Team Israel WBC

Team Israel plays its first game of the World Baseball Classic against Team Korea today at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, South Korea. Right handed pitcher, Jason Marquis is scheduled to start the game for Israel.

Games can be seen live on Fox Sports, MLB Network, and will be streamed on www.worldbaseballclassic.com:

Monday, March 6: Korea vs Israel - 11:30 (Israel Time); 4:30am (Eastern Time)

Tuesday, March 7: Taipei vs Israel - 05:30 (Israel Time); 10:30pm (Eastern Time - March 6)

Thursday, March 8: Netherlands vs Israel - 05:30 (Israel Tןme); 10:30pm (Eastern Time - March 7)

 

 

 

 

 

Mensch on a Bench

The Mensch on a Bench (AKA the Mensch or Menschi) burst onto the Israel Baseball scene in September last year at the WBC qualifiers in Brooklyn, New York. His stuffed, tallised* and behatted presence was a major factor in Team Israel’s decisive win in the qualifiers that earned the team a place in the WBC tournament in March. In spite of his very full schedule in Seoul, South Korea, where he is planning to continue to work his magic on Team Israel in the first round of the tournament, the Mensch agreed to take a few minutes to talk to us in this exclusive interview.

How did your relationship with Team Israel begin?

I was recruited by Team Israel player Cody Decker. He was insightful enough to understand that in spite of my inability to swing a bat or to throw a ball, I had other talents that would bring significant value to the team. My expertise lies in bench warming, hence my name. He knew that my presence on the Team Israel bench, on my "Mensch bench", would be a mitzvah and a brocha all in one. So, he contacted my agent, Amazon.com, and one rather uncomfortable journey to Brooklyn in a carboard box later, the rest is history. 

So, you’re the Team Israel mascot?

I would not put it that way. I don’t approve of all that dancing around on the field. That’s for the youngsters. I’m more of a spiritual advisor and all around friend. I offer a shoulder to lean on and at a push, a pillow if you’re need one. I’m also a very good listener. 

What did you do in Brooklyn to ensure the win?

I can’t reveal all my magic, otherwise every other so-called Mensch will try (unsuccessfully) to replicate what I do, without doubt. What I will reveal is that it had a lot to do with the bottle of Manischewitz kiddish wine that was constantly by my side. The power is in the grape. The fact that I was also given my own locker in the club house, also increased my powers. 

What were your challenges in Brooklyn?

Occasionally one of the players would sit on me by mistake when I was in the dugout - a mensch on a mensch on a bench on a bench. That hurt. They are big, muscular Yidden. They didn’t make us mensches like that back in my day. Now they’re gezunt!

Back then, I was a shadow of my current self – as you can see I have now increased significantly in size thanks to Cody’s powers and an adherence to the Team Israel workout plan. So, I am back and ready to dominate at the WBC.

For the first time in your life, you have left the US. What’s it like being in Korea?

It’s really difficult to find a good bowl of matza ball soup here. I’ve tried, but they keep offering me this kimchi chazerai. I don’t know about you, but by me, a pickle needs to be a cucumber with salt and dill, and accompanied by a good corned beef sandwich. I’m not sure about this spicy cabbage pickle, but who knows, I may give it a go if I start chalishing for a good nosh. 

I did get to drink some delicious flavored soda from our good friends and team sponsors SodaStream. It was nice to make a le'chayim with them. Lovely people!

How have the locals accepted you?

They are very excited about me. Everyone stops by to say hello – more than my children do – they don’t call, they don’t visit… The locals call me Menschi! Maybe because it rhymes with Kimchi. I don’t know.

Who are the players that you have your eye on in Team Israel?

I’m a mensch, so by definition, as good person, I can’t play favorites. Obviously, I have my eye on Cody because without him, what would I be? Certainly not a Mensch on Bench on the Team Israel bench in Korea. What I will say is that we have 28 mensches who all know a thing or two about baseball. They hit good, they pitch good, they catch good, and please God, they’ll win good, tfu, tfu, tfu

What do you plan on taking back home with you?

Hopefully some very good memories of a very successful tournament and maybe a few tchochkies from the local markets. 

 

*Glossary:

Tallis - Prayer shawl

Mitzvah – good deed

Brocha - blessing

Kiddish – blessing over wine

Yidden - Jews

Gezunt - healthy, substantial

Chazerai - junk

Chalishing – dying

Tchochkies – knick knacks

Le'chayim - a toast, to life

Tfu, tfu, tfu - spitting three times to ward off the evil eye

And Mensch, of course, is good person

 

SodaStream

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.

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