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The Israel Association of Baseball (IAB) is pleased to accept an invitation from Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association to participate in the next World Baseball Classic tournament. Israel will compete in Group D in Miami, Florida, alongside Puerto Rico, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and a team from the qualifying tournament. The games will be played March 11-15. Four-time MLB All-Star and 2017 WBC champion Ian Kinsler will manage the team. 

After finishing sixth at the 2017 WBC and fifth at the 2020 Olympic Games, the IAB intends to recruit an even stronger team with the potential of including more than a dozen Jewish MLB players and hundreds of minor leaguers and independent league players who are eligible to play for Team Israel. 

“By opening the tournament in Miami, we hope to be able to recruit several top MLB players to play for Team Israel and some of them, including Harrison Bader, Kevin Pillar, Dean Kremer and Richard Bleier, have already stated their desire to play for us,” said Kinsler.

To be eligible to compete for Team Israel at the WBC, players must meet the requirements to make Aliyah - or receive Israeli citizenship, though they do not have to formally apply. Under Israel’s Law of Return, any person of Jewish heritage has the right to Israeli citizenship. Heritage is defined as having at least one Jewish grandparent. Additionally, any person who is married to a Jew is eligible. This rule opens the door for many potential players to compete for Team Israel.

“Ian has enthusiastically taken on the dialogue with the Major League players and I have no doubt those conversations will be fruitful,” Peter Kurz, General Manager of Team Israel said. “We are also getting many queries from outstanding young Jewish minor leaguers to play for Team Israel and we have the roster of Israeli players from the Olympics who are still active. We also have a strong contingent of native-born Israeli players who are now playing in American colleges and our domestic league, who will be eligible as well. There is a potential pool of hundreds of players to choose from.”

Kinsler, a World Series champion in 2018, became an Israeli citizen in the spring of 2020 and played for Team Israel at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. He will hold a press conference on July 17 during the Maccabiah Games in Israel to update the public on his recruiting efforts for the WBC team.  

Team Israel first entered the qualifying rounds for the 2013 World Baseball Classic and lost in extra innings against Spain in the fall of 2012 in Florida in the final game to reach the main draw. Four years later, Israel qualified by winning its tournament in Brooklyn and then made waves with wins over the Netherlands, Chinese Taipai and host South Korea to reach the quarterfinals before eventually placing sixth.

Several players from that team as well as new recruits helped Israel win the Africa/Europe Qualifying Event in Italy to reach the Olympic Games. There, led by former MLB players and new Israeli citizens Danny Valencia, Ryan Lavarnway, Ty Kelly, Josh Zeid, Jon Moscot, Zack Weiss and Jeremy Bleich, the boys in blue and white were knocking on the door of the medal round before placing fifth. Team Israel hopes to honor the spirit of that team and take Israel Baseball to new heights at the 2022 WBC. 

Ian Kinsler

Israeli Olympian and 2017 World Baseball Classic champion Ian Kinsler has been named the manager for the Team Israel squad at the 2023 WBC. Kinsler, 39, will begin his managerial career with the boys in blue-and-white, some of whom were his teammates at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. A four-time Major League Baseball All-Star and 2018 World Series champion, he received his Israeli citizenship in early 2020.

“I was very excited when I was asked to manage Team Israel at the WBC and it didn’t take long for me to accept the position. I enjoyed my time playing in the tournament and now that I know Israel Baseball well from my time in the Olympics, I am convinced that we will have a very competitive squad that will go far,” Kinsler said. “I can’t wait to visit Israel this summer and see the young talent that will be on display at the Maccabiah Games. We are already hard at work putting together a winner roster for Israel at the WBC and I look forward to making all of our fans proud.”

Kinsler will visit Israel in the coming weeks with his family to be present at the Maccabiah Games. He has been chosen as one of the five torchbearers at the opening ceremonies in Jerusalem on July 14 and will conduct baseball clinics for all the Maccabiah baseball players at Ezra Schwartz Ballpark in Ra’anana the following week. Kinsler will also throw out the opening pitch at one of the Maccabiah baseball games and meet with the media to discuss his plans for Team Israel at the WBC.

“Having Ian Kinsler as our manager provides us with a huge catalyst for recruiting top MLB players, as well as a manager who has a truly analytical approach to the game,” said Jordy Alter, the President of the Israel Association of Baseball. “Ian’s leadership of our Olympic team was crucial to our play in that competition and convincing him to now take on the managerial reigns is a further step in the development of the Israel Baseball program, following our second-place finish at the 2021 European championships.”

Kinsler brings with him WBC experience as a player. He was the starting second baseman and the leadoff hitter for Team USA at the 2017 edition when the Americans won the gold medal. He retired as an active MLB player in 2019 after 14 seasons in the Major Leagues. Kinsler will be the third man to manage Team Israel in the WBC. Brad Ausmus led the team at the 2012 WBC qualifiers and Jerry Weinstein guided Israel through the qualifiers in 2016 to a sixth-place finish at the final event in 2017.

Federation Of The Year Trophy
The Israel Association of Baseball was chosen as the European federation of the year for 2021 on Saturday at the fifth World Baseball Softball Confederation Europe General Congress in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
 
The highlights based on which Israel was selected include a fifth-place finish in the Olympic Games in Tokyo and winning the silver medal at the European Baseball Championship.
 
Peter Kurz, Team Israel’s general manager, was in Ljubljana to receive the award.
 
"I am honored to be part of this group effort in 2021 of Israel Baseball – of reaching and playing in the Olympics; achieving a silver medal in the European Championships and launching two new fields,” Kurz said. “We are building the program in Israel and sending three youth teams this summer to European Championship tournaments. I hope for more big news this week from the WBSC Europe.”
 
Also at the congress, Ami Baran, was elected WBSC Europe Secretary General. Baran is also the Executive Director of the Israel Softball Association and the President of the Israel Athletics Association.
Wanger Lowengart Paller Petrushka

Israel faltered late and lost 9-4 to the Netherlands in the final of the 2021 CEB European Championships in Turin, Italy, on Sunday night. The boys in blue and white led 4-1 at the seventh-inning stretch, but allowed the Dutch to score 4 runs in the bottom of the seventh and 4 more in the eighth to win the European crown for the 24th time.

Israel finished as the tournament runner-up and the silver medals won represent the first medals of any kind for Israel at the European Championships. In fact, Israel is just the 11th nation to ever medal in the 36 editions of the tournament.

Although the Netherlands scored first in the bottom of the second inning, Israel came back in the fourth. Ty Kelly and Mitch Glasser started the inning with walks. Kelly came home on Robb Paller’s sacrifice fly and Glasser followed on Jordan Petrushka's infield single. Assaf Lowengart crushed a 2-run homer in the sixth to make it 4-1.

Ben Wanger, who pitched 5 innings in relief of started Joey Wagman, tired in the 7th and was replaced by Bubby Rossman after allowing the first two batters to reach base. Roger Bernadina tied it with a clutch home run and the Dutch rally continued as Sharlon Schoop drove in the go-ahead run. Schoop added a 2-run double in the eighth and Dashenko Ricardo followed with a home run to put the game on ice.

Mike Groen was the winning pitcher after throwing a scoreless seventh for the Netherlands and Wendell Florandus struck out 4 in perfect eighth and ninth innings to get the save. Rossman took the loss after allowing 2 runs on 4 hits.

The Dutch had 13 hits compared to Israel’s 4. Israel also committed 3 errors, while the Netherlands had 1.

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