“Sugar, sugar and caffeine!” That’s how Dan Rothem explains how he stayed alert through the  7 hours and 20 minutes it took him to broadcast the longest post-season game in MLB history between the Dodgers and the Red Sox on October 16/17 on Israel cable TV’s Sport 5 channel. 

For the past six years, Dan, a veteran of Israel baseball (player and coach) and former Vice President of the Israel Association of Baseball, has been on air, commentating in Hebrew to night owl baseball fans who are up for the live broadcasts. His brother, Asaf, also an Israel Baseball player and former coach, had been a reporter writing about American sports and business when he was approached to cover the games in 2012. “Once Asaf settled in,” Dan recalls, “he suggested they bring me on board as well, and we’ve been broadcasting ever since, many times with the help of former IAB president Haim Katz.” Recently, another Israel baseball alum, Alon Leichman, who has been part of the Seattle Mariners coaching staff, also joined in, providing “an unprecedented level of insight into the sport.”

During the regular season, every week or two (depending on when the channel decides to air a game), Dan and partner sit in the Sport 5 studios in Herzliyah Pituach, just outside Tel Aviv, to commentate. “Our broadcast is a full data-driven operation, he explains. “We have a TV monitor where we see the live feed directly from the field, as well as the audio of the American broadcasters, which our Israeli viewers hear when we don’t speak. We also have a desktop, a laptop open, and two smartphones available providing all the stats and info. During the playoffs, games start in the evening in Israel, and this year, viewers were able to see almost the full schedule - at least one game a day.

Highlights
“I love doing all-star games because unlike basketball and other team sports, baseball is really an individual sport played in a team setting. So, the all-star game is really the best baseball in the world because the fact that the players don’t play with each other daily is insignificant. Having said that, the last two seasons each featured a tremendous World Series. In 2016 the Cubs beat the Indians in a mesmerizing Game 7. In 2017 the Astros also beat the Dodgers in seven games - a tremendous series that featured Game 5, which in my mind, is the best game I’d ever seen, and certainly broadcasted.”

Challenges
“Our biggest challenge is the tension between, on the one hand, introducing the sport to a largely unfamiliar Israeli audience, and, on the other hand, providing insightful analysis. In the early days we really tried to introduce the sport and focus on its basic elements by explaining rules. But we soon realized that was unrealistic, and that broadcast MLB games aren’t a good platform for teaching baseball. So, instead we focused on providing insights into what is actually happening, assuming the viewers have a basic understanding of the sport.”

Dan eschews the view that baseball is a slow sport. “In our broadcasts we really try to focus on the duel between the pitcher and the batter, which, in a real sense, is 90% of this sport. A lot happens in an at a bat, and TV games are a great opportunity to appreciate this duel.”

A Brief History of Dan Rothem in Israel Baseball
In the late 1980s, Dan's brother Asaf’s friends dragged them to the Sportek field in Tel Aviv where Leon Klarfeld (currently the IAB’s Head Umpire) and other coaches oversaw 20 kids of all ages. “We had no uniforms, just one equipment bag with old gloves and bats, and a handful of balls,” Dan reminisces. “We were just a passionate group of kids. In 1989, I was invited to join Israel’s first youth national team that participated in the European Little League qualifiers, where we lost to Saudi Arabia 51-0 in our first ever game!”

Dan followed his early Little League pioneering experience with additional national team appearances, military service, and one memorable but unsuccessful tryout with the Cubs. He became the first Israeli player to play college ball, spending four years at GA Southern and Gardner-Webb University. After college he returned to Israel and played in the Premier League, the Senior National Team from 2004-present, the 2007 Israel Baseball League, and the 2012 WBC qualifiers.

He continues to be a driving force and a larger than life personality in Israel Baseball, and has notably led the Tel Aviv Comrades Premier League team to more championships than he can remember. His philosophy of winning is simple: “We win so much because we don’t care about winning. Every season I tell my players: ‘Don’t worry about winning and losing. Our job is to get better. You have no control over the final result. You have to focus only on what you can control. You have to slice the sport to small, manageable pieces: have a quality at bat, throw a critical mass of quality pitches from the mound, and make athletic plays defensively. That’s it. Don’t worry about the score. If we do these things, the score will take care of itself most of the time (sometimes it won’t!).’”

He has a day job too
When he’s not on the baseball field, Dan is an independent analyst of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the peace process, and US-Israeli relations. “My day job changes based on the projects I’m working on, but all of them allow me some flexibility and control over my schedule so I can dedicate a lot of time to my baseball responsibilities, of course!”

Dan’s Sources
His success as a baseball broadcaster relies in part on a wealth of baseball sources that he shares below:
For in-game stats and pitch-by-pitch analysis, he uses two sources: the first is MLB’s live gameday platform, available for each game at www.mlb.com. The second source is Baseball Savant, which goes even more in depth, provides access to statcast data, the system that measures everything on the field, including pitch velocity, the hit ball’s exist velocity and launch angle, and many other cool things.
For a comprehensive statistical analysis of teams and players, he uses www.fangraphs.com.
He also rely on other analysts and commentators to help figure out the most relevant information for the specific game they’re watching. To this end, they curated a Twitter list called Assaf’s Notebook, named after IAB superstar Assaf Lowengart, the IDF sportsman, who is currently playing at Delta College in California - https://twitter.com/drothem/lists/list.

