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Professional Baseball in Israel: Take 2

Though I’d rather see my Red Sox behind this venture, I am excited to report that Israel might see a new Baseball in the next few years. Alan Schwartz, in the NYTimes baseball blog Bats, reports:

Yankees Partner Looks to Play Ball in Israel

By Alan Schwarz

Professional baseball in Israel could be alive, if not well. The nation’s first foray into pro ball – with most players from the Dominican Republic playing on poor fields before empty seats — ended in financial disaster after one season in 2007. But from that experience could rise another attempt, and a considerably more thoughtful one. Marv Goldklang, a limited partner of the Yankees and the owner of several prominent minor league teams, said Tuesday that he and a group of other North American baseball insiders hope to start an entirely new league in either 2010 or 2011. Goldklang was on an advisory committee of the first circuit, the Israel Baseball League, and was so dismayed with its operation that he and other members resigned before the league folded. “I could spend an hour telling you everything that went wrong,” he said of the first I.B.L. “Essentially what we’re doing now is forming a group of people to do some fairly serious due diligence – the type of
due diligence that, candidly, was not done the first time around.” The Israel Association of Baseball, which oversees amateur programs in the country, has given its blessing to the group – which also includes U.S. businessman Jeff Rosen, owner of the Maccabi Haifa Heat professional basketball team in the Israeli Premier League. Goldklang said that the other partners wished to remain anonymous at this early stage, perhaps because of the debacle two years ago. Goldklang expects to look into the feasibility of franchises in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Raanana (a city with a large Western population), Haifa and a few others with the hope of having six teams. “There are no ballparks there that you would consider a ballpark in an American sense,” Goldklang said. “There are fields suitable for youth baseball programs, but you wouldn’t put a college team on that field. “We need to develop a strategy to build ballparks that would be suitable for professional play, with couple of thousand people in park.” Goldklang said he would prefer to market baseball to Israelis much as it is in the U.S. minor leagues, as a communal place for fun rather than a serious sporting event. (Although nuns giving massages in the stands, a hit with Goldklang’s St. Paul Saints, might be a tough sell.) “We want to create an atmosphere that makes it enjoyable whether or not they’re quote-unquote baseball fans, and build from there,” Goldklang said. “A quarter or third of people who attend games are not necessarily fans. But they enjoy the experience, and they come to appreciate the game itself. What will appeal to Israelis once they come to the ballpark and what will get them to relate to the game on the field?” He added: “Israel is a place where dreams come true – notwithstanding the twists and turns you read about in the front part of the paper. Israel is that type of place. Hopefully what we’re doing is not too much of a dream.”

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