid Free

The unlikely tale
of the oldest player
to participate in the
first year of the
Israel Baseball League
has been turned into
a documentary.

By FilmStew Staff

The stats posted in the summer of 2007 by Israel Baseball League pitcher Ari Alexenberg – 0 wins, 6 losses, 4 saves, 33 innings pitched and an ERA of 7.64 – don’t quite tell the whole story. Missing from this box score is the fact that although he was a pretty horrible starting pitcher, he was excellent in relief. Not to mention the fact that when he logged his rookie IBL season last year with the Petah Tikva Pioneers, he was straddling the tender age of 45-46.

The unlikely baseball odyssey of Alexenberg, a Portsmouth, New Hampshire resident, has been turned into a documentary by local TV commercials production house Sanger Communications. Among the salient story points are the fact that Alexenberg taught himself how to play as a youth because his Orthodox Jewish upbringing forbade him from playing Little League games on the Sabbath day of Saturday; the fact that it was his wife who put him on plane for tryouts; and the notion that – per a report in the Portsmouth Herald - he got to suit up as an eventual player-manager alongside one of his former idols, Peta Tikvah Pioneers manager Ken Holtzman (a one-time pitcher for the Chicago Cubs and Oakland A’s).

Alexenberg is not sure whether he will return to the IBL for a second season. Currently, in addition to working as director of the Boston Israel Action Center, he plays for three different city men’s leagues.

Last year, the 6-foot-one-inch Alexenberg was easily the oldest player in the IBL, which was launched by former Boston Red Sox GM Dan Duquette. With a documentary headed for the film festival circuit, a possible book deal and plans by Sanger to separately pitch the story to Hollywood, he could also soon be a middle-aged movie star.

Monday, July 28, 2008

When all IBL players cheered Leon Feingold

Article from Seacoast Online: "Israel baseball league player's story to become movie"

The Portsmouth, NH Herald

Israel baseball player's story to become movie

By Adam Leech


July 28, 2008 6:00 AM

PORTSMOUTH — Ari Alexenberg's dream came true last summer. Now it's going to become a movie.

Alexenberg, 45, spent last summer pitching and coaching in the inaugural Israel Baseball League — a professional league formed by former Boston Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette to popularize the sport in a country dominated by soccer and basketball.

Alexenberg is by far the oldest player in the league. Despite being an avid fan, he didn't start playing organized baseball until he was 24. As an observing Orthodox Jew, his religion kept him from playing Little League because games were played on Saturdays, the weekly sabbath.

His chance came 20 years later when the league was created, and it almost passed him by. Though he loved baseball — coaching various youth leagues and playing on men's teams throughout the years — he decided to skip the tryouts in Massachusetts, thinking it was silly. But when his wife, Julie, found out, she booked him a flight to Israel for a tryout.

Not only was the 6-foot-1-inch southpaw offered a contract to play, but to coach as well. He was drafted by Petach Tikva Pioneers, where he coached alongside his one-time idol, ex-big leaguer Ken Holtzman, who was the Pioneers' manager.

When Steve Sanger, of Portsmouth-based Sanger Communications, heard of Alexenberg's story, he knew he had to meet him. It was clear from the beginning that not only was the story compelling enough to make into a movie, but Alexenberg's personality and obvious passion would translate perfectly to the big screen.

"It's not just the story. If you're going to make a film, they've got to be great on camera. I met Ari and he told me the story, and I was hooked," said Sanger. "He's a great story teller, and he's terrific on camera."

Sanger said what he found most compelling was that Alexenberg was a tremendous athlete who likely would've made it to the big leagues if he was allowed to play as a child.

"He's entirely self taught. When he was 24 years old, he was in his back yard, throwing at a folding chair, flipping through a book from the library about how you hold pitches," said Sanger. "Then, at 45, to have your dream come true — I think it's just a great story."

So great, Alexenberg said, he's been in discussions with a literary agent and author about a possible book.

Currently about halfway through the editing process, the movie is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

The movie will premiere at The Music Hall and then be entered into movie festivals. Sanger said he plans to pitch the idea to Hollywood, as well.

"We may be rich and famous, or we may show it at The Music Hall. Who knows?" said Sanger. "Either way, it's been a lot of fun."

Alexenberg fared well overseas, despite a rocky first few starts, leading the league in appearances and shutting down opponents in his last 10 games. The league is on a brief hiatus for this summer, expected to return next season. Whether Alexenberg will be back is unclear.

"I don't think so. I don't know. Maybe," he said. "Who knows?"

For now, Alexenberg is plenty busy being a father of two, working as director of the Boston Israel Action Center and playing for three different city men's leagues. The entire experience, he said, still feels like a dream.

"If someone would've told me a couple years ago this would all be happening ... it's just so absurd," said Alexenberg.

"The whole thing was unbelievable."

Players & vendors to picket Israel baseball "show"?

El Presidente David Solomonte of the Dominican Republic of the Middle East Baseball League might want to think about adding extra security for his weeklong baseball “show” festival that’s being promised to replace an actual Israel baseball league season, beginning August 14th at the Yarkon Sports Complex in Petach Tikva.

Our staffers who’ve been monitoring the “chatter” on the Tabloid Baby comment boards, not to mention off-the-record interviews Our Man Elli in Israel has had with former IBL players and vendors in Israeli who are still holding the bag or bounced checks from the IBL’s first season, are talking about protesting the games—possibly with a picket line that Leon Feingold and other IBL "All-Stars" would be forced to cross.

The athletes who manned the IBL in 2007 never formed a labor union, but as in wartime or summer camp, formed a bond that was only strengthened when many returned to their native lands to find that their paltry paychecks had bounced!

Public pronouncements by IBL pitcher Feingold, and his enthusiasm for joining the “All Star” lineup despite the of his fellow players, have hardened the determination of many IBL vets, investors and vendors to see “justice” from the new IBL executives who'd seemed to promise accountability and openness in a bid for an IBL revival.

Among the recent postings on the Tabloid Baby comments pages, which has long beenthe sounding board, monitored across the globe, for the Israel baseball community:

anonymous said...
"I say good for Leon, who seems like a great guy who is deeply committed to making baseball succeed in Israel."
Really? How exactly is he making it succeed when players from last year haven't been paid. And not only not been paid - the checks sent last month have bounced!!! BOUNCED! AGAIN!! So is he really doing anything "to making baseball succeed in Israel," besides kissing ass so he can get a free trip back to Israel? 

"All i wanna do is go back and play ball and forget about it." - Shoeless Joe Jackson, "Eight Men Out"

He was thrown out for life, Fat Mouth, and he didn't take any money. And all you want to do "is go back and play ball and forget about it?" Won't work, Feingold, you have teammates to answer to - you may have gottten paid in full, but your teammates have been stiffed.
Don't cross their picket line, scabs are not welcome to play.
Friday, July 25, 2008 6:02:00 AM PDT

ibl player said...
"Don't cross their picket line, scabs are not welcome to play."

Who the hell are you to create a picket line? Were you a player? Were you involved with the league at all?
Probably not. So shut up, eat your fast food, and f--- your wife. Leave the baseball to us.
Friday, July 25, 2008 9:31:00 AM PDT

another ibl player said...
Well if there is no union in place, then there can't be a picket line to cross correct?

If the anonymous person who made the comment about the scabs is indeed a player, why don't you fess up your name and talk to the players who have allegedly committed to go back? Instead of talking smack anonymously on this blog, hit them up on facebook or on their phones. I have most of their contact info. If you give up your identity, I can get you in contact w/them so you can make your plea like a man instead of hiding behind this blog.
Friday, July 25, 2008 2:15:00 PM PDT

anonymous said...
Mr IBL player 
Leave the baseball to us?

Where are your morals?

Just because you can hit or throw a baseball does not give you a license to f--- non-paid players and not care about any of the bad debts and ill will created by these idiots!
Friday, July 25, 2008 2:19:00 PM PDT

anonymous said...
To the last commenter, maybe the guy who wrote it isn't good enough to play anywhere else and/or simply doesn't give a sh*t about his brother players. Maybe some of the guys who were in the league last year are simply self-centered, egotistical and immature and don't care what the rest of the picture looks like even as simple as it is to figure out by now. They will stand up and be counted if and when they go to Israel or, if they get posted on the IBL website and are then dealt a dose of reality when the Festival falls flat. Or when they get stuck there because the return tickets aren't paid for.
They will eventually learn that what goes around comes around. It's too bad, but it is what it is.
Friday, July 25, 2008 8:59:00 PM PDT

ibl player said...
Ask anyone from last season if they would go back. 95% will say yes, paid or not paid.
Friday, July 25, 2008 11:59:00 PM PDT

ibl player said...
your number is way high, bro. and those who would go back, knowing now how these guys operate, just don't get it...to just not care about your mates and the other blokes who ain't been paid and to want to work for lying trash who will not help the game grow there is immature and selfish. it's time for some of our mates to grow up.
Saturday, July 26, 2008 5:08:00 AM PDT

anonymous said...
Once again, for Fat Mouth Feingold, it's all about him, and f--- the players. He's ready to come back and play, and to hell with everyone else who has not been paid. To hell with them.
Saturday, July 26, 2008 9:17:00 PM PDT

anonymous said...
Hey Leon, do you give a s--- about the rest of us who have been screwed again and again by the IBL? Who bounced my check again? And bulls--- me about getting me my money? And don't return my emails or phone calls? Who's paying your way to Israel? And why isn't that cash being used to pay everyone from last year first? What's the matter with you? Go choke on a schnitzel, jerk.
Sunday, July 27, 2008 6:36:00 AM PDT

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Why is "in-coming" Israel Baseball League president David Solomont ducking original IBL investor Michael Rollhaus?

Original Israel Baseball League investor Michael Rollhaus is having about as much luck getting answers from the new, improved IBL regime as he did with embattled league founder Larry Baras, who, more than a year after opening day of the league’s disastrous sole season, continues to refuse or is unable to give an accounting of how Rollhaus’s $100,000 investment— not mention millions more— was spent.

Rollhaus says he’s tried unsuccessfully for more than a week to get in touch with Baras’s successor, David Solomont, who took control of the league in a bloodless coup earlier this month and installed himself as “in-coming” El Presidente of the newly-named Dominican Republic of the Middle East Baseball League.

The timeline as we understand it:

* Sunday July 20: Rollhaus calls Solomont from Israel. No answer. Rollhaus leaves a message.

* Wednesday, July 23: Rollhaus calls again, this time from New York. This time, Solomont answers, but says he was on a conference call and promises to call back. Rollhaus says he did not.

* Thursday, July 24: Rollhaus calls Solomont’s cell phone in the afternoon. Solomont says he is a on a train and does not want to disturb the people around him. He apologizes profusely, saying he was a bad person for not getting back to Rollhaus, but promised to call Rollhaus on Thursday night. Rolhaus never gets a call.

* Friday, July 25: Rollhaus sends Solomont the following email:

From: Michael Rollhaus
Sent: Jul 25, 2008 5:06 AM

To: David Solomont

Subject: News

Sorry you were unable to take my call and could not get back to me. Right now I am planning to be in Israel from 8/7-8/17. If the situation is right, I can alter my flight plans, so: Is this festival that I am hearing about actually going to happen (if it is not certain, please let me know as I will not change my plans; if you have the two teams set, umpires and field in place and the games are a definite go, I will look into it).

What are the game dates and times?

Are you playing any games on Shabbat?

Have all the player/coach/manager monies owed been paid up from last year?

Why am I hearing that some people who have received checks have had them returned for insufficient funds?

Please let me know what's up either by email or telephone. However, do not call me during Shabbat as I do not take phone calls then.

Thanks for your help!

Michael Rollhaus

* Today, July 27: As of this posting, Rollhaus has yet to receive a reply from David Solomont.

As Our Man Elli in Israel reported in his comprehensive and authoritative IBL article published by the esteemed Jerusalem Post, Solomont’s apparent stonewalling follows an IBL tradition that has gone one for more than a year, despite his promises that the “new” IBL is launching with a clean slate.

(Read Elli’s exclusive interview with Michael Rolhaus that we published on Thursday.)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Leon Feingold brings the heat! Denies blaming Israelis for IBL failure; says he's no IBL apologist; uses biting wit to hurl new & old insults at us

Leon Feingold, the six-foot-six professional competitive eater who pitched for the Netanya Tigers during the Israel Baseball League's first season and is now facing possible picketing from former colleagues and unpaid Israeli vendors as he leads a seven-player group of "IBL All-Stars" into David Solomont's weeklong "show" fest that's taking the place of the IBL's canceled four-team, 20-game, three-week, momentum-keeping mini-season, has responded to our recent report that he'd been quoted blaming Israelis, and not management, for the failure of the IBL.

