baseball 298 88.
(photo credit: Jay L. Abramoff)
With less than a week to go till Sunday's Opening Day of the new Israel Baseball League, excitement is building. On Monday the League announced that the first game between the Modiin Miracle and the Petah Tikva Pioneers is close to being sold out, with some 2,000 spectators expected to fill Yarkon Field in Tel Aviv.
"Ticket requests have been awesome," said IBL's business operations director Bob Ruxin. "Israeli communities, youth teams and companies are organizing group outings, droves of North Americans have scheduled visits to Israel to coincide with the opener, and we even have a fan coming in from India just to catch the first game. There will be a tremendous buzz, one big party."
Ruxin said fans will be encouraged to tailgate before the game, with beer and barbecued food available outside.
The game of baseball has always been known as "America's Pastime," and many of the thousands of former US residents now living in Israel are looking forward to having the chance to attend games for the first time since they moved to the holy land.
"It's going to be like in America, where you can take your family to the games and have a nice time," 19-year-old ex-New Yorker Steven Feldman said, adding that he believes people will see baseball as a more family orientated sport compared to the raucus atmosphere at local soccer games.
Another former American, Rabbi Avi Perlowitz, is more than looking forward to the league.
"I have waited a long time for professional baseball to come to Israel. I can't wait to take my son to his first game. Go Blue Sox!" said Perlowitz, a rabbi and social worker from Ramat Beit Shemesh who will be cheering for his home team the Beit Shemesh Blue Sox.
However, there is a degree of skepticism among local Israelis. "I think that it is a good idea, especially in places where there is a significant American populace.
"However, I do not think that it will pick up in the State of Israel," said Israeli sports fan Jeremy Weiss.
"Unless they bring in some MLB stars from America, I don't think that Israelis will have much interest in the league."
IBL director of public relations Marty Appel was formerly the director of public relations for the New York Yankees. He stressed that the IBL is making an effort to attract as many local fans as possible.
Tickets for the games are at affordable prices and the league will be broadcast each Sunday night on the Sport5 television channel.
To make the IBL a fast paced sport like basketball, the games have been shortened to seven innings rather then the usual nine, with an exciting home run derby coming after a tie at the end of regulation.
There will be entertainment between innings and various promotional dates such harmonica night and Israeli idol night, a takeoff from the wildly popular American reality TV show.
"We are hopeful that Israelis will sample the league and find baseball as appealing as American Jews have for more than 150 years," Appel said.
"We have created a game that is faster paced than the American version, will have great barbeque at the games, and it will be a great family outing.
"This is a labor of love for all of those who love Israel and love baseball."