Israeli left fielder Blake Gailen reacts after his strikeout in the top of the eighth inning during the World Baseball Classic Pool E second round match between Israel and Japan at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo on March 15, 2017.
(photo credit: TORU YAMANAKA / AFP)
Israel’s remarkable run at the World Baseball Classic came to an end on Wednesday, but manager Jerry Weinstein believes the success of the team can have a lasting effect on the future of the game in the country.
After the Netherlands beat Cuba 14-1 earlier in the day, Israel knew that it would have to defeat Japan to maintain any chance of reaching the semifinals at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
For five innings, Israel kept Japan at bay, with the score tied at 0-0. However, five runs for the hosts in the sixth inning blew the game open and there was no way back for the blue-and-white after Japan increased its lead to 8-0 in the eighth inning, with Israel ultimately going down 8-3.
Japan ended Pool E with a 3-0 record, with Netherlands advancing from second place at 2-1. Israel finished in third at 1-2, ahead of Cuba at 0-3.
Israel faces first defeat at World Baseball Classic in Tokyo, Japan on March 13, 2017 (credit: REUTERS)
Despite the disappointing defeat and exit, Israel will look back at its first-ever participation in the tournament as an outstanding success.
Israel stunned the baseball world by winning Pool A with a 3-0 record to advance to the last eight. The team, which is built around MLB-affiliated Jewish Americans, beat South Korea, Chinese Taipei and the Netherlands in Seoul before surprising Cuba in its first game in the last eight in Tokyo. However, a 12-2 loss to the Netherlands on Monday complicated Israel’s situation and the defeat to Japan sealed its fate.
Israel manager Weinstein insisted he always expected big things from the team.
“I feel good that people feel we had a good team and that we competed, and we surprised some people,” said Weinstein. “We didn’t surprise the people in that locker room or in that dugout. Maybe we didn’t have the best ability people, but we had the most competitive people, and I appreciate the efforts those 28 guys gave us and Israel.”
Weinstein is hopeful that the team’s display will help the growth of baseball in Israel.
“My hope is that by virtue of playing in the World Baseball Championship and doing well it heightens awareness worldwide, but especially in Israel, so it can get more government support, build fields, hire staff,” he explained.
“There’s a lot of American Jews that follow baseball and maybe they will sign up to support and donate money so that we can grow the program in Israel so the next time a manager sits in front of you, he’ll be talking about Israeli national players playing in the WBC. Not a group of American Jewish players who are identifying or connected to Israel. But players that were born in the State of Israel and compete in this tournament.”
Weinstein also believes the team’s success can help inspire young Jewish-Americans.
“I think that there are Jewish kids in the United States that maybe wouldn’t play baseball, but as a result of seeing this Jewish team, who are made up mostly of Americans, they will,” he said. “I think everybody has recognized what they have done and I think that will inspire all young kids, but especially young Israelis and young Jewish kids in the United States.”