baseball 298 88.
(photo credit: Jay L. Abramoff)
The clock has been ticking away on the Israel Baseball League's Web site as the first pitch is now less than two months away.
The nation's newest professional sports league will hold its draft Thursday night at Cardozo Law School in New York City.
The draft, which will be broadcast on the IBL's Web site on Sunday night, will be hosted by ESPN's Jeremy Schapp, with IBL director of player personnel Martin Berger also on hand to evaluate the players.
Berger and former Red Sox general manager and IBL director of baseball operations, Dan Duquette, have done most of the work to provide the representatives of each of the six teams with the best players available.
"It was such a great process getting the 120 guys," Berger told The Jerusalem Post. "Everyone is so excited to find out where they're going to be playing."
A league official has been assigned to each team to make the draft selections, but each of these representatives will also be aided by player scouting reports compiled by Duquette and Berger. Due to time constraints, only about 60 players will be drafted Thursday and league officials will assign the remaining players following the draft.
The pool of players is comprised of those selected over the past several months from various tryouts in the United States, Israel and the Dominican Republic, which Berger considers to be the most successful.
"Those guys were so good, it was ridiculous," said Berger of the tryouts in the Dominican Republic. "Of the 110 players that tried out, we were interested in 110 of them."
Not all 110 could be signed, however, as Berger and Duquette narrowed the Dominicans down to 14 to ensure diversity.
About the same number of Israelis have been signed while the rest of the players come from colleges and minor leagues in the US and independent leagues all over the world.
Upon the conclusion of the draft, Berger and Duquette will have completed their primary work for the inaugural season, but for the rest of the league, there is still plenty to be done.
"There's so much work to do, I haven't even had a chance to get excited," said league founder and managing director Larry Baras.
But after recently returning from a one-week trip to Israel, during which he met with various city officials and contractors, Baras finally had a chance to let it sink in.
"This is the first time, coming back from the trip this time where I could truly see what the facilities are going to be like, that I came back excited," he said.
The three facilities - the Yarkon Sports Complex at Baptist Village in Petah Tikva, Sportek in Tel Aviv and Kibbutz Gezer - are all expected to be ready for opening day on June 24.
Tickets for the games, including opening day, have gone on sale on the IBL Web site. League officials are already expecting high attendance for opening day, thanks in part to the Jewish National Fund's "Field of Dreams" Mission to Israel, a one-week trip from the US that includes a ticket to the first game.
The Jewish National Fund previously teamed up with the IBL in March 2006 for "Project Baseball," a campaign to build community baseball fields throughout Israel.
As the countdown clock approaches zero, league officials are looking forward to the anticipation ending and the season beginning.
Said Berger, "I'm excited, I'm ready to go."