The Israel Association of Baseball (IAB) is pleased to announce that SodaStream, the leading global carbonated water brand, will be the primary sponsor of Team Israel at the World Baseball Classic, that will take place from March 6 in Seoul, South Korea. 

As part of the sponsorship agreement, Team Israel will wear the SodaStream logo in its team jerseys and helmets. SodaStream will also set up carbonate water booths at the Gocheok Sky Dome, where Pool A of the tournament will be played, for the enjoyment of the fans throughout the game days. SodaStream is active in 45 markets around the world and its products are sold in 80,000 stores world-wide. In Asia and the Pacific countries including Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore and Japan, millions of consumers are aware of the Israeli company’s products and use the products.

In the opening game of the tournament, Team Israel will play against host country South Korea in Seoul. Netherlands and Chinese Taipei round out the Seoul pool of the WBC.

At a meeting with executives from the IAB at the SodaStream headquarters near Tel Aviv, Daniel Birnbaum, CEO of SodaStream International, said, “As a child in the US, I was a huge baseball fan and I even played Little League baseball in New York. Today, I am very pleased and proud to see the SodaStream logo alongside the Israeli flag on the uniforms of Team Israel, especially when this team is representing a bridge between Israel and Diaspora Jews, seeing as most of the players on the team are American Jews. We are all Israeli ambassadors, and I wish the team the best of luck, and they should be very proud to wear the blue and white flag on a global stage.”

Added Peter Kurz, President of the IAB and General Manager of Team Israel WBC, “As one of Israel’s leading multi-national companies, SodaStream is the perfect partner as Team Israel heads into the WBC to compete against nations from around the globe. Team Israel will wear the SodaStream logo with pride.”


Jake Kalish

Team Israel begins its WBC Tournament in Seoul, South Korea on March 6, facing the Netherlands, Korea and Taipei. We spoke to pitcher, Jake Kalish, 25, of the Kansas City Royals’ Wilmington Blue Rocks, about being on Team Israel.

Tell us about yourself
I was born in the small town of Shrewsbury, New Jersey. I grew up there and went to Shrewsbury Boro School and Red Bank Regional High School. Shrewsbury is a small town no bigger than a square mile and about 10 minutes from the beach. I really enjoyed growing up there. I went to George Mason University and played five seasons of college baseball.

What are your personal baseball highlights?
My favorite baseball highlights are helping my high school team to the best season in school history along with a state final appearance. Winning the Atlantic 10 championship in 2014 and advancing to the Houston Regional. And finally hearing my name called on draft day (selected in the 32nd round of the 2015 first-year player draft).

What defines you as a baseball player?
I like to think of myself as someone who won't back down from a challenge. Whether I win the challenge or not does not really matter as long as I compete my heart out. Usually, with that attitude, you tend to come out on top. My goal every time I take the field is to be as confident as possible and go right after the opponent.

How do you feel about representing Israel at the WBC?
I couldn't be more excited about representing Israel at the WBC. My parents were of different faiths so it was always interesting to hear different perspectives. I know my dad is very proud that I am representing Israel and I hope to make him even more proud with how we play in the upcoming tournament.

What do you think is Team Israel’s main advantage?
I think our roster is very underrated. I have watched a couple of the guys play on television and my brother (Ryan) has played a little with some of the guys and it’s obvious we are going to hit the ball. I think our lineup is going to produce runs. I don’t know too many pitchers on our roster but I know some of us, especially the bullpen pitchers, who are younger minor league arms itching to prove ourselves. That is what I think makes us so dangerous. Jerry (Weinstein) has said we are going to try and staff the games and I think you are going to see one guy after another ready to get after hitters.

What connection do you have with Israel?
My dad is Jewish and growing up my family would celebrate different holidays. My dad was always good at explaining what each holiday meant and why it was celebrated. I always found it so fascinating.

What are you most looking forward to playing for Team Israel and being at the WBC?
Obviously, I am looking forward to Team Israel having the opportunity to win and advance. I really believe we can make it out of pool play and I think everyone on the team is on the same page. Being able to play on the world stage is going to be a unique opportunity. I cannot wait to get to Seoul and compete with my teammates.

What do you feel you bring to the table?
I think I will bring confidence to our team. Even though I’m unproven, I plan on taking the same approach to this tournament as I do with everything else: Making sure I am prepared to compete and bringing confidence to the clubhouse. That is really all I want to bring and everything else will take care of itself.

How do you rate the chances of Team Israel in the tournament?
I think we have a great chance of advancing. We have a great lineup and a bunch of hungry pitchers ready to take advantage of our opportunity. I am excited to watch this team compete and hopefully advance to Japan.

Dylan Axelrod

Team Israel begins its WBC Tournament in Seoul, South Korea on March 6, facing the Netherlands, Korea and Taipei. We spoke to pitcher, Dylan Axelrod, 31, of Miami Marlins’ New Orleans Zephyrs, about being on Team Israel.

Tell us about yourself
I was born and raised in Santa Barbara, California and attended Santa Barbara High School, Santa Barbara Community College and then went on to UC Irvine.

What are your personal baseball highlights?
My favorite baseball moments must be playing in the College World Series with UC Irvine in 2007; my first career MLB start where I pitched very well for the White Sox in Chicago against the first place Detroit Tigers in front of my family; and having the opportunity to start games and pitch well in Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park.

What defines you as a baseball player?
My will to succeed defines me as a baseball player. I have no great physical gifts. I have tried to create the best version of myself possible on the field through lots of training, treating my body right, and a quest for knowledge. I like the Japanese philosophy Kaizen, which means constant daily improvement. I try to live my life in that mindset.

How do you feel about representing Israel at the WBC?
I feel very blessed for this opportunity. I am also happy that I can represent and honor my grandfather, Sol, who passed away before I was born.

What do you think is Team Israel’s main advantage?
This roster is really talented. We have a good mix of MLB veteran experience and young talent. I think we are an under-the-radar team that can do some damage in this tournament and we have a great baseball mind in Jerry Weinstein leading us.

What connection do you have with Israel?
My Grandfather was Jewish and that allowed me to play. I have never visited Israel but it is certainly on my bucket list.

What are you most looking forward to playing for Team Israel and being at the WBC?
I am most excited for the competition. I think it’s always a special thing when you can represent your family and play and bond with your teammates based on heritage.

What do you feel you bring to the table?
Being one of the older guys on the team, I feel I will bring some experience. Hopefully I can perform well on the field and provide some leadership as well.

How do you rate the chances of Team Israel in the tournament?
I think this team is underrated. We have some very good and proven players and some young guys that are hungry as well. Anything can happen in these tournaments and I like our chances of making a run in the tournament.

Tyler Krieger

Team Israel begins its WBC Tournament in Seoul, South Korea on March 6, facing the Netherlands, Korea and Taipei. We spoke to infielder Tyler Krieger, 23, of the Cleveland Indians’ Lynchburg Hillcats about being on Team Israel.

Tell us about yourself
I was born in Laguna Hills, California, but I grew up mainly in Johns Creek, Georgia. I went to school and played baseball at Clemson University. The relationships I’ve created through this great game in college and pro ball and the day I got drafted were some of my favorite experiences in the game so far.

What defines you as a baseball player?
I try to keep my head down, play hard and play the game the right way. I want to be the best teammate I can be and someone my peers can rely on.

How do you feel about representing Israel at the WBC?
I am excited about the opportunity and the chance to play against some of the best competition in the world.

What do you think is Team Israel’s main advantage?
I think we have group of experienced players that will show up ready to compete

What connection do you have with Israel?
My grandparents on my dad’s side were both Jewish. I know they would be really excited if they were still alive for me being able to represent Israel in the WBC. It’s a cool feeling knowing how proud they would be.

What are you most looking forward to playing for Team Israel and being at the WBC?
I’m looking forward to just being around some really talented players and teams and the atmosphere. I have never been to South Korea so it will be cool to experience something new.

What do you feel you bring to the table?
I’m just going to try and give the team whatever they need and be ready to help us win.

How do you rate the chances of Team Israel in the tournament?
On any team and in anything you do you’ve got to expect to have success, so this would be no different. I think we will compete and let the results take care of themselves.

Alex Jacobs

Behind the scenes of Team Israel WBC, there are many people laboring ahead of the tournament. One of them is Alex Jacobs, a pro scout at the Houston Astros, who has taken on the task of the scouting work that resulted in both the Team Israel roster for the qualifiers in Brooklyn in September 2016, and the roster for the upcoming WBC tournament in Seoul. Alex took time out to talk to us.

Tell us about yourself
I was born and raised in a suburb north of Philadelphia as an unhealthy Phillies fan. I went to University of Massachusetts, Amherst. I played baseball as long as I could, but I realized that playing professionally was not realistic when the first pitch I threw during tryouts was hit 408 feet off the center field fence. So, I focused my efforts on trying to work in the game instead. I chose UMass, which has a very rich history of churning out baseball executives.