Joey Wagman

Team: Free agent, previously of the Stockton Ports, Oakland Athletics organization

Position: Right-handed pitcher

6' 0" (1.83m) 185 (84kg)

Age: 27

Born: July 25, 1991, Danville, CA

Home town: Oakland, CA

Draft: Round 17 (2013, Chicago White Sox)

School: Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Played for Team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic tournament

Interesting facts about Joey: At Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, he was twice voted to the NCAA Big West Conference All-Conference Team, and was named a Louisville Slugger All American. He established the school record for victories in a season with 13.

 

JOey SM

Corey Baker

Team: Video replay coordinator for the Minnesota Twins. He is a former professional baseball pitcher in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, most recently played for the Springfield Cardinals Double-A, Texas League

Position: Right-handed pitcher

6' 1" (1.85m) 170lb (77kg)

Age: 28

Born: November 23, 1989 in New York, NY

Home town: Chicago, IL

Draft: Round 49 (2011, St Louis)

School: Pittsburgh

Played for Team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic tournament

Interesting facts about Corey: He visited Israel on a Birthright trip in 2015.
To prove that he was Jewish and eligible to play for Team Israel in the WBC qualifiers in 2016, his family sent the team a bar mitzvah photo of Corey wearing a yarmulke and dark suit, and holding a Torah.

 

Corey SM

Blake Gailen

Team: Lancaster Barnstormers, Atlantic League of Professional Baseball

Position: Outfielder

5' 9" (1.75m) 180 (80kg)

Age: 33

Born: March 27, 1985, Verdugo Hills, CA

Home town: Los Angeles, CA

Draft: Round 17 (2013, Chicago White Sox)

School: University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Played for Team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic tournament

Interesting facts about Blake: He and major league infielder Josh Satin, a member of Team Israel in the WBC qualifiers in 2016, have been friends since they were children, and Blake attended Satin's bar mitzvah. Blake is also an accomplished karaoke singer.

Blake SM

Gabe Cramer

Team: Wilmington Blue Rocks, Kansas City Royals organization (A+ level)

Position: Right-handed pitcher

6’ 2” (1.88m) 205lb (92kg)

Age: 23

Born: November 1, 1994, Santa Rosa, CA

Home town: California

Draft: 2015, Kansas City Royals

School: Stanford

Played for Team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic tournament

Interesting facts about Gabe: He was a nationally competitive youth tennis player before focusing on baseball.

Gabe SM

Alex Katz

Team: Frederick Keys, Baltimore Orioles organization (A+ level)

Position: Left-handed pitcher

5’ 11” (1.8m) 195lb (88kg)

Age: 24

Born: October 12, 1994, Manhasset, NY

Home town: Long Island, NY

Draft: Round 27 (2015, Chicago White Sox)

School: St. John's, NY

Played for Team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic tournament

Interesting facts about Alex: He is a co-founder of the cleat customization company KD Custom Kicks, which creates customized artistically designed cleats, worn by some of the biggest stars of the MLB, including Aaron Judge, Yoenis Céspedes, David Wright and many more.

Alex SM

Jon Moscot

Team: Free agent, formerly of the Cincinnati Reds

Position: Right-handed Pitcher

6' 4" (1.93m) 210lb (95kg)

Age: 27

Born: August 15, 1991 in Santa Monica, CA

Home town: Santa Monica, CA

Draft: 2012, Cincinnati Reds, 4th rd. (142nd overall). He was promoted to the Cincinnati Reds in the major leagues on June 5, 2015

School: Pepperdine

Jon was recovering from Tommy John surgery prior to the 2017 WBC tournament, so could not play, but is committed to Team Israel for the run up to the Olympic Games in 2020, and to the 2021 WBC tournament.

Interesting facts about Jon: His father was born into an extremely Orthodox Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York, and Jon was raised Orthodox Jewish.
His uncle and cousins live in Israel.
At age 13, he had a small part in the 2006 sports comedy film “The Benchwarmers”.

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Jeremy Wolf

Team: Retired, formerly of the Brooklyn Cyclones, New York Mets organization

Position: Left field

6’ 1” (1.85m) 213lb (96kg)

Age: 24

Born: November 2, 1993,Scottsdale, AZ

Home town: San Antonio, TX

Draft: Round 31 (2016, New York Mets)

School: Trinity University, San Antonio, TX

Interesting facts about Jeremy: In his first season with the New York Mets, he was named one of the New York Mets’ Minor League Rookies of the Year.

