A successful start for professional baseball in Israel

Martin Berger couldn't have been happier at the 3,112 crowd turn-out: "It was a dream come true... it set an attendance record for the field."

baseball 88 (photo credit: Efrat Sa'ar)
baseball 88
(photo credit: Efrat Sa'ar)
On a summer evening in late June a dream was realized by bringing baseball to the State of Israel - and the league did rather well. The press conference before the game started a little late and the pre-game ceremonies may have gone a little faster than expected, but trying to find faults in Sunday night's festivities would be a bit picky. The crowd was much larger than expected at 3,112 and player personnel director Martin Berger could not have been happier. "It was a dream come true, its everything we hoped for and more. It was good baseball, and it set an attendance record for the field," he said The late arriving Israeli crowd saw some nerves at the plate and in the field at first but the quality of play improved tremendously as the players just went out and played the game they know and love. "The ceremonies took a while and we needed some more time to warm up," said Pioneers catcher Kevin Brill. "The league is fun and unique. It is great to sign all these autographs for the fans." The access that the fans had to the players and managers was unbelievable. All the teams were here in Petah Tikva tonight. The fans were able to meet and greet anyone that their hearts desires and they seemed pleased with the atmosphere that the baseball provided. Although the majority of the supporters seemed to be of American background there was still a healthy number of Israelis in the crowd. Duncan Orde, a 48-year-old Israeli, was there with his two sons and said he loved the family friendly feel of the game of baseball. "This is my first baseball game, my family is here and its exciting to be part of something brand new. Hats off to them," he said. "It was a better than expected crowd, a lovely setting and good family atmosphere." Joseph Talbass, a 14-year-old from Beersheba, was a little more skeptical about the league. "It's good, it's new here and maybe it will work out in a few years," he said. The game may not have lived up to Joseph's expectations but the cost of a ball game is less than the price of a movie ticket and baseball puts the spectator in the middle of the action. The Israelis weren't used to the foul balls coming at the crowd and a lot of them got a kick out of going after the free memorabilia. For people who were knocking the quality of play, the pitchers threw in the upper 80 mphs, the hitting was solid and everyone seemed to have a great time at the ball park. The Pioneers' Ryan Crotin hit the first home run in IBL history, but said that you can't look at your accomplishments and have to play to win the game. "A home run is one hit, and tonight is just one game. Israelis must know this," he said. You must win when it counts. They played well and will play another one tommorrow." Crotin's shot flew over the fence going around 340 feet, the lone highlight in the game for Petah Tikva. There may be some criticisms towards the Israel Baseball League but the league looks like something which will stick around longer than the skeptics will admit to.