A guide to the teams battling for supremacy in the IBL

A look at the six teams competing for a place in the Israel Baseball League Championship Game on August 19.

IBL 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
IBL 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Beit Shemesh Blue Sox The Blue Sox are managed by former Yankees star Ron Blomberg, and will play at Gezer Field in Kibbutz Gezer. They are led by Australian outfield star Jason Rees. "I don't know much about the history of baseball in Israel, but the first year is really exciting," he said. "I got really good vibes from the community and players, and everyone's excited about playing in the league." The Blue Sox boasts Dominican Catcher Carlos Martinez, who was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds. They also have Miami based speedster Johnny Lopez, 45-year-old outfielder Alan Gardner. Former University of Virginia outfielder Sean Slaughter rounds out the position players. Slaughter played with major league star David Wright, Tampa Bay player BJ Upton, and minor league prospect Josh Rupe. The ace of the pitching staff is Jason Benson, Dominican righty Juan Feliciano played professionally in Japan, and Jeff Mor is from Beit Shemesh and will probably be a fan favorite. Ben Pincus is a hard throwing left hander, and Gregg Raymundo played just one step below the major leagues in 2005, playing in Triple-A Indianapolis in the Pittsburgh Pirates orginazation. The team's 'first game will be Monday night against the Netanya Tigers. Modi'in Miracle The Miracle is managed by former New York Met Art Shamsky, who was a vital member of their World Series winning team in 1969. The Miracle will also play at Gezer Field. Modi'in's coach Tony Ferrara is one of the best batting practice pitchers in the majors, and appeared in Robert Redford's "The Natural," considered one of the best sports films of all time. On the field, Dominican Catcher Eladio Rodriguez brings a big time experience having played seven years in the Boston Red Sox minor league system. Oren Gal is a Canadian middle infielder who was an Israeli Yeshiva student last year, Aaron Levin is a power hitting first baseman who was the first overall pick in the entire league, and outfielder Dan Drori would like to play for Israel in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. "That would be something that I can't even describe. I would be taking the country I was born to the next level, and be a part of history," he said. "This league will show the talent of Jewish players." Moko Moanaroa is a 17-year-old outfielder from New Zealand, and can really hit the baseball despite his tender age. Australian Matt Bennett played independent ball in 2004, Maximo Nelson was a Yankees minor leaguer in 2004, and Nate Rosenberg is a 17-year-old Israeli pitcher. The Miracle will play its opening game on Sunday against the Petah Tikva Pioneers. Netanya Tigers Manager Ami Baran is a popular Israeli figure, who coaches the national softball teams, and iz a leading figure in the Israeli police. The Tigers will play at Sportek Field in Tel Aviv and boast Dominican Shortstop Hector de los Santos, 18-year-old Israeli national player Amit Kurz, and High Point University outfielder Josh Doane. First round selection Dan Rootenberg is an outfielder from New York who played in the independent Frontier League, teams in Europe, and Binghampton University. Rootenberg is confident that baseball in Israel will eventually become big. "I couldn't be more excited to be here, brining baseball to Israel. It may take a while, but once they see it, the Israelis will get hooked. Baseball will become one of the new sports in Israel," he said. Leon Feingold is a pitcher who played in the Cleveland Indians' organization and in the independent Atlantic League. Netanaya will battle Beit Shemesh in its opening game on Monday night. Petah Tikva Pioneers The Pioneers are managed by former top big league pitcher Ken Holtzman, the winningest Jewish pitcher in MLB history. The Pioneers will play in their own backyard at the Yarkon Field in Baptist Village. Michael Olson is a 17-year-old catcher from Australia, and Seth Binder was a teammate of big leaguer Delmon Young. Willis Bumphus played for a few years in the independent Golden League, and Ryan Crotin played professionally in Germany, Australia, and Canada. Reynaldo Cruz could be one of the best players in the league. The 24-year-old outfielder played in the Seattle Mariners organization. Omri Modiano starts in center field for the Israeli national team, and Aaron Rosdal played for Division 1 Emory University. The Pioneers have a pair of the oldest pro baseball players in the world - 46-year-old Alex Alexenberg, and 51-year-old Scott Cantor. Pitcher Abel Moreno led the Angels' organization in earned run average in 2004, and Alper Ulutas is a talented pitcher from Brooklyn. Ra'anana Express The Express will also have their home field at Baptist Village in Petah Tikva, and will be managed by Australian semi-pro skipper Shaun Smith. Smith who is looking forward to leading an IBL ballclub. "I think it's fantastic. The development of the league is a wonderful opportunity," he said. "I'm excited to manage every day and make Israel baseball something to come and watch, so young kids could aspire to play." Coach Leo Vargas is from the Dominican Republic, and has coached in the minor leagues and helped out numerous Dominican players. Third Baseman Donnie Mott Jr. is a fleet footed 21-year-old from Miami, and posted the fastest times at the Miami tryouts. Brendan Rubenstein played at Division 1 Wright State University, and Matt Castillo played for Smith in Australia. Pitcher Danny Maddy-Weitzman is a 20-year-old Pitcher who currently serves in the IDF, and is a Ra'anana resident. Hurler Nathan Mittag played for top flight Bucknell University and was invited to play in the prestigious Cape Cod Summer League. Esequiere Pie is a 23 year old Dominican Pitcher who was drafted by the Florida Marlins and also pitched for Licey in the Dominican League. 18 year old John Thew played professionally in Australia, Columbian Max Donald Vazquez played in the pro league in his native land. The Express will open up its season on Monday night against the Tel Aviv Lightning. Tel Aviv Lightning The Lightning is managed by longtime Miami area college coach Steve Hertz, and will play locally at Sportek Field in Tel Aviv. Hertz played in the major leagues for the Houston Colt-45's (now the Astros) and coached Detroit Tigers All Star Placido Polanco. Anderson Mejia may be the best catcher in the IBL, having been drafted by the Cubs. He also pitched while he was in the minor leagues. Dane Wigg also played for Express manager Shaun Smith in Australia and can play all nine positions on the field. Matt Brill played for Mercer University, and Raul Franco is one of the finest shortstops in the Dominican, winning a batting title there. Nate Fish played baseball at the University of Cincinnati, and can't wait to get on the field: "I can't wait to get it all started. I'll try to hit before the season, but the real routine will start once the games do," he said. Sam Marthinsen played for Lewis & Clark University, and Stuart Perez Brito played professionally in Japan, and is known by the nickname "Big Papi". He's also a veteran of the Dominican League and will be one of the league's top power hitters. Orr Gottlieb is the home run king of Israeli baseball, Jeff Hastings is 37 and played in the independent Atlantic and Can-Am leagues, and Bryan Langboard is the all time leader in doubles at Emory University. Josh Matlow played Division 1 at Canisius, Adam Crabb is a Pitcher who was one of the first players that were signed by the league, and Mike Etkin is known as "Wild Thing". Tel Aviv will play Ra'anana in its first game on Monday.