Israel drawn to WBC group in Miami
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.