When the Israel Baseball League held its draft on April 26th it seemed that Director of Player Personnel, Martin Berger, had completed his job for the league's inaugural season, set to begin play on June 24th.
But less than a month after receiving commitments from more than 120 players from across world, Berger inherited a much larger workload when he was named President and Chief Operating Officer by Commissioner Daniel Kurtzer (former US ambassador to Israel and Egypt) and league founder and Managing Director, Larry Baras.
"It's an incredible honor to be working with the people I'm working with," Berger told The Jerusalem Post. "I'm looking forward to it; we've got a lot of goals we want to obtain."
One goal Berger completed almost as soon as being named president was filling the final managerial position by naming Israeli Ami Baran as skipper of the Netanya Tigers. Baran is well respected in the Israeli sports world as a long-time head coach on the national team level in Israeli softball and track and field as well as his work with the Wingate Institute, Israel's sports certification and training authority. Baran joins the league's other managers: former major leaguers Ken Holtzman, Art Shamsky, Ron Blomberg, and Steve Hertz and Australian Shaun Smith,an addition that Berger believes is essential for an Israeli league. While Berger notes that Baran's signing is more than "just having an Israeli," he also recognizes the importance of an Israeli manager.
"We were steadfast in our intention to name an Israeli to the final manager's position. It is important to our program, it is important to the young Israelis who are now coming up through the ranks of amateur play in Israel. And it is an important message to convey to the international baseball fraternity," Berger said.
League officials hope that Baran, who will take a leave of absence from his day job as a major for the Israeli police force, will help draw interest from Israeli's who know very little about baseball. He has also been appointed the Israeli Director of the Dan Duquette Baseball and Softball Academy headed by IBL Director of Baseball Operations, Dan Duquette.
Commissioners Kurtzer, Baras, Berger, and Duquette expect the Israel branch of the Duquette Academy to play a key role in developing Israeli players for the IBL and, should Israel qualify, the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
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