web analytics
December 26, 2014 / 4 Tevet, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
8000 meals Celebrate Eight Days of Chanukah – With 8,000 Free Meals Daily to Israel’s Poor

Join Meir Panim’s campaign to “light up” Chanukah for families in need.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Hardball In The Holy Land


I should have paid more attention in Hebrew School.

I never knew I’d really be going to Israel.

But then again, while I was daydreaming about baseball when I should have been paying attention, I was preparing myself for a career in sports public relations, and that’s what sent me to Israel, so I’m sure there are some Talmudic scholars out there who would see some biblical reason for this all coming together.

Some background: I was the longtime director of public relations for the New York Yankees. I now operate my own PR company, and about a year ago, the fledgling Israel Baseball League approached me about helping with its own public relations.

Now the league is no longer fledging – it opened its inaugural season on June 24 (the 45th anniversary of my bar mitzvah, by the way), and it’s become one of the most joyous work experiences I’ve ever had.

It started as the dream of Boston businessman Larry Baras, who had a love for Israel and a love for baseball (albeit the old New York Giants), and who, while sitting at a minor league game in Massachusetts, dreamed up a pro league Israel could call its own.

Over the ensuing months, he assembled a distinguished team of advisers and executives to help make the dream a reality. Among them was Daniel C. Kurtzer, the former U.S. Ambassador to Israel, who agreed to serve as commissioner. Also aboard were Dan Duquette, the former general manager of the Boston Red Sox, three former major leaguers as managers (Ron Blomberg, Ken Holtzman and Art Shamsky), economist Andrew Zimbalist, club owner Marvin Goldklang, and no less than Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig on the advisory board.

Having been born in 1948 (the same year as Israel), it was an honor for me to be asked to do the PR.

When we were ready to announce the league’s existence, rather than send a mass e-mail to Jewish publications (like The Jewish Press) or widely read wire services, I went to an old friend, Murray Chass of The New York Times, who is an observant Jew with a son in Israel. Murray wrote a lengthy piece in the Times, which seemingly every Jew in America immediately e-mailed to everyone he or she had ever met. Within 48 hours, there were few who hadn’t seen the column or fallen in love with the idea.

The question was whether Baras, who lacked a baseball pedigree, could really pull this off. The answer began to unfold when Duquette, along with a Miami attorney named Martin Berger, began running tryout camps and signing players. It would not be an all-Jewish or an all-Israeli league. The mission was to bring in a good level of skilled players – perhaps equal to Class A in the minor leagues.

One hundred and twenty players needed to be signed to stock the six teams (who would share three fields, all within driving distance of Tel Aviv). Forty percent turned out to be Jewish, with about a dozen players having Israeli connections. Nine countries were represented.

We all felt that was just about right for Year One – a year in which we would introduce the game to a somewhat skeptical Israeli audience, with the hope that it would spur amateur baseball and lead to more players. And, in fact, we are working to accomplish that through support of (and distribution of equipment to) youth programs.

There remains a hope that Israel will one day be part of the World Baseball Classic, in which Jewish Major Leaguers can play (as Mike Piazza played for Italy last year). There are currently about a dozen Jewish Major Leaguers, with Shawn Green, Kevin Youkilis and Jason Marquis the most prominent.

The most accomplished Jewish baseball players in history are Hall of Famers Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax. Koufax, 71, is an iconic figure to Jewish baseball fans, both for his amazing abilities and his refusing to pitch a World Series game which fell on a High Holy Day.

Because of my connections in Major League Baseball, I knew Sandy well enough to drop him a note about the league. He called and offered encouragement but was not interested in a role. I have to admit that even though I’ve worked with major sports celebrities for nearly 40 years, my hands tremble a little when I hang up the phone after speaking with Sandy.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Hardball In The Holy Land”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Ayala Shapira, 11, is fighting for her life after suffering burn wounds when an Arab terrorist threw a Molotov cocktail at the car in which she was riding.
‘Slight Improvement’ in Life-threatening Condition of Firebomb Victim
Latest Indepth Stories
Bill Cosby

It shakes our sense of justice when allegations against a famed role model are covered up or ignored

MK Moshe-Feiglin

Feiglin: Only true liberty will allow us to genuinely connect to our Jewish identity.

Knesset Logo

The silver lining with early elections is the chance to change the current dysfunctional government.

Cohen-122614

The Holocaust Educational Trust Ireland informed the host he could not say “Israel or Jewish state”

It’s fascinating how sources attain the status “traditional,” or its equivalent level of kashrus.

The West needs to ensure Russia understands that aggression comes at a significant cost.

What benefit is a learning experience that leaves kids confused,disillusioned&harms self confidence?

Girlfriend and double cop-killer Ismaaiyl Brinsley apparently was influenced by Islamic extremism.

We see pictures of mosques, monuments for terrorists, illegal schools, and hundreds of apartments being built on Jewish land without repercussions. We are losing Jewish property, so it is up to us to protect it.

Thus, despite the increasingly serious problems for the mayor arising out of the current anti-police protests, Mr. de Blasio apparently will be cut no slack by those who seem to be aiming for a significant role in running the city from the streets and who will do whatever they can to prevent their momentum from ebbing.

Also left unsaid was the fact that the menorah and its oil were in the Beit HaMikdash, which of course was located on Har HaBayit – the Temple Mount that present-day Muslims claim as their own.

Despite strong pressure to throw the book at the accused, Mr. Thompson allowed him to plead guilty to assault.

A revolution is taking place between good and evil; light and darkness. Make the light activism!

Obama’s comments calling Israeli settlements “unhelpful”are harsher than prior US administrations’

More Articles from Marty Appel

I should have paid more attention in Hebrew School.

I never knew I’d really be going to Israel.

But then again, while I was daydreaming about baseball when I should have been paying attention, I was preparing myself for a career in sports public relations, and that’s what sent me to Israel, so I’m sure there are some Talmudic scholars out there who would see some biblical reason for this all coming together.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/hardball-in-the-holy-land/2007/07/11/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: