Wednesday, July 23, 2008

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.”

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