Israel looks to the United States for baseball tutors
By Steve Ginsburg
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Baseball is known as the national pastime of the United States. The same cannot be said in Israel, but a new program enlisting American Jewish ballplayers is aimed at honing the skills of Israeli hopefuls and elevating the game there.
The Israel Association of Baseball (IAB) is hoping its "Israel Baseball Experience" program, importing the American players for five months starting in January to play in the top Israeli baseball league, will turn out to be a grand slam.
"We want guys to come over just to raise the level of playing and coaching in the country," said Nate Fish, the association's head national team coach. "If you can take 10 or 20 Division I college baseball players and you put them in the Premier League it would drastically impact the level of play. I'm not really worried about having too many of these guys."
Art Shamsky, an outfielder with the 1969 World Series champion New York Mets who in 2007 served as manager of a team in a now-defunct Israeli baseball league, said his Israeli players "didn't understand the nuances of the game."
"Baseball is a very subtle game in a lot of ways," Shamsky said. "Sure, there's run, throw, hit, pitch and field. But there are parts of the game you learn playing Little League or in high school. They didn't have that."
Shamsky, who is Jewish, said there are some Israeli players who have some ability. "I wouldn't rule out some player over there eventually playing minor league ball and then make it to the big leagues (in the United States). This program could help make it happen."
Shamsky, 74, said the program, sponsored by the IAB and Masa Israel Journey, could help Israel qualify for the World Baseball Classic (WBC), an international tournament sponsored by Major League Baseball.