Israel national baseball team
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|Federation||Israel Association of Baseball|
The Israel national baseball team is a national team of Israel and is controlled by the Israel Association of Baseball. It represents the nation in senior-level men's international competition. The team is a member of the CEB.
Israel had competed in the European Championship B Pool starting in 2004 (due to Anti-Semitism by other regional groupings, Israel plays in European sporting tournaments despite not being in Europe). When the team played in the 2012 World Baseball Classic Qualifiers, with its looser rules, any Jewish players were eligible. Israel stocked up with MLB veterans like Shawn Green, Gabe Kapler and Josh Satin as well as future MLB star Joc Pederson but it was Nate Freiman who dazzled with four homers in three games. They did better in the 2016 World Baseball Classic Qualifiers with dazzling pitching from Corey Baker, Jason Marquis, Josh Zeid and Brad Goldberg while Cody Decker and Ryan Lavarnway paced a balanced offense as Israel moved on to the 2017 World Baseball Classic. In their first World Baseball Classic, Israel made it to the second round, with Marquis and Zeid again dominant on the hill, while Lavarnway, Ike Davis and Freiman all had an OPS of over 1000. Zeid led the event in ERA and made the All-Tournament team.
Meanwhile, Israel had not even made it to the European Championship, still stuck in the B pool, though they had come close. They reinforced their team in 2019 with a bunch of American Jewish players who obtained Israeli citizenship to boost the country's shot at the 2020 Olympics, including MLB veterans Jon Moscot, Danny Valencia, Zack Weiss and Ty Kelly. With strong hitting from independent league veterans Blake Gailen, Mitch Glasser and Zach Penprase and pitching from Matt Soren, Gabe Cramer and Joey Wagman, the team won the 2019 B-Level European Championship in Blagoevgrad over a Cuban-infused Russian national team, then topped Lithuania in the 2019 European Championship Playoff. They made it to the 2019 European Championship, finishing a strong 4th out of 12; they lost a slugfest with Spain in the Bronze Medal Game while resting their top pitchers for the 2019 Europe/Africa Olympic Qualifier (having already won a spot there by making the top five). Gailen and Simon Rosenbaum had been their offensive leaders, not their MLB veterans, while Wagman, Weiss, DJ Sharabi, Jonathan de Marte and Moscot all had 0.00 ERAs. In the Olympic Qualifier, they edged the Netherlands; both teams were 4-1 but Israel won the head-to-head game. Valencia led the event in homers, runs, RBI, slugging and walks while Wagman, de Marte and Benny Wanger were superb on the hill. That got them to the 2020 Olympics, the first time an Israeli squad in any sport had made an Olympic team event since the 1970s.
- Barry Bearak: "Wanted: Jewish Ballplayers", The New York Times, September 18, 2012