Leon had told the Jewish Star:

"The reason the league didn’t do nearly as well as it should have last season was because those who live there haven’t grown up with baseball. How can we expect to succeed with a product when no one in Israel has ever tasted it?"

Today, posting as "bringheat" in our comment section, the man who lists both MENSA and Gluttonfest on his CV not only disowns the comment, but denies being an "apologist" for IBL management, while claiming that our reportage has libeled Larry Baras and other IBL executives. The Masonic lodge warden also asserts that none of the dozens of anonymous complaints in the Tabloid Baby comments section about bounced paychecks and unpaid bills is "legitimate," and wrongly assumes that many comments on this site were posted by members of the Tabloid Baby staff-- obviously misjudging the animus directed toward him and his actions in support of the IBL management on a site that has become a clearinghouse and anonymous sounding board for many IBL players and fans.

Leon's comment:

"Wow, looks like I'm late to the game here. Sorry I missed so much quality journalism while I was out.

"First off, has anyone else noticed how no named person has ever had a legitimate gripe about Larry? With perhaps one or two exceptions, virtually every single comment about how 'Larry stole money,' and 'Larry is f__ing over the players,' and so on, is either Elli or the TabloidBaby staff posting anonymously or under a pseudonym (TB staff: you can look that one up online if you don't recognize such an unusual word, as it's obvious none of you have ever taken any journalism classes), and those who do have legitimate concerns and have posted them under their names, have been more confused and wishing clarity, rather than vitriolic and hateful.

"(By the way, very classy with the gustatory insults, over which the TB staff must have enjoyed much sniggering in between their Internet porn surfing and looking up multisyllabic words in the dictionary. I imagine they took you at least a week to come up with, so I assume you've been saving those up for the next time I was mentioned in the news. You guys are nothing if not dedicated.)

"Next, as has been accurately pointed out, I don't see anywhere where I blamed Israelis for anything other than not being introduced to the game, which was a failure of LARRY and his initial organizational team.

"You fail to recognize (or rather, conveniently fail to acknowledge) I am not an IBL apologist; I place blame where it's due. Larry and the IBL messed up a lot, and were way over their heads. But if I were them, and had nothing better to do with my time rather than take the high road, it wouldn't be hard to hit up the TB staff and Elli for libel and a few other choice tortious claims.

"As far as my characterization of your collective staff as 'mudslinging, smarmy, sensationalist, no-talent gossip-column rejects,' I stand by it. I mean, it seems pretty spot on, doesn't it?

"Leon Feingold"

Friday, July 25, 2008

IAB to IBL: "P-A-Y your IOU's, you SOB's!"

Dateline: Jerusalem. Our Man Elli in Israel, rushing for Shabbat, reports that as of this moment, Israel's baseball governing body has not, and will not, sanction play by the Dominican Republic of the Middle East Baseball League— also known as the Israel Baseball League-- until all debts are paid in full.

Haim Katz, president of the Israel Association of Baseball spoke with El Presidente Solomonte (known among Boston businessmen as David Solomont) yesterday, and told him in no uncertain terms that the IBL has no agreement with the IAB, and that the IAB has no interest in discussing one unless the debts from the IBL’s first season are paid-- starting with Gezer, where the IBL won't be playing this summer, because Gezer wants to be paid for last season.

Katz says the IAB will only talk turkey with the new IBL regime after debts are paid, and says there will be no preconditions of preferential treatment over any other group or individual interested in professional baseball in Israel.

The IAB board is to meet soon, and is expected to vote overwhelmingly not to have anything to do with the IBL.

It’s not clear if the IAB has the legal power to stop the six-game “festival” at which Solomont promises his “players are going to put on a show,” but sources tell Elli that in any case, the IAB will probably stand back and let the IBL implode by itself.

"If any exec of the IBL shows up," a source tells Our Man, "I assume they'll get served legally by Israeli creditors who haven't been paid."

"This is going to be the Dominican Republic of the Middle East... Our players are going over to put on a show!"
--IBL's new "in-coming president" Solomont

Jerusalem Post's Jeremy Last to Tabloid Baby: "Stop lying and libeling us to the world! We never stole your stories!"

Perhaps jealous that freelancer Elli Wohlgelernter was called in to write the definitive Israel Baseball League story at the paper at which he’s employed, perhaps worried about his job, or perhaps even actually, rightfully outraged, Jeremy Last, sports columnist for the Jerusalem Post, writes the comments section of our Baseball in Israel to call us liars and deny that his paper, which is often “last” in covering the international baseball scandal it its own backyard, has taken advantage of our voluminous reportage or the work of Our Man Elli In Israel in its wrap-up, opinion pieces and press release rewrites that are picked up around the world.

We’ve laid out our evidence and complaints here and elsewhere.

Here’s what Jeremy Last has to say:

“If you read these comments can you please take notice, and stop printing lies about the jerusalem post.

 you have this idea that the post sports section took ‘advantage of our documented coverage and expounding upon it without attribution.’ 

This is a LIE. the post sports writers and editors did their own leg work and had never seen this web site when they investigated the league back in june before your man elli called up to complain.

 Why do you lot think everyone knows about your blog. stop libeling the post and telling people around the world that the sports section stole things from your website when it is completely untrue.”

"Stop printing lies?" Hmmm... could that be considered libelous?


Thursday, July 24, 2008

IBL investor Rollhaus: "I don't understand this festival thing. If they are serious and have the money, why not pay off the debts NOW?"

Now that the new Israeli Baseball League has released new specifics about their plan to replace a second, four-team, 20-game, three week, momentum-keeping mini-season with a two-week running “show” in which “an IBL All-Star team” will play against against a team made up of “premier Israeli players,” not everyone who was involved in the IBL is as excited as competitive eater Leon Feingold and his six fellow IBL veterans who’ve supposedly broken ranks with their brothers from Season One who were left stranded with bounced paychecks and broken dreams to play their part in this show put on by the new management.

Michael Rollhaus, for one.

