Friday, May 30, 2008

What chutzpah! IBL's Berger insists the league will cover its debts and play baseball in Israel in 2008!

Overlooked amid the Jerusalem Post's reportage that "confirms" our April 14th report that there will be no professional baseball in Israel in 2008 is the insistence by Martin Berger, the Israel Baseball League's president and COO (the Bloom to IBL founder Larry Baras' Bialystock-- or Bagelstock), that the IBL will play its second season in Israel this year!

Wilder-- er, Berger, tells the Post:

"[The IAB] created an issue, we hope we have resolved that issue. We don't think we've breached any agreements, and we're moving forward in cooperation with the IAB. We are working hard to secure enough funding to make sure that any debts that we had from the first season are paid off, and that we have enough financial backing to move ahead. We really intend on having a second season, we're trying to be financially and fiscally responsible."

Baras continues to maintain his silence.

Jerusalem Post basks in credit for our scoop

The Jerusalem Post is the putative hometown paper of the Israel Baseball League, but it's given short shrift to the most intriguing sports and business story in its nation these past nine months, barely acknowledging the existence, rise, fall and chaotic aftermath of the Israel Baseball League and its impact on the lives and pocketbooks of everyday Israelis.

And when it got around to reporting what we broke exclusively a month and a half ago-- that there will be no professional baseball in Israel in 2008-- the months of legwork and investigation by Our Man Elli in Israel that developed this story and kept it alive for close to a year-- gets nary a nod of credit nor attribution.

And as blogsites and news organizations finally pick up the story and credit the Jerusalem Post, exposing how far behind the news and how uninquisitive each of them is, we carry on. And wonder where the writer with the very fitting name of Jeremy Last got his insights and background material for this Jerusalem Post editorial that follows the late, derivative and unattributed article, as it contains not a single original thought and nothing that hasn't been said-- and read-- on this site for months now::




The Last Word:
The inevitable failures of the IBL
By JEREMY LAST

The news that the Israel Baseball League will not be returning for a second season this June was no big surprise considering the embarrassment of difficulties it faced last summer.

It was a sad end to what turned out to be a sorry affair which had many positives but in the end promised too much while delivering all too little.

The announcement confirmed the fears that the IBL, which had been over hyped and promoted for months up to its launch in June 2007, was nothing more than a badly organized disaster waiting to happen.

It is now time for what is left of the IBL management since the glut of resignations last November to take a wider perspective and realize just where they went wrong and how it would likely be only a good thing if the league does not come back in the same format as last year.

The problems were obvious from the beginning. Aside from Opening Day, which attracted over 3,000 supporters, there was hardly any interest from regular Israelis in a league which was run by Americans and almost exclusively for Americans.

Throughout the season the announcements were mostly in English, the Hebrew section of the official Web site was poor quality and the fields were difficult to get to. Israelis had little affiliation with the teams made up of players from around the world, just not Israel.

Added to that, there wasn't even a Jerusalem team although plans for one to be included in an expanded IBL for the 2008 season were announced a few months ago, before it became obvious that there will not be any such season.

Unfortunately it seems that the IBL has not considered taking this to heart and appears convinced that there is still a chance the league will continue in 2008. The main barrier could well be financial, and therefore overcome through a sudden monetary boost.

But, even if the league somehow manages to get itself together in just a few short weeks before the start of the new season it had scheduled for itself, it would be a foolish move.

The problems were deep and inbred from the start and, unless the league is made much more accessible for local supporters, it will continue to fail.

The IBL should take a leaf out of the book of what at first appeared to be its football sister, the Israel Football League.

Unlike the baseball league, the IFL is packed with locals playing in its four teams, encouraging far more fan involvement. That the games were played at Jerusalem's Kraft Stadium also helped, but if the IBL is to ever return and become a success it must start small rather than thinking big from the outset like it did last year and therefore setting it up for the all too inevitable fall from grace.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Jerusalem Post finally reports that there will be no professional baseball in Israel this summer--- WE REPORTED THE NEWS ON APRIL 14th!



Readers of this site are better informed about the state of professional basebal in Israel than readers of the hometown Jerusalem Post. Thanks to the tenacious reportage of Our Man Elli in Israel, we reported definitively on April 14th that there would be no professional baseball in Israel in 2008 from either the disgraced Israel Baseball League or the fantasy Israel Professional League. And we've been following up ever since. The Post didn't get around to reporting our scoop until today. And no, they didn't give us any credit. And no, neither Baras of the IBL nor Rosen of the IPBL have done that baseball mitzah we'd offered.

Here's the late, unsourced Post story:




May 29, 2008

IBL: Israel Baseball League strikes out after one year


By ALEX BRITTEL

The much-hyped Israel Baseball League, which was slated to begin its second season June 22, has been cancelled for 2008 and its future is in jeopardy, The Jerusalem Post has learned.


"There will be no league in 2008," Haim Katz, president of the Israel Association of Baseball, told the Post on Thursday. According to Katz, the league's problems stemmed largely from a number of Israeli creditors who, he said, had not been paid by the IBL.

"2008 is not happening, 2009 we're working on. Right now it's [nearly] the first of June, and there's no preparation. But there are many parties interested in reviving professional baseball [in Israel]."


The six-team IBL was founded by Boston-based businessman Larry Baras, and started play in the summer of 2007, featuring Jewish and foreign players selected by personnel director Dan Duquette, the former general manager of the Boston Red Sox.
Baras could not be reached for comment.

Its 10-week debut season in the summer of 2007 brought much fanfare but few fans, the great portion of whom were American olim or groups of Anglo youngsters in Israel for the summer.


It was marred by financial and organizational problems - from missed player payments to games cancelled early because of inadequate lighting.

Former New York Yankees pitcher Ken Holzman quit managing the Petah Tikvah Pioneers with one week left in the season, unhappy with the league.


Ten members of the team's advisory board, including former US Ambassador to Israel turned IBL commissioner Daniel C. Kurtzer and Yankees President Randy Levine, resigned in November, citing disappointment with the league's business operations. The IAB is authorized by the Ministry of Science, Culture and Sports to grant licenses for professional baseball in Israel, in addition to coordinating amateur and international play.

Another startup, the Israel Professional Baseball League, headed by Maccabi Haifa basketball team owner Jeffrey Rosen, a former investor in the IBL, was expected to begin play this year. But, like the IBL, the IPBL is now also looking to 2009.


Martin Berger, president and COO of the IBL, said despite the IAB comments, he still had hope for a second season this year.


"[The IAB] created an issue, we hope we have resolved that issue," Berger said. "We don't think we've breached any agreements, and we're moving forward in cooperation with the IAB."

"We are working hard to secure enough funding to make sure that any debts that we had from the first season are paid off, and that we have enough financial backing to move ahead. We really intend on having a second season, we're trying to be financially and fiscally responsible."


Tel Aviv Lightning manager Ami Baran said he had also heard of hopes for an abridged schedule, but that a decision had not yet been made.


The league's Web site gives no indication of a postponed or shortened season, and publicizes January tryouts in Miami, along with "future tryouts" in the Dominican Republic and Los Angeles.


