America's pastime gets a lift in Israel from MASA

The IAB, MASA and Destination Israel bring minor league players to Israel to help improve the level of baseball in the country.

Raphael Poch ,

Israeli baseball (file)
Israeli baseball (file)
Nati Shohat/Flash 90

The game of baseball in Israel just got a face lift. And it came from MASA Israel of all places.

According to a new agreement between the MASA program, Destination Israel and the Israel Association of Baseball (IAB), former minor league players from the United states and Canada will be able to participate in a six month program to help raise the level of baseball in Israel.

Nate Fish, Israel National Team Head Coach spoke with Arutz Sheva about the change coming to America’s national pastime in Israel.

“The idea came from a meeting with Amos Camille, who is the head of branding for the Jewish Agency. His friends have a son on the baseball team in Misgav, a town in the north of Israel, and we started talking about bringing over US players to help play and coach. We got in touch with Destination Israel, and they agreed to come on board and provide the housing and cultural and language programming that the participants will receive as part of their six month program here.”

Fish explained that there was a lot of interest from the Jewish Agency and that MASA wanted to get involved as well. “MASA got heavily involved and they want to use it as a pilot project to create an entirely new sports track for youngsters to come to Israel. The hope is to bring over professional college athletes to live and play in Israel and take part in coaching young athletes here to raise the level of the game played across Israel.”  

Fish said that the high level of the athletes slated to attend is something that will greatly help the game take root in a country that is dominated by basketball and soccer. “We are getting people who have pro level experience in college and high school to come and play in our premier adult league. At the same time they will go out and teach as well as coach youth teams around the country.”

All of the athletes participating in the program will be living in Tel Aviv, as part of Destination Israel’s project. They will be assigned to play for different teams in the premiere league and they will also be assigned teams outside of Tel Aviv to coach and teach. “We are sending them to towns that have a big baseball presence. They will go in pairs to a specific community, and they will work to promote the baseball teams and presence in those communities.”

Fish believes that this step will revolutionize the level of play in Israel. “It will have a huge impact. And it will give the athletes a chance to continue their playing careers after they are done in the US, or perhaps start their coaching careers if that is what they choose.”

Freda Surki, Masa’s director of development and organizer relations, said, “we always aim to have a large number of opportunities for professionals to come to Israel and enhance their careers. We realized that sports portfolios didn’t really exist, and thought that this would be a great opportunity.”

The new baseball track comes at a very opportune time for the Israel Association of Baseball. The IAB is currently in the midst of forming a team to compete at next the World Baseball Championship qualifying round in Brooklyn, New York in September 2016.

Green said that, “the better the Israeli team does in the qualifiers, the more that momentum kicks in and helps to grow baseball in a country with a contingent of fans.”