Rollhaus, whose $100,000 investment in Larry Baras’ original Israel Baseball League, made him, according to Our Man Elli in Israel’s analysis of incomplete financial data, the fourth-biggest individual investor in the IBL. He was also the general manager of the league champion Bet Shemesh Blue Sox, and after the league’s collapse, so loved baseball that he became part of the group that attempted to form the rival Israel Professional Baseball League, a group that also failed to lift off under the weight of its own importance, but that’s another story.

The fact remains that for all the promises made by the new frontmen of the Dominican Republic of The Middle East Baseball League and their announced two-week PR festival in August, Rollhaus is still out $100,000 to the IBL, and still doesn’t know what happened to his investment.

Our Man Elli in Israel caught up with the Queens businessman in Jerusalem last week, and quotes Rollhaus saying he’s “always in the dark regarding the IBL. I never had an idea what Larry was doing during the '07 season, and have not had any correspondence with him since October. I have been given no financial information.”

Our Man Elli: What about Dan Rootenberg?

Michael Rollhaus: “I called him two weeks ago, and he was very upfront with me about the status of the IBL since he took over. But, of course, that ended.”

What about David Solomont?

“We’ve exchanged e-mails; I expect to talk to him (on Thursday). I’m confused. I really do not understand their claims that they have enough funds to pay debts, and enough money for two seasons. That is great, then just pay the players and debts ASAP. I also do not understand this seven-day festival thing. And they want to play winter ball in southern Israel? Well, unless they can import fans and build a domed stadium with a retractable roof… it is more fantasy than reality.”

Are you saying that you doubt the plans?

“If they are serious and have the money, why not pay off the debts NOW?”

What about your $100,000?

“It is the responsibility of a company to provide financial information to their shareholders/investors. As an investor, I think I am entitled to know what is going on. Is that too much to ask?”

Any regrets?

"Well, it hurts when I am in Jeruslaem and people ask me what is going on with Israeli baseball. It hurts when I am home in New York as well. I simply don’t know what to tell them.”

"This is going to be the Dominican Republic of the Middle East... Our players are going over to put on a show!"
--IBL's new "in-coming president" Solomont

Israel Baseball League's "interim president" now "in-coming president"; instead of season, vets to "put on a show"; Jewish National Fund in cahoots

The Israel Baseball League has made new promises and changes on its website.

David Solomont, who has been referred to as "interim" president, is now the "in-coming president," replacing former player Dan Rootenberg, who backed away from the job earlier this month. The "in-coming" qualifier apparently gives Solomont the option to do the same.

Solomont, also known as El Presidente Solomonte of the Dominican Republic of The Middle East Baseball League because of his promise that Israel would become the Dominican Republic of The Middle East, also figures prominently in a new press release that confirms that the IBL's second season that had been replaced by a four-team, 20-game, three-week, momentum-keeping mini-season will now be replaced by a week-long baseball festival starting on August 14th that will pit an IBL All-Star team against a team made up of premier Israeli players."

The IBL veterans who have confirmed they will play ball were listed by the IBL in this order:

Leon Feingold
Willis Bumphus

Jason Benson

David Kramer

Mike Lyons

Ray Rodriguez

Jason Bonder

Two more and they'll have a team.

Says Solomont: "Our players are going over to put on a show."

The IBL release also says the league is working with the Jewish National Fund, a fundraising group dedicated to bringing trees and water to Israel. Maybe they can bring the ice this time.

Here's the press release:

IBL Summer Baseball Festival to Commence Thursday, August 14th
07/24/2008 9:44 AM

The Israel Baseball League, which inaugurated the first season of professional baseball in Israel last summer, has officially announced its plans for this summer season, a week-long baseball festival starting on August 14th that will pit an IBL All-Star team against a team made up of premier Israeli players.

The baseball festival, which will go from August 14th through August 21st, will take place at the Yarkon Sports Complex at the Baptist Village. The Baptist Village field, Israel’s state-of-the-art baseball and softball facility, is located in Petach Tikva, about seven miles outside of Tel Aviv.

Games will start at 7 p.m. and are scheduled to be played on Thursday night, August 14th, and then each night from Sunday August 17th through Thursday night, August 21st.

“Our players are going over to put on a show. They are going over to run clinics in various communities. They are going to visit hospitals and hand out gifts. And most of all, they are going over to play some baseball,” said David Solomont, who has stepped into the role of president of the IBL. The festival will feature nightly games at the Baptist Village, with other baseball-related activities taking place before the games and in between innings. Like last year, IBL merchandise and memorabilia will be sold at the games and there will be a full food concessions service featuring a menu of barbecue offerings.

“We are very excited about this festival”, said Martin Berger, one of the IBL’s top executives. “First and foremost, we are going to once again offer a high caliber of play, with most of the players being among the best IBL alumni from last season. But we have purposely put together this season in the form of a festival, with an international vs. Israel component, in consideration of the Olympic Games that will be going on in Beijing simultaneously to our tournament. It adds to the connection between what is going on sports-wise in Israel with what is going on internationally.”

The IBL, together with the Jewish National Fund, is engaged in a far-reaching campaign called “Project Baseball” to build more community baseball fields in Israel and foster a grassroots initiative to support amateur participation and interest in baseball and softball. Baseball has long been the favorite sport of the Jewish population in America.

The IBL believes that not only can baseball become the first professional sport in Israel with a cross-section of fans, irrespective of gender or denomination, but that baseball and softball, sports played by men and women alike, offer a new common ground for people to meet and compete in a wholesome environment.

While final rosters are still being formally assembled, among the IBL players who have already committed to returning for this summer’s activities are Leon Feingold, Willis Bumphus, Jason Benson, David Kramer, Mike Lyons, Ray Rodriguez, and Jason Bonder. For the Israelis, former Seattle Mariners pitcher Ari Kafka, who now studies in Jerusalem, has informed the IBL that he is ready to pitch for Israel.

Final roster spots will be determined and announced in the coming days.

The full schedule of events will be announced on the IBL web site shortly.

E-Rod gets new shot with the Yanks; won't be one of El Presidente Solomonte's August "All-Stars"

Remember E-Rod? Eladio Rodriguez, the most prominent graduate of the Israel Baseball League, may be getting another shot at the New York Yankees' AA farm club, the Trenton, NJ Thunder.

