Monday, July 28, 2008

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."

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