One of the board members who resigned, Professor Andrew Zimbalist, said as far as he knew, "the league is dead."

"The main difficulty last year was that there wasn't sufficient work on the ground to prepare the terrain and to familiarize people with what was going to happen," said Zimbalist, a pioneer in the field of baseball economics.

"There needs to be a lot more marketing - to introduce a new sport into a country, you need to promote it, and it wasn't adequately promoted. Once it got started, the communication system between the league and the potential fan base was not in place.

"I think that there is a lot of momentum and lot of interest that was established, and there is no reason why there can't be a successful league here in the long run. It has to be managed better and prepared better."

While the country has a burgeoning youth program, and the Israeli national team will compete for entry to the 2009 World Baseball Classic, the market for professional baseball was not developed - nor, it seems, was it cultivated, said Marvin Goldklang, an owner of several minor league baseball franchises, and a minority stakeholder in the Yankees.


"One of the things that was missing last year was a serious due diligence effort, focusing on both market and facility related issues, to assess the economic viability of professional baseball in Israel," said Goldklang.


"I do believe there is a future, provided it is structured and marketed in a manner more likely to connect with the broader Israeli population, than was the case last summer."

We'll have complete reaction to the Post story in a bit. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Israel baseball's Bergstrom pitches first win, but--

When we last checked in with Israel Baseball League golden boy alum Rafael Bergstrom, he was holding his own in Connecticut, pitching for the Bridgeport Bluefish of the Atlantic League, and doing much better than his record-- 0-1 with a 4.18 ERA in 23 innings, with 18 strikeouts, seven walks and an opponents' batting average of .233— might lead us to believe.

“I told Bergstrom one of these days we're going to win a ballgame for him," manager Tommy John told The Connecticut Post. "He throws all of his pitches. He throws strikes. I personally think he can pitch more with his fastball than he does. I think his fastball is better than what he thinks it is. He throws the ball well."

On Friday, Rafael picked up his first win, defeating the Long Island Ducks before a sold out crowd of 6,047. That’s the good news.

The bad news? He gave up nine runs on 13 hits over five and two-thirds innings, and walked off the mound with an ERA of about 6.3.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Jewish baseball cards


Our Man Elli in Israel turns us on to comedian David Moore-- and reminds us that payment for printing of Israel Baseball League cards remains sticking point in the debt-ridden aftermath of the IBL's sole season.

Phooey! Israel baseball big's heart in Hong Kong?


Our Man Elli in Israel points out an interesting revelation tucked in the announcement by would-be Israel Professional Baseball League organizer Jeffrey Rosen that he'd be shifting his attention and shekels to the Maccabi Haifa Heat basketball team he bought while an investor in last year's failed Israel Baseball League: he's also financing a baseball team in Hong Kong.

Coming the same week that the Miami millionaire Magnetix maven (AKA billionaire boychik) implicitly gave up on his attempts to play baseball this summer by removing all mention of the IPBL's 2008 season from his Triangle Financial Services website, the press release includes the following phrase in its penultimate sentence (and explains the stray baseball cap that appears amid the Israel-related sports photos on the page's margin:

"...The sponsorship of the Dragonflies, a semi-professional baseball team in Hong Kong, China, represent(s) Triangle’s continued effort to invest in emerging international sports ventures."

From the start, the subtext to the story of professional baseball in Israel is that the wealthy American men who have been involved in the battle to get it off the ground are motivated by more than money, greed or self- aggrandizement, but by pride in their Jewish heritage and Zionism.

Yet the truth has been in plain sight for some time now: Jeffrey Rosen's international sports aspirations are not limited to Israel.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Yankees kick Eladio downstairs, again

The Pride of the Israel Baseball League has become the official Ping Pong Ball of The Yankees. Eladio Rodriguez, who's gone 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, has again been kicked down to the Single A NY-Penn League farm team in Staten Island.

As the third catcher on the roster, E-Rod wasn't expected to see much action to begin with, but he did appear in one game for the Thunder, going one-for-five with a double against the Reading Phillies on Wednesday. He'd been transferred from the roster of the Staten Island Yankees to Trenton on May 9th. He appeared in one other game this season with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he'd landed on April 29th. He was signed by the Yankees out of the Israel Baseball League on November 24th, 2007. He caught for the Modi'in Miracle, led the league in hitting and was co-MVP.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

BASEBALL MITZVAH, WEEK #2: No response from IBL's Baras or IPBL's Rosen; kids suffer



On Tuesday, May 13th, Our Man Elli in Israel laid out a benevolent challenge to the two US businessmen who sought to profit most from the idea of professional baseball in Israel: Boston bagel baron Larry Baras of the failed Israel Baseball League and the Miami millionaire Magnetix maven (or should we say Boca billionaire basketball boychick) Jeffrey Rosen: Do a baseball mitzvah by helping out Shuki Goodman, who'd placed a notice on the Janglo bulletin board seeking used baseball equipment for his non-profit program for at-risk called Chein Farm Learning in the Galilee, in upper Israel.

Seven days have passed.

No response.

No mitzvah.

ISRAEL BASE-KETBALL UPDATE: "Did I say Israel Professional Baseball League? My bad!"

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MACCABI HAIFA BASKETBALL
PROMOTED TO PREMIER LEAGUE
UNDER FIRST-YEAR OWNER
JEFFREY H. ROSEN

HAIFA TO PLAY IN PREMIER LEAGUE FOR FIRST TIME IN 10 YEARS
AVENTURA, FL., - Triangle Financial Services, LLC., a sports and entertainment investment firm, is proud to announce that first-year Maccabi Haifa Heat Basketball Club owner and Triangle Chairman, Jeffrey H. Rosen, has secured the team’s promotion to the Premier League (Ligat Ha’al) for the 2008-2009 season.

Maccabi Haifa upset the #1 seeded Barak Natanya 73-69 in the Second Division Semi-finals playoffs on Thursday, May 15th in front of a sellout crowd of 3,500 rabid fans in Haifa’s Romema Arena. Haifa won the best-of-five Semi-finals playoffs series, 3-1, guaranteeing the team’s promotion to the Premier League. The promotion means that Maccabi Haifa will play opponents such as Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem next season.

Players, coaches, fans, and the owner celebrated on Haifa’s home court by spraying champagne and cutting down the nets. "This is a wonderful day for the entire city of Haifa. This is how I envisioned the team when I bought it," said Rosen in an on-court interview.

Rosen, whose desire was to invest in Israel, purchased Maccabi Haifa in July of 2007, resurrecting the franchise from the Third Division. The former Rose Art President of International Operations and Chief Operating Officer had an immediate impact on the marketing of the franchise giving the team an American name, Maccabi Haifa HEAT, a custom not practiced by Israeli professional sports clubs.

Rosen’s pre-season goal was to have Haifa promoted to the Premier League under his first year of ownership. The goal was a bold one considering the team had just been promoted to the Second Division.