That would mean the Dominican mystery man would not be available to star in the exhibition tourney in Israel that's meant to be a teaser for El Presidente Solomonte's Dominican Republic of The Middle East Baseball League that he promises will replace the IBL in the winter.

And too bad, because as a Dominican-born IBL vet and MLB journeyman, E-Rod would be a better face for the new league than current, retired Dominican player Chico Escuela (left).

E-Rod had been placed on the Thunder's disabled list, to make room for a right-handed pitcher, after going from the AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre Yankees to the Single A Staten Island Baby Bombers, back to Scranton, a step from Yankee Stadium, and down a step to the AA Trenton Thunder, all in the space of a month, before being kicked back down to the Single A NY-Penn League farm team in Staten Island and back up to Trenton at the beginning of June.

Hunterdon County Democrat beat writer Mike Ashmore writes in his Thunder Thoughts blog that Eladio may be getting a chance now that catcher P.J. Pilittere got a broken nose when he was hit in the face by a foul ball:

"...The former Israel Baseball League standout wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire down there, hitting just .095, but he was doing all right in limited action with the Thunder earlier this season, going 3-for-13 in four games.

"I don’t even think the Bo Hall move is official yet, so who knows when anything with Pilittere will be announced, but the likely move would be to place him on the DL so that a roster spot can be created.

"For what it’s worth, I haven’t understood why they won’t send Jason Brown down when a catcher is needed. Nothing against Eladio, but Brown has a similar reputation to P.J. in that pitchers really seem to like the way he calls a game, and I think he’d have a good influence on some of the guys on the staff.

"This is going to be the Dominican Republic of the Middle East"
--IBL's new "in-coming president" David Solomont

Exclusive! Our Man Elli writes definitive piece on Israel Baseball for The Jerusalem Post, but we have the passage that the editors left out!

"...An ugly and angry battle was waged via comments posted on the Tabloid Baby site. That blog became the unlikely forum for information and debate surrounding the dream of professional baseball in Israel, with more than 250 posts about baseball in Israel, and more than 1,400 mostly anonymous comments posted by players and fans..."
--deleted section from Elli Wohlgelernter's
Jerusalem Post article

Elli Wohlgelernter, The Dean of Israel Baseball League reporting-- heck, he's the whole g-ddamn university!-- has broken just about every major development in the story, from its opening day to the scandals that followed its final out through the financial questions, defections, deflections and deceptions all the way to its latest, almost comically bizarre manifestation, headed by a second controversial Boston businessman who's already broken promises in the creation of his new Dominican Republic of The Middle East Baseball League.

And occasionally, Elli breaks the news in internationally respected mainstream publications, as he does this morning with a major feature in The Jerusalem Post.

Field of Failed Dreams brings the IBL saga up to date from the final out of the 2007 season and seeing all the facts in one place should give pause to any critics of Elli's great reportage:

"It's not that playing baseball in Israel is so important, when there are real bombs bursting in air and real rockets' red glare; it's just that the idea was so novel, the vision so grand, the imagination so captured and emotions so impassioned that few believed it could ever happen. And then, amazingly, it did. And then, sadly, it died.

"The dream actually started to unravel just minutes after the maiden season ended last August 19: After the Beit Shemesh Blue Sox won the Israel Baseball League championship game, Commissioner Dan Kurtzer and the league brass presented them with the championship trophy. Missing from the ceremony was the league founder, Larry Baras. He had slipped out in the middle of the game..."

We've discovered that editors at the internationally-circulated newspaper, however, did remove two graphs from Elli's submission, most likely because we have criticized the Post, and other "mainstream" outlets for taking advantage of our documented coverage and expounding upon it without attribution:

"The IBL players themselves were divided over whose side to take. An ugly and angry battle was waged via comments posted on the Tabloid Baby site. That blog became the unlikely forum for information and debate surrounding the dream of professional baseball in Israel, with more than 250 posts about baseball in Israel, and more than 1,400 mostly anonymous comments posted by players and fans.

"Being anonymous, of course, meant nothing was out of bounds for the commentators, and charges and countercharges were hurled in both directions. Some called the upstart IPBL 'carpetbaggers, parasites and ambulance-chasers feeding off the carcass of the IBL'; on the other side were players demanding to know when they would finally get paid by the IBL, and questioning what happened to all the money that was raised. Others were asking why Baras had registered at least six limited liability corporations for the league in Delaware."

And this:

"On April 14, Tabloid Baby reported that there would be no baseball in Israel in 2008."

Why? Not enough space?

Addendum: the Jerusalem Post: "Field of Failed Dreams" by Elli Wohlgelernter (Our Man Elli in Israel)

Field of failed dreams
Jul. 24, 2008


It's not that playing baseball in Israel is so important, when there are real bombs bursting in air and real rockets' red glare; it's just that the idea was so novel, the vision so grand, the imagination so captured and emotions so impassioned that few believed it could ever happen. And then, amazingly, it did. And then, sadly, it died.

The dream actually started to unravel just minutes after the maiden season ended last August 19: After the Beit Shemesh Blue Sox won the Israel Baseball League championship game, Commissioner Dan Kurtzer and the league brass presented them with the championship trophy. Missing from the ceremony was the league founder, Larry Baras. He had slipped out in the middle of the game.

Before long it became clear why: There were serious financial issues affecting everyone connected to the league, starting with the players.

"I saved every check that I got this summer from the league, my entire salary, and deposited them the day after I got back to the States," one player e-mailed after the season. "Well, a week later, the checks didn't cash because the league had insufficient funds, so every purchase that I made since then has needed to come from a loan account which I now need to pay back, plus interest, plus overdraft fees... I worked for a whole summer and have yet to get paid."

That became a familiar, angry refrain heard from many many players, and they weren't alone. At least 23 companies, vendors and individuals were owed money at season's end, including the fields where the games were played; Kfar Hayarok, where the players lived; and the Sports Channel, which broadcast some of the games.

When investors and the advisory board of the IBL asked how much money had come in and where it had gone, Baras promised to provide a full financial disclosure. The board members - including Smith College professor Andrew Zimbalist, the preeminent baseball economist in America; Marvin Goldklang, minority owner of the New York Yankees and owner of four minor league teams; Randy Levine, president of the New York Yankees; Marshall Glickman, former president of the NBA Portland Trailblazers; Marty Appel, former Yankees public relations director; and Dr. Stuart Hershon, team physician for the Yankees - never received the breakdown.

