The national junior softball team is leaving Sunday for the European Softball Federation Championships in the Czech Republic. The squad, for players aged 14-19, is made up of teens from all over Israel, including Tel Aviv, Rehovot, Dimona and Eilat.
In addition to powerhouses Denmark and the host country, the Israelis, who two years ago came in fourth place out of six teams, will face Croatia, Slovakia and Russia.
"If we play hard, we always have a chance, no matter who we are playing," said Etai Mayerfeld, who plays second base.
"For over six months, we have been working hard in practices that are anywhere from two- to three-hours long," commented head coach Gerson "Goose" Gillette.
Gillette felt that the team has a strong infield and outfield, as well as good pitching. Overall, the team's defense is quite strong, but hitting might be its weakness.
"If you have a strong bunch of guys at the positions, then you'll be fine", said Gillette, "and I believe we have just that."
The first round is scheduled for Tuesday, while the final is slated for Saturday. If Israel reaches the championship game, some of the players may not to play due to Shabbat observance.
"A couple of my religious players said they would play on Shabbat since it's only a five- or 10-minute walk to the field [from where they are staying], but the players from Dimona wont play," noted Gillette.
While the Israel Softball Association also fields national girls and senior boys teams, the junior (boys) squad will be the lone Israeli representative at the ESF championships.
Coach Gillette expected to place third in the tournament, right behind tournament favorites Denmark and the Czech Republic.
"We are proud to represent the State of Israel and we will give our best effort," he said.