The road to the Premier League was not an easy one. The team struggled mightily in the beginning of the season, losing their first three games making it difficult to gain the attention of local Haifa fans. Through the first nine games of the season Haifa was towards the bottom of the league standings with a 3-6 record. However, after several player acquisitions the team turned it around going 12-5 in their last 17 games, finishing in fourth place with a 15-11 record. Haifa advanced to the Semi-finals after defeating Eliztur Yavne, 2-1, in the best-of-three Quarterfinals.

Haifa will begin play against #2 seeded Givat Shmuel in the Championship Series of the Second Division on Wednesday, May 21 at 19:30 (12:30 pm EST).

Triangle Entertainment will produce a documentary on Maccabi Haifa Heat’s unforgettable season.

ABOUT JEFFREY H. ROSEN
Jeffrey H. Rosen is the Chairman of Triangle Financial Services, LLC. Rosen is the owner of Maccabi Haifa Heat professional basketball club, playing in Israel’s third largest city. From 1977-2006, Rosen served as COO of Rose Art Industries, a major manufacturer of toys, stationery and arts and crafts. Rosen guided his company to yearly sales topping 300 million dollars in more than seventy countries. With hundreds of license agreements and thousands of innovative products, Rose Art continuously distinguished itself in an ultra competitive marketplace. Rosen is a graduate of Boston’s Northeastern University. He currently resides in Aventura, Florida and is very active in multiple charities.

ABOUT MACCABI HAIFA HEAT BASKETBALL CLUB
Maccabi Haifa has a long and storied legacy as they were one of the original eight teams to form the Premier League during the 1953-1954 season. During the 1980’s, fans would fill up Romema Arena to watch Maccabi Haifa basketball. The team’s reputation even had Maccabi Tel Aviv fans, the “yellows”, scared to visit Romema. However, the team’s stature in Haifa began to fade in the early 1990’s. In the latter part of the decade, the team returned to become a municipal team – B.C. Haifa. The team succeeded in defeating Maccabi Tel Aviv and finished fourth in the Premier League. The team was purchased by Jeffrey Rosen in July of 2007, who pledged to secure the team’s promotion to the Premier League in his first year of ownership. For more information about Maccabi Haifa, please visit www.mhbasket.co.il (Hebrew) or http://www.mhbasket.co.il/default.asp?lang=en (English).

ABOUT TRIANGLE FINANCIAL SERVICES
Triangle Financial Services, a sports and entertainment investment firm, has a diverse portfolio of international sports enterprises. The recent acquisition of the Maccabi Haifa professional basketball team in Israel along with the sponsorship of the Dragonflies, a semi-professional baseball team in Hong Kong, China, represent Triangle’s continued effort to invest in emerging international sports ventures. For more information on Triangle Financial Services, please visit www.trianglefs.com.

# #
For more information contact:
Andrew Wilson, 305-933-8308 x 123
awilson@trianglefs.com

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Israel's baseball fantasy league boss Rosen says, "So long, summer 2008! Hello, Israel basketball!"


The Israel Professional Baseball League has finally removed all promise and mention of a 2008 season from its webpage.

The removal comes more than a week after league frontman, Miami millionaire Magnetix maven Jeffrey Rosen and his Triangle Financial Services, backers of the IPBL, were accused of bait-and-switch tactics because it was advertising for sponsors for a 2008 season, and then leading prospective buyers to its Israel basketball team.

Tonight, the only mention on the Triangle Financial IPBl page are calls for players, contributors and sponsors-- and the line:

For more information regarding the league,
please call 305-933-8308.

In related news, Rosen, who’s had as hard a time finding investors for his Israel Professional Baseball League as he’s had finding time to be straightforward with the news media about the state of his operation, is back to talking basketball.

Rosen bought the Haifa Maccabi team last July while he was an investor for the IBL— but months before he broke away to start a competing league after Our Man Elli in Israel revealed the financial disarray and federal securities fraud lawsuit the IBL's Baras was hiding.

Now, Haaretz reports that Rosen is placing his attentions and millions on the hardwood:

"The next big thing, if one is to believe the hype, is Maccabi Haifa, the newly promoted team from the second tier owned by Miami-based Jewish-American billionaire, Jeff Rosen.

"Maccabi Haifa was one of the original eight teams that formed the basketball premier league in the 1953/1954 season… But in 1992/1993 was relegated to the second tier… two years later to the third… bounced back to the premier league but… participated in the final four twice before… it was disbanded.

"Club officials decided to reform… the new team qualified for the first league in its first season and was then purchased by Rosen.

"Rosen immediately announced his intention to transform Maccabi Haifa into a top team in Israeli and European basketball. Haifa's budget was the biggest in the second tier but its hopes were almost lost after it lost six times in the first 9 rounds.

"…Haifa finished fourth and went on to beat its rivals in the playoffs in front of 3,500 fans. Therein lies the real cause for celebration, the return of the fans.

"On top of regular ticket sales, this season Haifa sold 150 regular and 70 VIP season tickets, a large amount for a second tier team…

"Indeed, Haifa plans on maintaining its following by becoming a force to reckon with in the premier league next season. 'We want to be in the final four,' Rosen has said, and allocated funds that will give the team a budget of 2.5 million dollars, one of the biggest in the top tier."

One other note: the Israel press keeps referring to Rosen as a “billionaire,” not millionaire. In that case, we can’t fault the guy for telling us lowly journos to bugger off!

On a sadder note, we’ll need to come with a new alliterative title to replace Millionaire Miami Magnetix maven.

Billionaire Boca basketball barimer?

Any suggestions?

Another Israel baseball survivor voices 'no regrets'

"It was an
unbelievable
experience,
just to be there.
It was a
good decision."

Are the men behind the Israel Baseball League, who left fans and vendors hanging with a million dollars in debts and dreams of a second season up in smoke, shelling out money for a revisionist public relations campaign at this late date? It’s got us wondering, as the second high-profile veteran of the scandalized sole IBL season hits the local papers and worldwide web to sing the praises of his season in the Holy Land.

The latest is Josh Matlow, who, as the Barrie Examiner of Ontario, Canada reports, “left the IBL last season in favour of another league: the IBL.”

That first IBL is Ontario’s Intercounty Baseball League, where Matlow had played two seasons with the Barrie Baycats – and where, as we reported, he plays once again after a sidetrip to the Tel Aviv Lighnting of Israel’s IBL.

In another lengthy feature story rivaling the Connecticut Post’s take on Rafael Bergstrom of Bridgeport Bluefish (another “Double B”) over the weekend, the paper reports that the 23-year-outfielder is “glad to be back” in Canada, but has “no regrets” about 2007:

“Matlow never planned to play baseball on the other side of the world, didn't even want to at first. But everything happens for a reason in the opinion of this ballplayer.

"When the Israel Baseball League formed last season, two of Matlow's longtime friends, former Oshawa Dodgers Ian Okorofsky and Dan Drori, pleaded with their pal to weigh his options. They were off to Israel and wanted him to come with them.

"’They almost begged me,’ Matlow said. ‘But I wasn't into it at all. I was happy playing here.’