Some of the board members were less actively involved, like Levine, who was there more for show. Most of the group served as unpaid consultants, motivated by their love for the game, their love of Israel and their desire to fuse those dual passions. But as the questions mounted and no answers were forthcoming, they grew impatient, sensing something was very wrong. The dream was falling apart.
THE ISRAEL Baseball League started amid great fanfare and brilliant preseason hype. American Jewry went gaga over the idea, with dozens of adults and teenagers alike offering to do anything needed - for free even - just to see the dream get off the ground.

But two weeks after the season ended, a 4,500-word exposé was first posted by this reporter on the Web blog site TabloidBaby.com and in four Jewish newspapers, detailing the inside story of a problem-plagued season that included late paychecks; a players' near-strike; a high-profile manager who trashed the league in the media and was subsequently fired; and substandard playing conditions and living quarters for the athletes, including no laundry service, no weight room, no ice for sore muscles and poorly manufactured bats that kept breaking. The situation nearly turned tragic when a player was almost killed by a batting practice line drive, a near-miss which might have been prevented with proper equipment.

While many at first were quick to excuse the IBL's troubles, attributing them to nothing more than the typical growing pains experienced by any startup company, the league's advisory board refused to accept that as an excuse. It wanted Baras to show financial transparency in his operation, and insisted that he reveal how much money was raised and how much was spent.

"Several of us had been arguing with Larry and Martin [Berger, league president and COO] for some time, in view of our understanding that they were continuing to solicit investors, without providing them or us with the financial results of operations by the league and its franchises for last season," advisory board member Goldklang said last fall.

On September 19, Goldklang and Kurtzer - the former US ambassador to Egypt and Israel, and now a professor at Princeton - held a four-hour meeting in New York with Baras, which included Zimbalist on a speaker phone, in which they demanded an exact financial accounting of the season's income and expenditures, as well as how much money was owed.

Kurtzer especially felt the need for financial clarity. Not only was his name on the line, but also his word: He had personally guaranteed the players that each and every one would be paid in full.

Over a year before the inaugural season began, Baras had said that he was budgeting $3 million for the first season, which he would be able to raise "very easily." Now, despite the pressure from Kurtzer and the advisory board, Baras would not divulge that financial information, which later was revealed to be a deficit of $475,000 in Israel alone, and some $1.5 million overall.

"Larry indicated that the league didn't have financials available nor, at least as of September, an accountant to prepare them," Goldklang said after the season. "I responded by offering to pay for an independent financial professional acceptable to Larry to review and assemble the financial information in an expeditious manner. When Larry did not accept that offer, there was, in my mind at least, a crisis of confidence. I was never entirely sure - nor am I sure even now - of exactly how much money was raised."

Doubts over the league's finances were reinforced by the revelation that a lawsuit was filed against Baras in US District Court in Massachusetts on September 24. Natalie Blacher of Dade County, Florida, claimed that Baras duped her out of $275,000 that was supposed to go toward his bagel company, SJR Foods, but instead went to "his personal living expenses or expenses which should be charged to IBL."

The suit alleged fraud, securities fraud and breach of fiduciary duty, contending that "from February through May 2007, contrary to his promise and fiduciary duties to Blacher and despite his verbal assurances, Baras failed to provide Blacher with any financial statements or otherwise comply with her request for financial statements and the other material documentation regarding the company's business and financial condition."

Baras told WCVB-TV in Boston that the claims in the lawsuit were "absolutely, 100 percent, not true," and that his SJR Foods is still "a profitable, functioning company of which [Blacher] is a shareholder." He maintained that Blacher could still see a return on her investment, and that "the goal is still to sell the company and distribute the proceeds to the shareholders." He denied using any money invested in SJR Foods to prop up the baseball league, which he said would continue to operate "despite the distractions."

BUT THE "DISTRACTIONS" and the lack of financial transparency were now affecting the IBL's business dealings with everyone. Spectrum Capital Group, an investment banking company, had agreed in September to loan the IBL money. When Blacher's lawsuit was revealed, the deal was called off.

"You never disclosed the existence or threat of this lawsuit to us," Michael Lederman, Spectrum's managing partner, wrote Baras the next day. "Had you done so, we would not have entered into the agreement. The agreement is hereby terminated and canceled, effective immediately."

The advisory board members were also growing increasingly frustrated, and suspicious, over Baras's lack of financial transparency. On November 14, Kurtzer and nine other board members quit the IBL, submitting various letters of resignation. Several other advisers did not submit specific letters, but requested that their names be removed from the board, including baseball commissioner Bud Selig, his wife and daughter, all of whom had served in a supportive role rather than as part of the hands-on functioning of the league.

"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 sources in a manner likely to produce successful results," Goldklang and Zimbalist wrote in their resignation letter.

Baras did not issue a statement on the lawsuit or on the resignations, but IBL President/COO Berger sent an e-mail to the players thanking the resigning board members "for their help in launching this amazing venture. I want you all to know that this will have no effect on the incredible things going on right now with the league... We have every intention of playing next season, and will be updating the Web site shortly with exciting news."

OTHERS WERE less optimistic about the IBL's future, but were just as passionate about professional baseball in Israel. Four days after the IBL 10 quit, a new baseball league was announced: the Israel Professional Baseball League. It was created by former IBL players and investors, led by multimillionaire Jeffrey Rosen, one of the main investors of the IBL and the owner of the Haifa basketball team; Michael Rollhaus, another IBL investor who served as general manager of the Beit Shemesh Blue Sox; and Alan Gardner, a Blue Sox player.

Israel, hardly big enough to support one league, was now being fought over by two.

Both leagues continued operating in expectation of a season in 2008, but there was a problem: Playing baseball in Israel needs the approval of the Israel Association of Baseball. Without its certification, no one could take the field. And it too was growing frustrated.

While the IAB - the governing body for baseball in Israel - was not involved in the actual running of the league, it was embarrassed by the debts that had accumulated in its backyard.

On January 9, the IAB sent Baras a letter terminating their agreement.

"They owe money in Israel, that's why we terminated the relationship," said Peter Kurz, secretary-general of the IAB. "We have been pressuring them for six months, and their answer was, 'We'll have the money next week, we'll have it next week.' And we got tired of it."

