Israel has finalized its 28-man roster for the upcoming World Baseball Classic (WBC), headlined by former Major League Baseball (MLB) outfielders Shawn Green and Gabe Kapler.
Second baseman Josh Satin, currently part of the New York Mets’ minor league system, is the team’s only other player with MLB experience, “Team Israel” said in a Sept. 14 press release. Green and Kapler are both player/coaches, and former MLB catcher Brad Ausmus will manage the squad.
Israel—whose first game is against South Africa on Sept. 19—is among 16 countries participating in the qualifying stage of the international tournament, with the top four advancing to the WBC in March 2013.
“[Israel’s Word Baseball Classic team] impacts the North American and Israeli Jewish communities more than the athletes themselves,” Kapler told JNS.org last year. “Those people are going to be psyched. It’s worth dreaming about what could happen because this creates momentum and excitement, which in turn gets more people who want to participate [in the Israeli team’s efforts].”
This is Israel’s first WBC qualifier. The team is mainly comprised of American-born Jewish players who are allowed to compete because they can claim Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return. Three of the team’s 28 players were born in Israel—Shlomo Lipetz, Alon Leichman and Dan Rothem—and 10 are from the Los Angeles area.
While baseball was introduced to Israel in 1927, it has been slow to catch on. Currently, between 1,000 and 3,000 Israelis play in organized baseball or softball leagues, according to the Times of Israel. A number of attempts have been made to grow the sport in the Jewish state, including the Israel Baseball League (IBL), an experiment that ended after one year in 2007.
If Israel advances past the qualifying round, several current Jewish MLB stars may join the team, including Chicago White Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, and Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler. Besides South Africa, France and Spain are in Israel’s qualifying round bracket.