"Apprehensively, Matlow fired an e-mail to the president of the upstart league, just to gauge some interest.

"’I got a contract the next day,’ said the Richmond Hill native, who only started playing ball competitively in high school. ‘I guess he'd heard of me. It kind of fell into my lap, so I said, “why not? When are you ever going to do something like this again?”

‘Being Jewish, Matlow said the opportunity made perfect sense. Being a ball player, he also had an idea of what to expect upon his arrival in the Holy Land.

"’At first, it was looked upon as a joke,’ Matlow said. ‘Baseball in Israel is like hockey in Ethiopia. It just doesn't mix.’

“However, according to Matlow, in its first full season, the league - which is now under new ownership and a new name (Editor’s note: That’s not correct) - was a success in many ways, for various reasons.

"’’A lot of Israelis are Americans that have moved to Israel to try to become more Jewish, so it became pretty big, especially for the Americans,’ Matlow said. ‘And the other Israelis caught onto it, too. It wasn't huge, but it was also the first year. It was enough that you were recognized when you went out.’

Matlow made his mark playing for the Tel Aviv Lighting - one of six teams in the league. Batting .381 at one point, he was named an all-star.

But he figures he was slightly overshadowed by his roommate Ryan Crotin, a former Dodger who was also an all-star in Israel last season, and a fan faourite.

"’Families would invite him to Shabbat (a Jewish tradition) dinners on Fridays. He became a part of their lives,’ Matlow said. ‘I lived through him. He's that big monster, that gentle giant that everyone loves. It was really touching.’

“…Despite the preconceived notions some might have of Israel being a dangerous place, Matlow said that's simply media hype.

"’There's places in New York you don't go to, there's places in Toronto you don't go to and there's places in Israel you don't go to,’ he said. ‘Whatever you see is what's perceived by the media. That's all it is. I went there, and not a problem in the world.

"’To be honest with you, it was the most gorgeous country. It's just a perfect, perfect country,’ he added. ‘Perfect beaches, the water was like bath water ... always sunny, never rained.’

“Matlow has no regrets.

"'It was an unbelievable experience, just to be there. It was a good decision.’”


Read the entire article here, at our Baseball in Israel archive page.

ADDENDUM: From The Barrie, Ontario Examiner: Matlow makes round-trip; Baycats outfielder glad to be back in IBL fold after season in Israel

20 May 2008
Barrie Examiner
Barrie, Ontario, Canada


Matlow makes round-trip; Baycats outfielder
glad to be back in IBL fold after season in Israel


POSTED BY IAN SHANTZ

Josh Matlow left the IBL last season in favour of another league: the IBL.

After signing with the Intercounty Baseball League's Barrie Baycats in 2005 and spending two seasons here, the 23-year-old outfielder left Barrie to join the Israel Baseball League.

Matlow never planned to play baseball on the other side of the world, didn't even want to at first. But everything happens for a reason in the opinion of this ballplayer.

When the Israel Baseball League formed last season, two of Matlow's longtime friends, former Oshawa Dodgers Ian Okorofsky and Dan Drori, pleaded with their pal to weigh his options. They were off to Israel and wanted him to come with them.

"They almost begged me," Matlow said. "But I wasn't into it at all. I was happy playing here."

Apprehensively, Matlow fired an e-mail to the president of the upstart league, just to gauge some interest.

"I got a contract the next day," said the Richmond Hill native, who only started playing ball competitively in high school. "I guess he'd heard of me. It kind of fell into my lap, so I said, 'why not? When are you ever going to do something like this again?'"

Being Jewish, Matlow said the opportunity made perfect sense. Being a ball player, he also had an idea of what to expect upon his arrival in the Holy Land.

"At first, it was looked upon as a joke," Matlow said. "Baseball in Israel is like hockey in Ethiopia. It just doesn't mix."

However, according to Matlow, in its first full season, the league - which is now under new ownership and a new name - was a success in many ways, for various reasons.

"A lot of Israelis are Americans that have moved to Israel to try to become more Jewish, so it became pretty big, especially for the Americans," Matlow said. "And the other Israelis caught onto it, too. It wasn't huge, but it was also the first year. It was enough that you were recognized when you went out."

Matlow made his mark playing for the Tel Aviv Lighting - one of six teams in the league. Batting .381 at one point, he was named an all-star.

But he figures he was slightly overshadowed by his roommate Ryan Crotin, a former Dodger who was also an all-star in Israel last season, and a fan faourite.

"Families would invite him to Shabbat (a Jewish tradition) dinners on Fridays. He became a part of their lives," Matlow said. "I lived through him. He's that big monster, that gentle giant that everyone loves. It was really touching."

Matlow said the league was made up of about 20 per cent Jewish athletes, with the rest coming from the U.S., Dominican Republic, Mexico, Japan and Europe. He was among 10 or so Canadians playing. He said there was plenty of talent throughout the league, noting Vladimir Guerrero's brother, Julio, played, along with a current centre fielder for the Chicago Cubs.

"There were kids that just came out of 'AA' and 'AAA' that were unbelievable," he said.

The only difference in the Israel league's rules was that games were seven innings instead of nine, Matlow said. And if the game was tied after seven, a homerun derby was held in place of extra innings.

Despite the preconceived notions some might have of Israel being a dangerous place, Matlow said that's simply media hype.

"There's places in New York you don't go to, there's places in Toronto you don't go to and there's places in Israel you don't go to," he said. "Whatever you see is what's perceived by the media. That's all it is. I went there, and not a problem in the world.

"To be honest with you, it was the most gorgeous country. It's just a perfect, perfect country," he added. "Perfect beaches, the water was like bath water ... always sunny, never rained."

Matlow has no regrets.

"It was an unbelievable experience, just to be there. It was a good decision."

After the season ended in Israel, Matlow made the jaunt to Australia, where he played in the Southern Australian Baseball League. From there, he was offered a contract in Holland, but decided against it, in favour of returning home to focus on his schooling. He's finishing up a health and physical education degree at Buffalo's Canisius College.

The move home has allowed Matlow to rejoin the Baycats, something he said he's longed for.

"I'm home. I'm comfortable with the Baycats. I couldn't wait to come back and play with them," he said. "I'm just happy to be home, back playing for the team where it all started."

Barrie manager Angus Roy said he's happy to have Matlow back in a Baycats uniform.

"He's had opportunities elsewhere, and our organization's not about holding people back," Roy said. "We're actually about promoting that type of stuff and allowing guys to have opportunities.

"I'm expecting a lot from Josh this season."

Contact the writer at ishantz@thebarrieexaminer.com

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Israel baseball survivor looks back-- with gratitude

“Four guys
sleeping in cots,
basically.

It wasn't the
greatest conditions

and the food
was pretty garbage.

I was sick
for two weeks,
dehydrated.
It was crazy!"

The dream of professional baseball in Israel may be dead for this year and the foreseeable future, but for the survivors of the first season of the Israel Baseball League’s sole season, the memories—and nightmares-- are fresh.