Jeremy Wolf

Jonathan DeMarte

Team: York Revolution, Atlantic League

Position: Right-Handed Pitcher

6’ 1” (1.85m) 205lb 205lb (92kg)

Age: 25

Born: 4/29/93

Home town: Yorktown Heights, NY

School: University of Richmond

Interesting facts about Jonathan: Has a black belt in Taekwondo

Jonathan DeMarte

Eric Brodkowitz

Team: Yale Bulldogs

Position: Right-Handed Pitcher

6’ 2” (1.88m) 205lb 220lb (100kg)

Age: 22

Born: 14.5.96

Home town: Potomac, MD

School: Yale

Interesting facts about Eric: He works at Goldman Sachs

Eric Brodkowitz

 

Zack Weiss

Team: Cincinnati Reds (free agent)

Position: Right-Handed Pitcher

6’ 3” (190cm) 210lb (95kg)

Age: 26

Born: June 16, 1992, Irvine, CA

Home town: Los Angeles, California

Draft: Round 6 (2013, Cincinnati Reds)

School: UCLA

Interesting facts about Zack: He pitched in the 2013 College World Series for the Bruins. He was originally selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 10th round of the 2010 Draft but didn’t sign so he could attend UCLA.

 

Zack Weiss

Ten Jewish American players are arriving in Israel in mid-October to make Aliyah. The players, some of whom played for Team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, and others who are rising stars in professional baseball in the US, are committed to play for Team Israel in its run up to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Team Israel will begin its bid to reach the Olympics by playing in the European Championships in 2019. A win for Team Israel in the B Pool of the tournament will send them to the A Pool tournament, where the top five teams will play in the European qualifier for the Olympics. Six teams will compete in Tokyo.

The ten players include former major leaguers Jon Moscot and Zack Weiss, who have both played for the Cincinnati Reds; and Joey Wagman, Blake Gailen, Gabe Cramer, Corey Baker and Alex Katz, who all played on Team Israel WBC. The other players are Jonathan DeMarte, Eric Brodkowitz and Jeremy Wolf. While the players are still in the midst of their professional careers, they are looking to move to Israel on a permanent basis and work on developing baseball in Israel.

“These players have all expressed great enthusiasm for working with Israel baseball to get to the Olympics in particular, and developing the game in Israel in general,” says Peter Kurz, President of the IAB. “The players who played in the WBC, where exposed to what Israel is, what the people are like, and how they can to help Israel become an international baseball force to be reckoned with. They want to make sure the two new fields to be developed this year are 100% utilized and that the professional level continues to grow,” adds Kurz.

"I am very excited about coming to Israel and making Aliyah,” says player Jon Moscot. “Having my family here, it’s always been a dream of mine. And potentially representing Israel Baseball in the Olympics, would be one of the most proud and exciting moments of my life.”

While they are in Israel, the players will be running a clinic on Thursday, October 18 for registered members of the IAB in the Juveniles, Cadets and Juniors, playing in an Israel Baseball Premier League game later that evening, as well as coaching national teams and the Israel Baseball Academy. 

All around the country in the coming week, hundreds of players and their coaches will take to the fields. Returning and new players will learn from the best, improve their skills, compete in five leagues and have lots of fun. Registered players will also be able to take part in our Enrichment Program, starting in October, as well as other events throughout the year. 

The first game of the Premier League will take place on October 7 at 19:15 at the Baptist Village, and games will take place every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Please see our website for the full schedule. All are welcome to come and support the teams. Juniors and Cadets games will also begin in October. Juveniles and minors will begin their game season in February 2019. Details on our website. 

If you are age 5 and up, with or without experience, you can come and play baseball. Please send us an email to info@baseball.org.il for details.

Our returning players are excited to start the season. See what they have to say about baseball. 

The Israel Association of Baseball has finalized and signed a contract with the city of Ra'anana to build a new baseball field in Park Ra'anana. The field will be named after Ezra Schwartz, z"l, who was killed in a terror attack in 2015 while in Israel from the US on a yeshiva program. 

The plan was approved by the Ra'anana city council on July 24.

"This will allow us to have our own full sized field, to host international and European tournaments, to have a field for the National Teams to practice on and to have a field where we could hold Premier League games at night," explains Peter Kurz, IAB President. "This also gives us the opportunity to expand our program in Ra'anana and in the surrounding Sharon region, where we have been quite limited over the last two years after our field was appropriated by the Israel lands authority." 

There will be a big push next year to expand the program in the Sharon area, with outreach to schools, community centers (matnassim) and other after-school programs. 

The location in the western part of the city is excellent for a sports facility, There is good transportation to Park Ra'anana and a train station will soon be built there. In the new facility, to be built as a multi-purpose facility for soccer and baseball, the plan is to have clubhouse facilities and rest rooms, batting cages and bull pens. Under consideration are also a players lounge, clubhouse, and work-out facility for players. The field should be available for use in the fall of 2019.

"The Ra'anana field, along with the field to be built in Bet Shemesh, will provide the IAB with three full-sized, adult facilities with lights, and the possibility of expanding and developing our Premier league to a new professional league," notes Kurz. "In this way, we hope to reach our dual goals of providing a much higher level of baseball in Israel, and also growing to at least 2,500 players playing in the Israeli leagues. Baseball will then become the third largest team sport in Israel."

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