In its first attempt to reach the World Baseball Classic, Israel begins its qualifying stage on Wednesday against South Africa.
The two teams are joined by Spain and France in Jupiter, Florida, as the squads hope to gain a spot in the premier international tournament for baseball, scheduled to take place in March of 2013.
“Really, it’s a matter of getting these players together who have for the most part never played together,” former Major League Baseball catcher Brad Ausmus told MLB.com. Ausmus is the head coach of Israel’s national team.
“It’s a matter of getting them on the field together, allowing them to learn how to communicate with each other, understanding what each player does at their position and then just getting the repetitions so they get comfortable with each other on the field,” he continued.
Multiple American-Jewish professional baseball players will join the Israeli qualifying team due to WBC rules which allow a country’s citizenship laws to determine eligibility in fielding a team.
Team Israel also features Shlomo Lipitz, a right handed pitcher who threw 16 straight innings in a European qualifying tournament. Lipitz also helped the team raise money ahead of their efforts to qualify for the World Baseball Classic.
If the Israeli squad advances out of the qualifying round, which ends on Sunday, they’ll be joined by Gold Glove infielder Kevin Youkilis next March. Youkilis, an All-Star at the Major League level, has committed to playing for the Israeli team and is eligible due to his Jewish roots.