The latest to recall the season in hell is Rafael Bergstrom, the golden boy pitcher of the champion Bet Shemesh Blue Sox and the first of a handful of players to jump from the IBL to a paid contract back in the States.

Now a starting pitcher for the Bridgeport Bluefish of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (which is not affiliated with Major League Baseball) , but close enough to New York City to get some media attention, Bergstrom is featured in a lengthy Connecticut Post article by Rich Elliott. The 26-year-old Bergstrom looks back on a career that’s taken him around the world – but whose most memorable and potentially traumatic stop was his season in Israel.

With a winning combination of youthful exuberance, the realization that he's been lucky enough to extend that youth, and a sense of camaraderie under fire with his fellow troops— er, players—Bergstrom looks back not in anger, but with nostalgia-- and a gratefulness that many of his fellow IBL players have expressed, but which some outsiders have had difficulty comprehending, as he also confirms some of the outrages first exposed sensationally by Our Man Elli in Israel on this site.

Bergstrom talks of a career that saw him heading overseas after standout play at the University of California at San Diego and a workout with the Colorado Rockies did not add up to a MLB shot in 2004. He played first in Munich, Germany, where the fields and competition were “kind of hit or miss,” one infield featured a portable wooden pitcher’s mound, but where “his salary was roughly $1,000 a month. But his airfare, housing and his subway pass were paid for.”

After two seasons in Munich, Bergstrom moved on to Brisbane, Australia, in 2006, where he “dominated… 13-0 with a 1.40 ERA, and…130 strikeouts and 25 walks in 110 innings,” but where Bergstrom did not play for one of the teams that paid its players.

"'They gave me a host family and they just found me odd jobs to do to make money," Bergstrom said… “It was more of just like a six-month vacation playing baseball, which is fun.’”

Then it was on to the IBL.

From Rich Elliott’s article, "Bergstrom Thankful for Excellent Adventure":

“Games were played six days a week in Israel, where the competition was first-rate. Bergstrom earned $2,000 for two months. Housing was provided, but the entire league lived in the same complex.

“‘It was like a big summer camp," Bergstrom said. ‘Four guys sleeping in cots, basically. It wasn't the greatest conditions and the food was pretty garbage. I was sick for two weeks, dehydrated.

"’The first week, everybody's kind of shell-shocked, like, ‘What the heck are we doing here?” The fields weren't in good condition. But by the end, everybody was like this big family all playing in this league and just dealing with the situation and playing baseball.

“One of the fields Bergstrom spoke of was a converted softball field that had a warning track running through the middle of the outfield and a light pole in the middle of right field with a mattress taped around it. Both of the dugouts were on the same side of the field.

"’It was pretty interesting,’ Bergstrom said. ‘It was crazy.’

“But this experience — and a league championship — brought Bergstrom to the United States for the first time in his professional career. With the assistance of Dan Duquette, the director of baseball operations for the Israeli Baseball League and the former general manager of the Boston Red Sox, Bergstrom became the first player from the league to sign a contract with a U.S. team when he joined the Bluefish last August.

"'When I went (to Israel), I said, “OK, this could be it unless I can continue to move forward,” Bergstrom said. "And then I got the call from Dan Duquette about coming over here. I said I'm going to keep giving it that shot, as long as I keep progressing and feel like I'm improving and able to get guys out. Because it's been my dream, obviously, since I was a kid to play major league baseball. And that's what I've always wanted to do.’

“…Bergstrom, who will make his next start Monday at Southern Maryland, was hoping to catch on with an affiliated club during the off-season. He said he had "a couple guys" talking to him about the New York Yankees bringing him into spring training. But it did not work out.

“He still has not abandoned hope. Former Blue Sox teammate/outfielder Jason Rees and catcher Eladio Rodriguez, formerly of the Modi'in Miracle of the IBL, were signed to minor league contracts by the Yankees. Rodriguez is playing at Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (editor’s note: Eladio was recently bumped down to the AA Trenton Thunder) while Rees was released during spring training…”

Bergstrom was 7-2 with a 2.44 ERA (60 strikeouts in 56 innings) in Israel, leading the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox to the league championship. Check out the entire article here. It’s a good read.

ADDENDUM: From The Connecticut Post: Bergstrom thankful for excellent adventure

17 May 2008
THE CONNECTICUT POST


Bergstrom thankful for excellent adventure

RICH ELLIOTT

BRIDGEPORT — Rafael Bergstrom didn't know where to turn. After not being selected in the major league draft in June of 2004, he could see his lifelong dream of playing in the big leagues fading faster and faster.

Bergstrom had worked out for the Colorado Rockies following an accomplished pitching career at the University of California-San Diego. His fastball was reaching speeds between 87 and 89 mph, and he was peppering the strike zone with deft precision. The scouts told Bergstrom they liked what they saw, but with the draft loaded with right-handers, no team offered a solid commitment.

The Rockies didn't bite. No team did. The disappointment was devastating. "I think when the draft came around and I wasn't drafted, I was a little bit crushed," Bergstrom said. "I thought I had that chance. So I just didn't know what to do. I didn't have many contacts with anybody. So I left and I just didn't know what I was going to do. I thought maybe that was it for baseball. And I went to Europe for six weeks that summer just traveling around."

The journey to Europe was a time for Bergstrom, now a 26-year-old starting pitcher for the Bridgeport Bluefish, to clear his head and ponder his next step. Baseball had been a part of his life for so long. He hoped to delay stepping into the real world for some time. Fortunately, as is the case so often, there are opportunities that seem to develop at the most unexpected moments. And once Bergstrom returned from his excursion abroad, he received such an opportunity. It was one that has since rekindled his competitive fire and kept his dream alive.

A chance, at last

James Sanders, a pitcher and former teammate at UC-San Diego, contacted Bergstrom. Sanders, who had been playing in Switzerland, was offered a job in Germany. Content to return to Switzerland, Sanders declined the offer and, in turn, recommended Bergstrom. The offer was not one Bergstrom would pass up.

"I was like, 'Well, it beats starting real life right now, I guess,'" he said. "It'll give me that chance to play and I loved Europe. So I went over there and just pretty much dominated in that league."

Bergstrom played in Munich, Germany, posting a 1.20 ERA with 170 strikeouts and approximately 20 walks in 120 innings. His salary was roughly $1,000 a month. But his airfare, housing and his subway pass were paid for.

At that point, just being able to play again was enough for Bergstrom. The talent level was not on par with that in the United States. They played doubleheaders on Sundays. Americans could pitch only three innings per game, so he played third base when he wasn't on the mound. And the conditions of the fields were suspect.

"Germany was kind of hit or miss," Bergstrom said. "Some of the fields were good. There was one field where they actually had a portable pitching mound. They built it out of wood. Every single time, you couldn't wear cleats when you pitched. You had to wear flats. (But) the group of people that were there in Germany were really good people. They took care of me. I loved Munich."

Bergstrom parlayed his experience into a return to Munich in 2005, when he posted an ERA of about 2.20 and led the league with eight saves — he would throw the last three innings of every game. The success still did not yield any offers from a major league organization or even an independent team, for that matter.