The future of baseball here needed to be resolved. On January 31, a meeting was held at the Penn Club in New York, attended by 14 people associated with the IBL, the IPBL and the IAB, including two on speaker phone from Israel.

Baras was not invited, but the IBL was represented by Berger; Dan Duquette, director of baseball operations; and Ami Baran, manager of the Netanya Tigers. Other participants included Jeffrey Royer, general partner of the Arizona Diamondbacks and the largest individual investor in the IBL, and Mitchel Rosenzweig, chief financial officer of the Jewish National Fund, which provided more funding for the IBL's operations - an unaccounted-for $480,000 - than anyone else.

Goldklang chaired the meeting, together with Kurtzer. Their aim, as well as that of the IAB - which was represented by its president, Haim Katz, on the phone from Israel - was to settle the bills left behind by Baras and to persuade all parties to get behind a common effort to operate a professional league in 2008 and beyond. An angry Rosen would have none of it, saying it was the IBL's responsibility to pay the debts, not his. The meeting lasted seven hours, right through a working lunch and much dissension.

"Everyone recognized the need to resolve things quickly to have a 2008 season, but by the end of the day, there was no resolution," said one participant.

Conversations and negotiations continued with all parties for months, but neither league attracted enough investors, nor was either league sanctioned by the IAB to play baseball in Israel.

THE IBL, NEVERTHELESS, continued operating as if there would be a second season. On June 16 it announced that play would begin on July 27, five weeks behind schedule and in abbreviated form: The league would consist of a four-team, 20-game, three-week, momentum-keeping mini-season.

Moreover, the league announced that a player from last summer, Dan Rootenberg, would serve as league president; that all money owed would be paid; and that founder Baras would not be involved in day-to-day operations.

But there were no schedule, no tickets being sold, no fields that had agreed to let the league play, no advertising, no marketing campaign and no announcement of players, managers or coaches.

It appeared that the IBL was attempting to salvage at least something, in order not to be in breach of last season's agreement with the IAB requiring the IBL to run a second season. But the IAB had still not certified the league, awaiting the clearing up of debts before doing so.

The IBL was seeking new shareholders, drafting Boston businessman David Solomont to help bankroll the league and attract investors. But Solomont's prior legal problems with a software company raised many questions about the appropriateness of his appointment.

Moreover, efforts to have the untainted ex-player Rootenberg be the new face of the league blew up on July 16, when he declined to accept the position. Sources say he was lied to, and did not want to attach his name to the venture.
Its credibility shot, the IBL promptly canceled the 2008 season and announced a restructuring of the league: Solomont would serve as interim president, Duquette and Gary Woolf, a Boston businessman and son of famed agent Bob Woolf, would oversee long-term development, and Baras would no longer be involved in the league, although many observers felt he was still pulling the strings behind the scenes. Solomont also said the new management had raised enough money to pay off all remaining debts, and to finance the league for at least two more seasons.

The league further announced that a seven-game series of exhibition games would be played beginning August 14; that a winter league would be created and play in the South; and that plans were moving forward for a league in 2009. Given the history of the IBL and the debts still not paid, fields not secured and certification by the IAB not yet acquired, the announcement was met with a great deal of skepticism.

"I'll believe it when I see it," said Seth Cogan, an early board member of the IBL, who dissociated himself from the league before last season began.

"I'm kind of upset, I liked how they played," said Avishai Tokayer, a nine-year-old from Beit Shemesh. "I loved going to the games and getting the balls and autographs. At least they'll have baseball in 2009."

But will they? Can the reconstituted league generate the same innocent enthusiasm the IBL built up in the two years leading to last summer's inaugural season?

"I think that a big opportunity was missed this summer by not renewing the baseball season," said Yaniv Rosenfeld-Cohen, 16, from Jerusalem, "and I'm not going to be that excited if they do in fact renew it."

"The magic," said Rosenfeld-Cohen, "just doesn't appeal so much any more."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Leon Feingold blames Israelis for IBL failure

You remember Leon Feingold. He was the professional competitive eater who pitched for the Netanya Tigers during the Israel Baseball League's first season who became the foremost post-season apologist for the IBL management malfeasance and, along with self-professed "Peter Pan" Eric Holtz, a leading critic of Our Man Elli in Israel's reportage of the real story behind the IBL facade, hurling insults much harder, but equally as inaccurately, as his 33-year-old arm could muster.

Now Leon's back, and his fellow IBL players who've seen their paychecks bounce, their hard work gone unrewarded and their dreams urinated on by secretive back bay business, can't be too happy by what he has to say about the plans of the IBL's successors, the Dominican Republic of the Middle East Baseball League, to replace its four-team, 20-game, three-week momentum-keeping mini-season with an exhibition tournament in August.

And neither will native Israelis. Because now he's blaming them-- not Elli and not IBL founder Larry Baras for the failure.

“It will be the Israelis against the world, which is sort of what it is in real life,” the Long Island weiner-chomper tells the Jewish Star of Nassau County, Long Island.

“The reason the league didn’t do nearly as well as it should have last season was because those who live there haven’t grown up with baseball. How can we expect to succeed with a product when no one in Israel has ever tasted it? Getting the kids involved is always the first step.”

The pie-eater said he and other players will run "youth clinics" coinciding with the beginning of the tourney at the Yarkon Sports Complex in the Baptist Village of Petach Tikva on Aug. 14.

“We’re also going to be doing a lot of PR work which, in my opinion, we should have been doing all along, with clinics and outreach programs in different cities in order to bring in more fans.

“I am very much looking forward to going, both in terms of going to Israel and in terms of playing at (the professional) level again,” the six-foot-six bean slurper said. “I am sure the experience will be different because the structure of the league has changed so drastically, but anytime I get to play baseball and travel to Israel, that’s a good thing.”

Addendum: The Jewish Star (Nassau County, NY): "IBL pits Israel against the world"

The Jewish Star
Independent and original reporting from the Orthodox communities of LI
July 23, 2008

IBL pits Israel against the world

by Paul Shapiro

The question as to whether the Israel Baseball League (IBL) will be playing its second season has finally been answered… Sort of.

After financial problems forced the league to seemingly call off the 2008 season, league officials have decided in favor of an exhibition series this summer followed by a winter league in southern Israel.

