Maccabiah softball action 248.88.
(photo credit: Uriel Sturm )
After two tense days of Maccabiah softball drama, the action was back where it belonged Thursday - on the field - at the Baptist Village in Petah Tikva.
The competition had been suspended since Tuesday afternoon when the Petah Tikva municipality enforced a stoppage order at the Yarkon Sports Complex fields because the venue lacked a business license.
After a mad administrative dash to complete all of the necessary inspections and submit the permits to City Hall, the license was finally granted late Wednesday night and the sweet sounds of bat-meeting-ball and ball-thumping-into-mitt filled the Baptist Village air once again, beginning with the first pitch of the day at 8:34 a.m. bright Thursday morning.
"It is a great feeling and a huge relief to have the players back on the field, where they should have been all long," Alex Crane, Assistant Director of Field Operations at the Baptist Village, told The Jerusalem Post.
"We were disappointed enough that we missed a day and a half of games, but now we are back and cramming to make it all up.
"We have the best fields for softball in the country and it would have been a real shame if they would have sat empty for the Maccabiah."
Both of the main baseball diamonds at the Yarkon Sports Complex had to be put in use for the entire day - from the first contest at 8:30 a.m. to a scheduled 11:30 p.m. finishing time for the last game of the night, between Canada and Mexico.
In fact, the Petah Tikva police showed up at the fields on Thursday morning and attempted to rain on the Maccabiah softball parade once again, claiming that the lighting in the ball park was not sufficient to accommodate night games.
However, the grounds crew immediately went out to purchase additional outdoor light fixtures and ensure that there would be no further delay to the much-anticipated tournament .
A silver lining in an otherwise ill-timed and embarrassing delay provided a phenomenal slate of action for the hardcore softball savant, who could have been kept bouncing around all day between the 10 total games for 23-total hours of game-time between the two fields over a thrill-packed Thursday.
"The pent-up demand and extra publicity, even if not for the best of reasons, brought a lot of people to the ball park today," Crane admitted. "I guess that's not a bad thing at all."
Thirteen teams total, in three separate divisions comprising 400 athletes, are in Israel participating in the tournament, making the softball competition one of the largest events of the entire Maccabiah Games.
There will be a whopping 56 contests played over five days at the Baptist Village, with the double round-robin preliminary round followed by the single elimination playoffs.
While Israel has traditionally been cast as a lovable loser in the host's role in Maccabiah softball, the Israel Softball Association has put a stronger emphasis on developing the program and the improved results are clearly evident on the field. On Thursday night at 9:30, the Americans and Israeli's faced off against each other in the showcase game of the day in the evening.
Beneath the lights and before a crowd of close to 300, Israel jumped out to a 2-0 first-inning lead on a two-run single by Aviv Yaacov after the bases had been walked loaded. The US offense got to pitcher Israel Spira in the bottom of the frame, scoring three runs to take a lead they would not relinquish, en route to an 11-4 victory.
US shortstop Nathan Fish - who grew up in Brooklyn and played baseball at the University of Cincinnati as well as in 2007's Israel Baseball League - led the way, going 4-4 with four RBIs and three runs scored, finishing just a double short of the cycle.
"We really have been playing better and better each game," said Israeli head coach Ami Baran after the loss. "Whereas, in the past, we were losing 9-0, 12-2, basically getting blown out each game, we are demonstrating our ability to play competitively against these other teams and we have a real chance in this thing."
The games get back under way early Friday morning, with a full schedule being packed in before Shabbat.
The Israel-Mexico game that was interrupted on Tuesday by the police will resume exactly where it left off - in the top of the second with Mexico leading 3-0 - on Saturday night at 9:30.
In an interesting twist to the story, the Baptist community of Birmingham, Alabama sent a crew of volunteers to Israel this week to help out at the softball venue in Petah Tikva.
Wearing bright yellow shirts with the Maccabiah insignia, these kind-hearted Christians are a large presence at the Village - from directing traffic to painting the lines on the diamonds - and have ensured that every part of the organization has been run smoothly after this week's hiccup.
Terry Markus, Chairman and head coach of the US men's softball team, summed up the sentiment among the Maccabiah softball participants perfectly after his team's victory.
"I feel a bit disappointed with how things started out, but we are all really ecstatic to be here. Now that everything is back to business, we just want to enjoy Israel, play ball and represent our country while meeting Jews from all around the world."