Unfazed, he moved on to play in Brisbane, Australia, in 2006. The level of competition was better and the field conditions were improved. Games were played on Friday and Sunday, and again, Bergstrom dominated. He was 13-0 with a 1.40 ERA, and he had 130 strikeouts and 25 walks in 110 innings.

But there was a catch, a big one at that. While there are teams who do pay its players, Bergstrom did not play for one of them.

"They gave me a host family and they just found me odd jobs to do to make money," Bergstrom said. "Like I was building houses and laying concrete, tying steel. A lot of the guys in Australia are just like (tradesmen). So I would just go along with them if they needed a hand, and they would pay me $20 an hour to do that. It was more of just like a six-month vacation playing baseball, which is fun."

The next stop on Bergstrom's world tour was the Israel Baseball League last season, when he played for the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox. He was 7-2 with a 2.44 ERA and had 60 strikeouts in 56 innings. He also led the Blue Sox to the league championship, spinning a complete-game shutout in the finale.

Games were played six days a week in Israel, where the competition was first-rate. Bergstrom earned $2,000 for two months. Housing was provided, but the entire league lived in the same complex.

"It was like a big summer camp," Bergstrom said. "Four guys sleeping in cots, basically. It wasn't the greatest conditions and the food was pretty garbage. I was sick for two weeks, dehydrated.

"The first week, everybody's kind of shell-shocked, like, 'What the heck are we doing here?' The fields weren't in good condition. But by the end, everybody was like this big family all playing in this league and just dealing with the situation and playing baseball."

Different culture

One of the fields Bergstrom spoke of was a converted softball field that had a warning track running through the middle of the outfield and a light pole in the middle of right field with a mattress taped around it. Both of the dugouts were on the same side of the field.

"It was pretty interesting," Bergstrom said. "It was crazy."

But this experience — and a league championship — brought Bergstrom to the United States for the first time in his professional career. With the assistance of Dan Duquette, the director of baseball operations for the Israeli Baseball League and the former general manager of the Boston Red Sox, Bergstrom became the first player from the league to sign a contract with a U.S. team when he joined the Bluefish last August.

"When I went (to Israel), I said, 'OK, this could be it unless I can continue to move forward,"' Bergstrom said. "And then I got the call from Dan Duquette about coming over here. I said I'm going to keep giving it that shot, as long as I keep progressing and feel like I'm improving and able to get guys out. Because it's been my dream, obviously, since I was a kid to play major league baseball. And that's what I've always wanted to do."

Bergstrom made six appearances (four starts) for the Bluefish down the stretch last season, finishing 0-4 with a 5.90 ERA in 29 innings. Manager Tommy John liked what he saw and re-signed him.

Through his first four starts this season, Bergstrom has been effective, although the final results don't show it. He is 0-1 with a 4.18 ERA in 23 innings, with 18 strikeouts, seven walks and an opponents' batting average of .233.

Bergstrom has also thrown first-pitch strikes to 56 of the 95 hitters he has faced (58.9 percent) and 217 strikes in 343 total pitches (63.3).

"I told Bergstrom one of these days we're going to win a ballgame for him," John said. "He throws all of his pitches. He throws strikes. I personally think he can pitch more with his fastball than he does. I think his fastball is better than what he thinks it is. He throws the ball well."

Bergstrom is simply happy to still be throwing the ball every fifth day. It might have taken a most circuitous route to jump-start his career, but after making stops in Germany, Australia and Israel, Bergstrom believes he's a better person for taking such a route.

Keeping the dream alive

A sense of confidence that plummeted after he wasn't drafted has risen to great heights due to his success overseas. Bergstrom also harbors a sense of pride, knowing that he persevered when a career in professional baseball once seemed to be a long shot.

"Not only just for the baseball reasons, just the opportunity that I had overseas expanded my world," he said. Bergstrom, who will make his next start Monday at Southern Maryland, was hoping to catch on with an affiliated club during the off-season. He said he had "a couple guys" talking to him about the New York Yankees bringing him into spring training. But it did not work out.

He still has not abandoned hope. Former Blue Sox teammate/outfielder Jason Rees and catcher Eladio Rodriguez, formerly of the Modi'in Miracle of the IBL, were signed to minor league contracts by the Yankees. Rodriguez is playing at Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, while Rees was released during spring training. Also, former Bluefish battery-mate Brian Peterson was signed by the Baltimore Orioles organization May 5, and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim signed center fielder Adam Greenberg May 9.

Bergstrom is optimistic that his productive start will draw some attention from scouts and possibly land him his first opportunity to compete within a major league organization. That would certainly make his long journey worthwhile.

"The first couple of weeks, they might be evaluating just on (statistics)," Bergstrom said. "I don't really know. I've never had the opportunity to really go on to that next level."

No matter where he ends up, Bergstrom appreciates his world travels.

"It brightened everything," he said. "I got to see all these different cultures and I feel like I grew up a lot over there. And it carries over onto the baseball field when you have a more mature attitude about things."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Eladio stuck in traffic on Yankees' Thunder Road

Eladio Rodriguez, the great brown hope of the former Israel Baseball League, is languishing. The IBL’s co-MVP got a late call to the New York Yankees’ Triple-A team in Scranton Pennsylvania last month, but lasted only a day—and one great game-- before being shipped to the Yankee’s lowly Single A branch in Staten Island. And though he’s since been kicked up a notch to Double A and the Trenton Thunder-- a Yankee farm team that is not not named for the Bombers-- he’s the third catcher on the team and not likely to show off his stuff any time soon.

Mike Ashmore, a beat writer for the Hunterdon NJ County Democrat, offers daily coverge of the Thunder on his Mike Ashmore’ Thunder Thoughts blog. He lists Eladio last in his weekly team power rankings:

24 - Eladio Rodriguez, C (NR)
A catcher who converted to pitcher, then back to catcher for last year’s Israel Baseball League season. Currently serving as the team’s third catcher…highly unlikely to see anything resembling significant playing time.

The Thunder played to their largest crowd of the season last night (more than 7,700 fans) against the Portland, Maine Sea Dogs, and lost 7-1.

Maybe they can use a little help at the plate from an IBl batting champ…


Larry Baras or Jeffrey Rosen? Which big shot baseball Israel macher will man up to our charity challenge and do a mitzvah? Cast your vote... and stay tuned…

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Our challenge to Larry Baras and Jeffrey Rosen: Guys, do a baseball mitzvah this summer!


So here are after nine months of covering the state of professional baseball in Israel and what have we got to show for it? The players have scattered to the four corners of the Earth, the most prominent being a journeyman from the Dominican Republic who’s made his way up and down in the Yankees farm system; the founder of the Israel Baseball League is facing lawsuit(s) and questions he refuses to answer as he hunkers down in a bunker of his own creation; and the American businessmen who want to take his place with a league of their own have proven to be just as secretive-- and a lot less personable!

And despite our best efforts, in the end there’s no pro ball in Israel this summer.

So how can we make some good out out of this?

How can we get Larry Baras of the Israel Baseball League and the Israel Professional Baseball League's Jeffrey Rosen to do a mitzvah?

