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November 16, 2011 9:56 am

Former Major Leaguers to Help Israel In WBC Bid

avatar by Levi Epstein

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New York Mets outfielder Shawn Green. Photo: Wknight94.

After a brief conference with Israeli baseball officials in Los Angeles, three Jewish former Major League stars, Shawn Green, Gabe Kapler and Brad Ausmus, relayed their intentions to join “Team Israel” in its bid to compete for the upcoming 2013 World Baseball Classic. “I’m pretty confident that it wouldn’t be too huge a mountain to climb to get back and play. I feel a strong connection to Israel and it would be an honor to put on the uniform,” said former New York Mets outfielder, Shawn Green, in an interview with the Associated Press.

All three of the now-retired Major Leaguers have made a large impact in the professional arena. Ausmus, who played in the Majors for 18 years, was a three-time Gold Glove Award winner as a catcher for the Houston Astros. Kapler, who competed at the big league level for 13 years, was regarded as a valuable hitter with exceptional power, in addition to being a World Series Champion with the 2004 Boston Red Sox. And Green, who was picked by the Toronto Blue Jays in the first round of the 1991 MLB draft, was a two- time NL All-Star with the Los Angeles Dodgers, as well as the holder of numerous Major League records: most runs ever scored in a single game (6) and most home runs consecutively hit (4.)

The World Baseball Classic, a tournament similar to the highly-celebrated Soccer World Cup, is played once every four years, by countries from around the world. Since its inception in 2006, the WBC is a testament to how baseball, “the great American pastime,” that Americans of all ages have celebrated over the last century-and-a-half, has developed appeal beyond the shores of the USA. In March 2013 a total of 20 national teams will contend in the recently established tournament, which is marking its third consecutive event.

Today, more than 70 countries worldwide lay claim to a professional baseball team – among them Israel. And In a country that is relatively new to the sport Israel certainly lacks little in its objective of making itself a legitimate contender on the international stage, a prospect sure to satisfy the country’s many American-born citizens. For the upcoming tournament, Commissioner of Major League Baseball, Bud Selig, has extended an invitation to another 16 international teams eager to compete in a newly-implemented qualifying round. The top four countries of that round will be permitted to participate in the WBC. Israel is determined to be among them.

As to the extent of their participation with the Israeli team, the three Jewish baseball retirees have not yet made apparent as to what their intentions are. It is presently assumed that one of them will take on the job of managing the club, and when asked they said that the possibility of donning uniforms and taking the field as eligible players is certainly not out of the question. The 39-year-old Green said that he would help the team “in any capacity.”

Moreover, this extraordinary initiative – having a number of ex-Major League players on board to revitalize Israel’s professional baseball program – is a prospect that definitely pleases Jewish baseball fans the world over.

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