World Series winners and young prospects: Diverse Israel team primed for big week in WBC qualifer
The roster represents the entire spectrum of baseball.
There are prospects as young as 20 hoping for a long and prosperous future in the game. And there are accomplished veterans as old as 38, including a couple with World Series rings, on the back ends of their long careers.
In between, there are players who have tasted success in the big leagues and hope to do it again.
All those players will come together as Jews with a common goal this week: To lead Israel through the qualifying round of the World Baseball Classic. Israel plays Great Britain Thursday night at MCU Park in Brooklyn. Brazil and Pakistan also are playing in Brooklyn, with the eventual winner moving on to WBC pool play in Seoul in March.
The team gathered for its first practices last week. Very cool seeing them in the Israel uniform.
In an interview with the JBM, Peter Kurz, president of the Israel Association of Baseball, said he felt “excellent” about the make-up of the team.
“One of the people closely involved with this team and our 2012 (WBC team, which failed to advance out of the qualifying round) said this team is much better,” Kurz said. “We also have much higher level competition, with Brazil and Great Britain putting together great teams.”
The Israeli team, managed by Jerry Weinstein of the Colorado Rockies, includes 38-year-old Jason Marquis, who won 124 games during a 15-year career in the big leagues. Reliever Craig Breslow and catcher Ryan Lavarnway both won World Series rings with Boston in 2013.
Ike Davis, who hit 32 homers for the Mets in 2012, will be on the team, as will 6-foot-8-inch Nate Freiman, who played two years for Oakland.
Among the minor league prospects, there is outfielder Zach Borenstein (Arizona), outfielder Rhett Wiseman (Washington), reliever Brad Goldberg (White Sox), pitcher Alex Katz (White Sox), and 20-year-old pitcher Dean Kremer, who is an Israeli citizen (check out the JBM Q/A with him).
Cody Decker, who played for Israel in 2013, told Jon Morosi of MLB.com , a big showing in Brooklyn would go a long way to boosting baseball in Israel.
“If we win this tournament and get into the WBC, it could change the dynamic of baseball in Israel altogether,” said Decker, who played with San Diego last September and finished 2016 with Boston’s Double A team.
“Israelis would see Jewish players on a grand stage, representing their country at the highest level. I’m so excited about it. This is something that could have a real, legitimate impact on people’s lives. Usually, me playing baseball doesn’t have an impact, other than on me or my teammates. This is something that’s much bigger.”
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