Israel fell to Spain, 9-7, in 10 innings Sunday to end the Jewish state’s run in the World Baseball Classic (WBC).
Two days earlier, Israel had defeated Spain, 4-2, behind two home runs from San Diego Padres prospect Nate Freiman, who also slugged two homers in the team’s 7-3 win over South Africa Sept. 19 in the first game of the WBC’s qualifying round in Jupiter, Fla.
Israel’s 28-man roster was headlined by former Major League Baseball (MLB) outfielders Shawn Green and Gabe Kapler. The team was mainly comprised of American-born Jewish players who were 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 were 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 were to have advanced past the qualifying round, several current Jewish MLB players reportedly would have considered joining the team, including Chicago White Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, and Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler.