Archive for the ‘Israeli sports’ Category


Maccabiah mentions: An occasional look at who’s going to the Games

Posted on: May 19th, 2017 by Ron Kaplan No Comments

An occasional look at who will be participating in the upcoming 20th Maccabiah Games in Israel…

And a shameless self promotion for my book, The Jewish Olympics: The History of the Maccabiah Games.


Maccabiah mentions: An occasional look at who’s going to the Games

Posted on: April 21st, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

An occasional look at who will be participating in the upcoming 20th Maccabiah Games in Israel…

And a shameless self promotion for my book, The Jewish Olympics: The History of the Maccabiah Games.

Maccabiah mentions: An occasional look at who’s going to the Games

Posted on: April 7th, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

An occasional look at who will be participating in the upcoming 20th Maccabiah Games in Israel…

And a shameless self promotion for my book, The Jewish Olympics: The History of the Maccabiah Games.

I hope you want that on the rocks…

Posted on: March 28th, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

Admit it — you always do a double-take when you see “ice hockey” and “Israel” in the same sentence. So enjoy this story about visiting New Zealand to compete in the IIHF World Championships this April.

Image result for israel ice hockey

Shalom, Israel

Posted on: March 16th, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

As you probably know by now, Israel was eliminated from the WBC by virtue of an 8-3 loss to Japan early yesterday. Hardly seems fair, considering Japan was undefeated and playing in front of their home-town fans. Still, it was heartwarming to see so many supporters in the stands.

Israel actually made it a bit exciting, scoring all their runs in the top of the ninth, but you knew it was just prolonging the inevitable.

It was a great ride and I’m looking forward to Heading Home, the documentary that is in the works chronicling the experience. Look for a conversation with the creative team behind the film in the days to come.

A few final links before heading off into the WBC sunset (unless Ian Kinsler or Alex Bregman supply some heroics for Team USA) Bear in mind, my laziness in posting these in a timely manner might make some of these stories a bit moot.

Team Israel

Cody Decker bids farewell to Mensch on a Bench, the team’s mascot.

Thus endeth the streak: Israel loses to the Netherlands at WBC

Posted on: March 13th, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

The Netherlands crushed Israel today, 12-2, exacting a bit of revenge for their loss in the first round. The Dutchmen scored two runs in the second and eighth innings and four each in the third and fourth. The only bright spot for Israel was Nate Freiman’s home run to break up the shut out. You can read the whole sad story here.

If Cuba beats Japan tomorrow, each team in the pool with have 1-1 records, setting up some interesting scenarios on Wednesday.

Look, no matter what they do, I doubt many realistic fans expected Team Israel to even get this far. So mazel tov for the past and good luck against Japan!


  • The New York Times published this nice profile of the team yesterday.
  • Ian Kinsler was 0-2 but walked twice and scored a run as the U.S. dominated Canada, 8-0 yesterday. Alex Bregman struck out as a pinch hitter in the eighth and remained in the game at third base.

Dare to dream? Israel beats Cuba, 4-1, in World Baseball Classic

Posted on: March 13th, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

Jason MarquisEditor’s note: I knew I should have posted this yesterday…

Well, roll me in sugar and call me a doughnut. I never thought it could happen, but the host Israeli team beat Cuba in their Saturday/Sunday match-up in the WBC. Jason Marquis (right) got the start again and made a good case for someone signing him to a contract, tossing 5.2 innings in which he allowed just a solo home run in the second. Israel tied things up on a Ryan Lavarnway double in the fourth then scored two more in the sixth on an RBI single by Zach Borenstein and a run-scoring double by Blake Gailen, who also plated the final tally on a sacrifice hit in the eighth. Zack Thornton earned the win with Josh Zeid picking up the save. Each team managed only five hits, but Israel made theirs count.

The game was “broadcast” as a replay on the MLB network. I had DVR’ed it, but unfortunately the previous game ran into the scheduled start time for Israel-Cuba and I got cut off after the top of the sixth so I missed all the excitement. In fact, to be honest, I almost feel a bit cheated not to be in on things. I’ve been writing about baseball in Israel since before the ill-fated and short-lived professional league came and went in 2007. It would have been very cool to be a part of the festivities first-hand, but them’s the breaks.

The WBC squad — 7-0 since the qualifier round last September — is garnering more and more attention, a fish-out-of-water/Cinderella story. A number of articles are coming from the Jewish press. It reminds me of pieces from a couple of generations ago, when Hank Greenberg was emerging as the first Jewish superstar and such publications felt it necessary to explain the rudiments of the game to a readership that was uninformed on such trivial matters.