Well, leave it to Our Man Elli in Israel to take these lemons and make lemon-flavoured hummus-- in the form of a challenge to the Boston bagel baron and the Miami millionaire Magnetix maven to do something besides lining their pockets and ignoring us.

“I got an email from Janglo, a community bulletin board for Anglos in Jerusalem. Somebody named Shuki Goodman wrote this:

farm program for english speaking kids at risk
is looking for used baseball equipment in decent condition.

Tizku L'Mitzvot,

Shuki Goodman


“Baseball equipment!! For kids at risk! I spoke to Shuki. Turns out, he's from Queens, and he used to be a vendor at Shea Stadium! Now he runs a non-profit program called Chein Farm Learning in the Galilee, in upper Israel. It’s for 14- to 17-year-old kids who, he tells me, are either starting the slide downward, or trying to climb back up.

"Heres a quote: 'One 11-year-old is here for defending his mother from his father's beatings; another kid has been kicked out of 12 schools; another one was depressed and locked himself in his room. Some of these kids have been involved with drugs and alcohol-- not all by any means, but some-- and they're looking to find their place.’

“They stay in a dorm facility, and some of the boys are so attached to the community here that they even stay for Shabbatot,’ Shuki said. ‘Playing baseball is a good thing to keep them busy. It’s a much more gentle sport then basketball or hockey, where one player can be so good he can run over the others. Baseball is so much a team sport. They all need each other, so it creates more of a unity. It teaches better values, getting along, caring for someone else.’

“Hey," Elli says, "I agree.”

And so do we, Elli. So here’s the deal:

Yo! Larry Baras and Jeff Rosen! You both were planning on a baseball season this summer, which we now know will not be happening. So certainly there must be some equipment that you have that will go unused.

Help out Shuki Goodman’s kids!

Here's an opportunity to do something for disadvantaged kids, and at the same time do something to repair your tarnished reputations.

As Shuki Goodman wrote:

Tizku L'Mitzvot.

"You should be worthy of doing mitzvot."

Here's your chance to do a really good deed.

Why not?

It’s even got Sam Peters (at left) smiling! And anyone else who wants to chip in, contact Shuki Goodman at shukig@juno.com.

We'll keep you updated.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Israel baseball's Baras asks court to dismiss suit

With the dream of professional baseball in Israel crushed for the summer of 2008, fans are asking us why no one has sued Israel Baseball League founder and director Larry Baras over the more than one million dollars in debts the Boston bagel baron left behind when he hightailed it back to the States even before the final out was called (he left in the middle of the game and didn't stick around for the trophy ceremony).

While we hear that one Boston-based vendor has initiated proceedings, the lawsuit that caused the IBL crumble after we reported it, was back in court in Boston.

Natalie Blacher was an investor in Baras’ UnHoley Bagel (a bagel stuffed with cream cheese). In September 2007, she sued Baras in federal court for securities fraud, claiming that he used her $275,000 bagel investment for “his personal living expenses or expenses which should be charged to IBL.”

Now Baras’ attorneys filed a motion to have the suit dismissed. “My legal eagle tells me they moved to dismiss the case, saying that the allegations of the suit themselves do not make out a prima facie case,” Our Man Elli in Israel tells us, using a fancy Latin phrase. “The judge didn't rule on that yet-- and given the scheduling order, the scent in the air is that he won't dismiss the case-- although it is possible. The fact that the court required discovery to be taken means that the judge wants the case to either be teed up for summary judgment-- which means that if there's no disputing what the material facts are, the court can rule on the law. Or, if the court determines there are material questions of fact, it will be sent to trial.”

The judge has ordered that parties involved be deposed, including Baras, Blacher— as well as "the accountant for SJR Foods, Inc. (the UhHoley Bagelmakers), and a “representative of the Israel Baseball League.”

Baras has been laying low since the scandal hit the fans, surfacing to reminisce about ballpark franks with his local Jewish newspaper— whose reporter, most interestingly, did not grill him about the big story at hand.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Eladio is again movin' on up with the Yankees

Eladio Rodriguez’s dream of playing for the New York Yankees and the Israel Baseball League’s dreams of validation have been jump-started back to life, as the hard-hitting catcher has again been moved up in the Yankees farm system, a step closer to Yankee Stadium.

A little more than a week ago, a perfect storm of injuries and Yankee player moves had the man they call “E-Rod” poised days away from being called up to The Big Show and The House That Ruth Built. But after playing a single game with the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania Yankees, more roster shuffles sent the 29-year-old packing to the Yankees’ Single A team in Staten Island.

But the Staten Island Baby Bombers don’t open their season until June and after kicking around, Eladio has been kicked up once again; this time across the bridge to New Jersey and to the Yankees’ Double A club, The Trenton Thunder.

Apparently, Eladio has been traveling and taking batting practice with the team for days now, but has only now been added to the roster.

Once again, he steps into a crowded clubhouse, as the third active catcher on the team.

The Man from Mao Valverde, Dominican Republic played in one game this season for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees (Triple-A). He went one for three at Buffalo on April 29th. This is his first professional action since 2003, when he hit .227 for Sarasota (High-A) in 57 games with two hone runs and 20 RBIs in the Boston Red Sox minor league system.

He was originally signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Red Sox on April 24, 1998—as a pitcher.

Though Eladio was last season's IBL batting champ and co-MVP, his minor league contract with the New York Yankees had been mocked as a publicity stunt to generate investment in the IBL. He played winter ball in his home country, but didn’t show up for his original call to spring training in Scranton, due to “visa problems.”

Thursday, May 8, 2008

"My sponsorship offer was no setup! They set me up!" Publicist rages at Israel Professional Baseball League's deception and online smear

“Setup? Setup? I made an honest inquiry in good faith! Running an online ad for contributors and sponsors and then directing dupes to another company? That's a setup! I have a serious job to do and I’m being relied upon to do international marketing for an actual project that’s coming out in the summer of 2008-- not some pipedream. Who do these mooks think they are?

"How dare they accuse me of setting them up when they won’t give me a straight answer? If I weren't a gentlemen and professional they'd get a setup all right! A one-two to the kisser!”

Sam Peters, the publicist for our pals at Frozen Pictures (Full Disclosure: Sam has contributed to this operation) is steaming mad that the American-based businessmen behind the “Israeli Professional Baseball League” sign are accusing him—and Tabloid Baby-- of a “setup” in his query about buying sponsorship for the 2008 IPBL season that its frontmen, led by Miami millionaire Magnetix maven Jeffrey Rosen, continue to promise.

We reported exclusively yesterday that the IPBL's marketing rep Andrew Wilson refused repeatedly to answer Sam’s question of whether there will indeed be a 2008 IPBL season to sponsor and eventually suggested he advertise with the company’s basketball team!

Now, in wake of the international fallout of the implicit confirmation that there will be no IPBL this year, Rosen has responded. But rather than clearing the air with a direct answer, he's emailed copies of internal IPBL emails to Our Man Elli In Israel.

