Following The World Baseball Classic’s expansion of the international competition to include 28 teams in 2013, from the 16 teams that competed in 2009, baseball officials in Israel are doing everything possible to qualify for a spot in the tournament.
That includes a recent fundraiser held at the City Winery in New York to raise money for the Israeli team’s preparation ahead of the WBC in March of next year.
“Sunday night was to raise money for the team for qualifiers,” Peter Kurz, the Secretary General of the Israeli Association of Baseball told The Algemeiner. “The WBC pays expenses for heading to the tournament, but we want to have a training camp and to bring players to Israel during the winter time, if we win the qualifiers before March.”
Kurz added that if the Israeli team doesn’t make it out of the four-team group competing for a single spot in the Classic – which includes France, South Africa, and Spain – he would still like to bring the players to Israel.
According to the WBC’s eligibility rules, the immigration policies of each individual competing nation apply to that country’s roster eligibility. Therefore, Jewish players who are not citizens of Israel are allowed to play for the Israeli team.
The American owner of Israel’s Maccabi Haifa basketball team, Jeffrey Rosen, who has been a major backer of Israeli baseball told The Algemeiner that the opportunity is historic, “I’ve been a supporter of Israeli Baseball for many years and having Israel participate in the World Baseball Classic qualifiers is truly a historic event for Israeli baseball,” he said.
Shlomo Lipetz, a dominate pitcher who helped lead Israel to a second place finish during last summer’s European qualifiers, is now the programming director at City Winery, and was instrumental in setting up Sunday evening’s event.
A series of fundraisers to support Israel’s bid for the 2013 Classic are scheduled to take place over the next five months, with future venues including Camden Yards in Baltimore and Yankee Stadium in New York.
Kurz noted that as baseball in Israel continues to grow in popularity, the IAB is looking for their “very own Bob Kraft”. Kraft owns the New England Patriots and has taken his love for American football (and the Jewish state) to Israel by helping build a stadium for the sport in Jerusalem, and providing funding for the Kraft Family Israel Football League.
“We have three main goals,” Kurz said. “First is to win the qualifiers to get to the WBC. Second is to promote baseball in Israel, and third, we’re looking for donors for a new baseball facility.”
“We need $4 million by the end of 2012 to build a Field of Dreams by 2014.”