How did you forge baseball a career?
I never had a “real” job. My first job, at age 15, was Game Day staff at the Trenton Thunder AA Yankees Affiliate. I took tickets, ushered people to their seats, anything really. In my senior year in high school, I did an internship at the Trenton Thunder. One day, the home clubhouse needed some extra help so I volunteered. That time in the clubhouse really molded the way I looked at the game. Being around the athletes, coaches, staff, I soaked it all in. Later I had internships with the Yankees, Dodgers, Tigers, and Rays in baseball operations, video, player development and more. Two days after the 2012 Winter Meetings in 2012 in Nashville, Kevin Goldstein and the Houston Astros hired me.

How did you get involved with Team Israel for the 2012 WBC Qualifiers?
I had worked with Chris Haydock at the Dodgers in 2010 and in August 2012, I emailed him to ask about getting involved with Team Israel. He told me to email Peter Kurz, the Team Israel general manager. So, I did. The next thing I knew, Adam Gladstone, Team Israel’s Assistant General Manager called me and I was invited on board to handle logistics.

Since 2012, what has your professional journey been?
Wild! That fall was a big one for me. I left the Qualifiers a day early because the Rays sponsored me for scout school. A few months later, I was offered an entry level pro scouting job with the Astros, which I took. I am now going into my fifth season with the Astros as a pro scout.

As a Team Israel scout for the 2016 qualifiers, what were your main tasks? TeamIsraelWBCQWin
Firstly, we had the best scouting and analytics staff in our bracket. One of my closest buddies in and out of the game Jonah Rosenthal, an amateur scout with LA Dodgers, Guy Stevens, a baseball analyst with the Kansas City Royals, Jason Lefkowitz, a Major League scout with the Seattle Mariners with Division 1 NCAA coaching experience, and baseball nomad Ty Eriksen’s help from the European championships - we were as well prepared as anybody.
Our main task was giving our staff and players the best possible information on our opponents to make them as prepared as possible.
One of the fun parts of the early preparation was trying to figure out who the Jewish baseball players were. Scott Barancik’s Jewish Baseball News website is an excellent resource, but even he misses a guy or two! When we found someone eligible who we hadn’t known about, it was really great.

Did what you did for the qualifiers affect the outcome? 
We did our absolute best to prepare our players and staff for what to expect from the opposition in every aspect of the game. We provided them with strategies and the most efficient ways to get hitters out all while giving our players insights into how they’d be attacked by the opposition. In the end, the players deserve all the credit as they are the ones who competed and executed the game plans.

What was the highlight of the qualifiers for you?
Being in that atmosphere, being around so many great people and meeting new lifelong friends - the experience we shared will last forever. Living and dying on every pitch was a tremendous. Back in 2008, I was lucky enough to witness the Phillies winning a world series as a fan. Then, as a scout for them, the Astros made the playoffs in 2015. Advancing to the WBC tournament ranks up there with both these highs.

What have you been doing since September to help prepare Team Israel for the WBC?
With the help of our entire team, we’ve been trying to find more eligible players and put together a roster that will give us the best chance to win. With their help and with the addition of one best minds in Advance Scouting, Ben Werthan of the Orioles, we will once again be the best prepared team in our pool.
From a roster construction standpoint, we’ve had to make some extremely difficult decisions that have kept us up at night, but in the end, we feel we made the best decisions for Team Israel that put us in the best position to go very far in this tournament.

What do you regard as the team’s main strengths?
Experience all around: We have a bunch of players who have reached the top level of baseball in the Major Leagues. We also have up and coming prospects. Our offense, in particular, can put up several lopsided numbers on the scoreboard. We are confident our pitching can put up consistent zeroes against the competition. These guys are pros and have played in big time scenarios. We also have great clubhouse chemistry, which may be a little underrated.

What are the challenges Team Israel faces from the other three teams in the pool – Netherlands, South Korea and Chinese Taipei?TeamIsraelFlag
In the end, it’s baseball. The three teams in our pool are very good. I think the unknowns and overall different style of the game could be challenging, but there’s no doubt that our guys are going to adapt quickly. I believe our team will be extremely competitive and we could surprise people.

What has stood out for you in this entire process?
This group of players, playing for their or their families’ heritage, is one of the more special groups I’ve ever been around. From the players to the staff, to all the support, it’s unbelievable. Just think, 28 guys, most who have never met each other or have competed against each other in the past, all come together in the same clubhouse and within minutes, are family.

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