Here are a few links about the current situation:

This one especially grabbed my attention: “Israel soars at World Baseball Classic, and a nation shrugs” (FOX Sports). That’s all well and good for Israel. It’s not like the team is comprised of their own countrymen. In fact one of the things I’m seeing on social media is the “complaint” that the Israeli entry should actually be considered another team from the United States. Jerry Weinstein, Team Israel’s skipper, said “I don’t agree with that. We’re representing Israel. Our guys qualify under the heritage rules. I think if you ask anyone in our clubhouse, we’re representing Israel. We’re not a JV team for the U.S. We’re Team Israel. Make no mistake.” Good for him.

Maybe I’m being overly sensitive, but it seems like just one more anti-Zionist knock. But you know what? The rules allow a sort of tangential legacy system. Other teams are in the same boat. If you’re going to pick nits, that would limit participants only to those countries made up entirely of native-born athletes. And while that might work out great for the Dominican Republican, Puerto Rico, Japan, and others who send a healthy number to the Majors, it obviously wouldn’t work for other venues who appear in the WBC. You think Italy is made up entirely of native-borns?

Next up, a rematch with the Netherlands tomorrow at 6 a.m. Eastern. Israel won the previous game, 4-2.

In other MOT/WBC news, Ian Kinsler accounted for two of Team USA’s six hits and scored the game-tying run in the sixth inning of their 3-2 win over visiting Columbia on Friday. He was 1-5 with another run in Saturday’s 7-5 loss to the host Dominican Republic. Alex Bregman did not appear in either game.






WBC OK by me

Posted on: March 10th, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

Israel defeated the Netherlands at the WBC on Wednesday, 4-2. It looked like it might start as another route, with the MOTs scoring three runs in the top of the first after scoring four to begin their 15-7 win over Chinese Tai Pei on Monday. But instead it turned into a nerve-wracking. Israel needed an inning-ending double play in the eighth with the basis loaded to get out of trouble.

The win made them the first team to go 3-0 in the first round after winning in the qualifiers.

One of the highlights of the game was the mano-a-mano between 7’1″ Netherlands pitcher Loek Van Mil against 6’8″ Nate Freiman; the first baseman, shown here with teammate Sam Fuld,  came away with a walk on a full count.

Israel used nine pitchers, including winner Jason Marquis.

I think their luck just might run out: they face the always-tough Cuban team in their first contest of the second round, which will take place at the Tokyo Dome on Saturday night at 10 p.m. EST (noon in Japan, so no Shabbat worries.) After that it’s the Netherlands again on Monday at 6 a.m. / 7 p.m. and Japan on Wednesday at the same times. A tiebreaker is scheduled for Thursday.

A few items for your interest:


  • Finally, here’s a documentary that shows how the interest in Holy Land Hardball got started, courtesy of Brett Rapkin, the film’s co-director and co-writer. Here’s my review from my days at the NJ Jewish News.

Team Israel: Moving on up?

Posted on: March 8th, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

Israel is 2-0 in the World Baseball Classic. So is the Netherlands. They face each other tonight at 10 p.m. EST. Both will be advancing to the second round against a pool that includes teams from Japan (2-0), Cuba (1-1), China (0-1), and Australia (0-1; records are as of this posting). Jason Marquis, who pitched three scoreless innings in a 2-1 win over Korea on Monday, gets anther shot.

Israel is in a unique position because, unlike most of the other countries involved, practically none of the players actually comes from the nation for whom they play. So naturally, that’s a point of amusement or annoyance, depending on how much of a stickler you are about rules.

How much do we love Team Israel? Let us count the ways:




Let the ‘David vs. Goliath’ comparisons begin

Posted on: March 7th, 2017 by Ron Kaplan

So I stayed up to watch Israeli’s second game in less than 24 hours as the took on host Chinese Tai Pei. Remind me to take a nap later.

It was worth it. Israel put up four runs in the first inning and never looked back, except perhaps in the final inning when CTP scored four times. By then it was around 2 a.m. my time and I just wanted it to be over. I never thought the “home team” could come back all the way and sure enough, Israel won, 15-7.

Among the highlights:

  • A two-run homer by Ryan Lavarnway in the third inning
  • A three-run homer by Nate Freiman in the ninth.
  • Three hits apiece by Freiman, Ike Davis, Ty Kelly, and Tyler Krieger.
  • Four RBI by Freiman, with three each by Kelly and Krieger.
  • Three shutout innings by starter Corey Baker, who was credited with the win.
  • Plus a few great defensive plays.

And, of course, so many are jumping on the bandwagon now. The New York Times‘ Ken Belson wrote this lengthy piece pushing the (gefilte) fish-out-of-water angle. And ESPN compared Israel with the Jamaican bobsled team.

Israel could clinch a spot in the second round with a win over the Netherlands tomorrow.





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