The first is from Andrew Wilson, to Rosen, Israel Association of Baseball president Haim Katz and its secretary-general Peter Kurz.

Date: Wed, 07 May2008 20:54
Subject: IPBL Sponsorship: Looks like it was a set up

Looks like the guy who was inquiring about the sponsorship was setup by tabloid baby. look at this: http://www.tabloidbaby.blogspot.com/

-Andrew


Peter Kurz replied:

Date: Wed, 07 May 2008 21:23:23
Subject: RE: IPBL Sponsorship: Looks like it was a set up

I cannot f--king believe that!!!!
Cant trust anyone these days!!!


Jeffrey Rosen packaged both correspondences and emailed them to Our Man Elli with the note:

“an Israeli weighs in”

Rosen's real motive may have been to continue his childish and anti-Semitic mockery of the internationally-respected journalist Elli Wohlgelernter’s name, by addressing the email to

"Elli Wollinger."

But according to Sam Peters, all of this is beside the point.

“I am livid at these idiots," says the veteran flak. "This was no set-up. This was a serious inquiry about sponsorship of the IPBL in the summer of 2008—in response to their ad! I don’t care what kind of pattycake these guys are playing with Israel’s sports governing body to grease the skids for them to play in 2009.

"I’m trying to run an advertising campaign and when Andrew Wilson strings me along and refuses to give me a straight answer to a simple question— there’s something funny going on here.”

We’ve reported since the beginning of the year that there was little hope for professional baseball in Israel in 2008 in light of the mess left behind by the Israel Baseball League in 2007. And we reported two weeks ago:

"The Israel Professional Baseball League, a rebel band born of the controversy and conflagration surrounding the IBL’s financial scandal, still hasn’t gotten the certification from the Israel Association of Baseball that would allow it to do business. One reason is that the IPBL has not agreed to pick up the million dollars in debt left by Larry Baras and his IBL. We hear that Miami Magnetix maven Jeffrey Rosen (the guy who can’t get Our Man Elli in Israel’s name right) has offered a payoff of $50,000 for the rights—for 2009!"

Tabloid Baby has reported, and in some ways, promoted the IPBL since the idea was first announced in November. The IPBL brass, however, have been very niggardly with information and cooperation, refusing to speak on the record, ignoring our questions, and in the bizarre case of former toymaker Rosen, taunting Our Man Elli.

But in the end, it is our hardworking friend, the publicist and webwriter Sam Peters who is feeling the sting.

“How dare they accuse me of setting them up? The website says specifically -- and I’m reading this off the screen: ‘Triangle is launching a NEW professional baseball league called the (IPBL) for the upcoming 2008 season. If you or your company is interested in becoming an official sponsor, investor, or friend of the (IPBL) please let us know.’ QUOTE! So who’s doing the setting up?

“I demand an apology! And so should sports fans and so should Israelis and so should my fellow Jews!”

As for us and Our Man Elli? Eh. We merely report. You decide.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Field of Life, Pt. 2: The Baseball Kabbalah

Our Man Elli in Israel got a great kick out of Dov Abramson's Baseball Field of Life artwork, and in that light, reminds us that the connection between baseball and the Kabbalah has been bandied about for decades, and points to the writings of Reuven Goldfarb, the self-described "poet laureate, author, balladist, rhapsodist, baseball aficionado, rhymer, writer and kabbalist devotee":

"...My purpose in this article is to examine the resemblances between certain Jewish mystical and moral teachings and the folkways of baseball, beginning with the remarkable congruity I have noticed between the sefirotic Tree of Life and the positions of a team in the field when an opposing player is at bat.

"I will ask you to imagine the layout of a team--three outfielders, four infielders, and the 'battery"'(pitcher and catcher). That's a total of nine players. Add the batter, and you've got ten players on the field at the time the ball is put into play, the same number of Sefirot (spheres or Divine Emanations) that constitutes the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, a schematic drawing of the universe used by mystics to contemplate and comprehend the workings of God, the energy patterns set in motion by the Divine Will.


"According to this analogy, or metaphor, God might have said, 'Play ball!' instead of 'Let there be light!' And you've heard of the seventh inning stretch? Does that sound like Shabbat to you? Well, in any case, the tree, with its ten S'firot, may be superimposed upon the players in the field, poised to begin their game. And this is the correspondence, at least the way I read it:

"Keter /Crown
(Fontanel) Center Field

Chokhmah /Wisdom
(Right Brain) Right Field

Binah /Understanding
(Left Brain) Left Field

Chesed /Lovingkindness/Overflow
(Right Arm) Second Base

Gevurah /Strength/Discipline/Limit Setting
(Left Arm) Shortstop

Tiferet /Beauty/Harmony (
Heart) Pitcher

Netzakh /Victory/Endurance
(Right Thigh) First Base

Hod /Splendor/Grace
(Left Thigh) Third Base

Yesod /Foundation/Communication
(Sign of the Covenant) Batter

Malkhut /Sovereignty/Groundedness
(Feet) Catcher"

Read the entire article here, and as Elli suggests, read here and here while you're at it.

Israel baseball dreams inspire a Field of Life

Don't ever let anyone tell you that the Israel Baseball League left a stain on the Holy Land. Though it ended in financial disarray, accusations and shame, its weeks of play inspired all who watched the players in the game, not of the least of whom was graphic artist Dov Abramson, who's come up with his own spiritual metaphor in “Baseball: Field of Life.”

“A friend showed me an article a couple of years ago about the similarity in form between the [kabala] Tree of Life and the baseball diamond,” Abramson tells Ron Kaplan in the New Jersey Jewish News. “I always thought it would be cool to visualize the idea. I finally sat down and did it for Opening Day, 2008.”

Each defensive position on the baseball diamond, including a spot for the first base umpire, follows the Tree of Life design and retains the Hebrew headings.

"It got great response from baseball fans," Abramson tells Kaplan. "As with some of my work, which almost always deals with Jewish themes — sometimes in unexpected ways — I did expect some raised eyebrows about mixing kabala with baseball. But since I know that I did it with the utmost respect and with no intention of cheapening the kabala, I think it was received well.”

Abramson, 33, was born in Saratoga Springs, NY and now lives with his wife and two daughters in Jerusalem where he works as a “visual communicator.”

The article continues:

“I got bit with the baseball bug before I can remember,” said Abramson, who fondly recalled watching Yankees games broadcast by the late Phil Rizzuto and Warner Wolf on the evening news. “My parents tell the story that on the airplane to Israel, all I cried about was that I was being taken away from baseball.”


Needless to say, Abramson was overjoyed when baseball came to Israel in the form of the Israel Baseball League.

“Pro ball in the Holy Land? Never thought that would happen in my lifetime. So I dusted off the old gloves I brought with me in 1983, packed up the girls, and went to the ballpark at Gezer.”

“Even though I am married to an Israeli, speak Hebrew with my daughters, and rarely travel to the States, I now never miss a game or a stat.”

(...and a tip of the Tabloid Baby hat to authorized IBL biographer Ron Kaplan for the great story...)