Instead of having a shortened season this summer, as was previously announced, or no season at all, which was also a definite possibility, a best-of-seven exhibition series between the IBL All-Stars, known as the World Team, and the Israel National Team has been set for mid-August.

“It will be the Israelis against the world, which is sort of what it is in real life,” joked Leon Feingold, of Oceanside, who pitched for the Netanya Tigers during the inaugural IBL season.

All games will be played at the Yarkon Sports Complex in the Baptist Village of Petach Tikva, where Opening Day, the All-Star Game and the IBL championship were played last year.

The IBL hopes that this series will build up interest for baseball and the league in Israel before their next full season in the summer of ‘09. Although the 10-week debut season last summer seemed to have a nice crop of young fans, most were American olim or groups of people visiting Israel for the summer.

“The reason the league didn’t do nearly as well as it should have last season was because those who live there haven’t grown up with baseball,” Feingold explained. “How can we expect to succeed with a product when no one in Israel has ever tasted it? Getting the kids involved is always the first step.”

Youth clinics have been set up to coincide with the exhibition series. These clinics will be run by the players and both will begin on Aug. 14.

“We’re also going to be doing a lot of PR work which, in my opinion, we should have been doing all along, with clinics and outreach programs in different cities in order to bring in more fans,” Feingold said.

While the IBL plans to launch a winter league in the south of Israel, facilities have not yet been arranged.

Regardless of what happens to the league, players like Feingold are just happy to have a chance to go back to play in Israel.

“I am very much looking forward to going, both in terms of going to Israel and in terms of playing at [the professional] level again,” Feingold said. “I am sure the experience will be different because the structure of the league has changed so drastically, but anytime I get to play baseball and travel to Israel, that’s a good thing.”

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Appel won't work with new Israel baseball league

So who'll be running publicity for the new Dominican Republic of the Middle East Baseball League? Not Marty Appel, the New York Yankees' public relations legend who had the job the first time around, before the coup by El Presidente David Solomonte, when the league was known as the Israel Baseball League.

The PR maven who helped get the original IBL off the ground with brilliant stunts like having the Modi'in Miracle draft Sandy Koufax, tells Our Man Elli in Israel that he was approached by the Boston businessmen running the DRMEBL to help turn the tide of public criticism.

Appel says he was hesitant, torn between the great promise and challenge of baseball in Israel and his skepticism about the direction the DRMEBL seemed to be taking. He says he offered to take the job if several conditions were met:

1) He be paid for last year's work (Appel, like the players and former IBL commissioner Daniel Kurtzer, has not been paid);

2) He be paid for this summer in advance;

3) The Dominican Republic of The Middle East Baseball League agree to operate with full disclosure and financial transparency in order to win back credibility.

Appel says he never heard back.

He tells Our Man Elli:

"I was hoping that the group would be able to stage a 2008 season, and there had been an offer to me to return to serve as the league's media representative, but I never heard anything further and feared this might be the reason.

"It's disappointing, but I remain hopeful that there will be pro baseball in Israel in the future and that the Israeli people be given a full opportunity to experience this great game. Hopefully, the scaled-back plans for this year will result in new enthusiasm for the concept."

Sunday, July 20, 2008

There is Israel Baseball this summer! In Pittsburgh.

Our Man Elli in Israel alerts us that there is baseball in Israel this summer, after all!

Only it’s in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Valley News Dispatch
Sunday, July 20, 2008

Israel teams join Freeport Tournament

By Paul Kogut

Haim Katz, president of the Israel Association of Baseball, arrived last week in Pittsburgh to visit family members and prepare for the 14th annual Freeport International Baseball Invitational.

About 20 players and three coaches are expected to join Katz this morning, as Israel gets ready to participate in the weeklong event for the first time.

The Invitational, which goes by the motto "For the love of the game," offers a laid-back atmosphere.

There are about 100 games, but no playoffs or champions. Technically, results don't matter.

The main goals are having fun and exchanging cultures.
Katz said this is the first time an Israeli baseball team will play in the United States in about four years.

"The players are very excited," Katz said. "We usually go to European tournaments and play four or five games. They're kind of high-powered games. Some players will play more, some less. If we come away and lose a lot of games, there can be a lot of tension."

That shouldn't be a problem this week.
Israel, which will field two teams, will be in high demand this week.

Foreign teams are always at the top of local teams' request lists.

"Everyone is excited to see them play," Invitational president Chuck Sarver said.

Last year, Australia made its debut at the Invitational and was in the spotlight. Australia has returned, along with Japan and four teams from Canada...

Top Tips: Alan Gardner helps IBL players get paid

Attention, screwed Israel Baseball League players: Alan Gardner can help you get paid.

The New York City attorney, former IBL outfielder and elder statesman, and frontman for the would-be IBL replacement Israel Professional Baseball League has new comments about the state of the game in wake of our post about his return, after a long absence, to the debate about the future of baseball in Israel.

Of course, Alan chastises his colleagues for posting anonymously and comically on this site—

Hey, Alan, who are you, John McCain?

This is the I-N-T-E-R-N-E-T, babe! Commenting anonymously is what people do! Do callers on talk radio give their names? Not every IBL player is so brave as to put his name to his gripes. Satire and comedy are often easy roads to deeper truths! Get a sense of humour! Lighten up!!

Anyway, Alan does offer helpful hints to Israel Baseball League veterans who’ve finally received paychecks from the 2007, but have heard they are in danger of bouncing:

"If anyone has received a new check and is concerned about the IBL account having funds available to cover it, try the following (it worked for me and several others back in September when they had some funds available, but apparently not enough for everyone):

"Go to one of your bank representatives and ask them to contact the issuing bank (if it's still Citizen's Bank in Boston, the number should be available on their website; it's how my bank made contact). Tell your rep you are concerned about whether there are sufficient funds available on account at the issuing bank and you do not want to incur fees for this check bouncing. Your bank should be able to call and, using the account number on the check, determine if there are sufficient funds available to cover the $500 check. If your rep gives you a hard time, ask to speak to a manager and push the issue. It's a simple phone call, but the issuing bank probably won't tell you because you're not another bank.

"If there are not sufficient funds on account, send an email to Berger; I do not have any contact info for Solomont (if anyone does, maybe it should be posted on this site); might also be a good idea, so as to inform everyone still owed money, to post your results here."

We'll leave out the bit where he goes on about people posting anonymously...