The two teams are a study in contrasts, and they will officially get the 2013 World Baseball Classic started at 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla., opening the first of four modified double-elimination qualifying rounds that lead up to the main tournament in March. All of the qualifiers will be streamed live on worldbaseballclassic.com.
The South African team returns 13 players from the 2009 Classic team, six of whom were also on the 2006 roster. South Africa was winless in both of its attempts in the tournament and lost all its games by a combined 45 runs. The team also returns manager Rick Magnante, hitting coach Brian McCarn, bench coach Alan Phillips, first-base coach Neil Adonis and third-base coach Mike Randall.
Brett Willemburg was the team’s leading hitter in 2006 and ’09, but perhaps the most intriguing talent on the South African roster, as well as one of the few playing at the professional level in America, is infielder Mpho Gift Ngoepe, who just finished his season with the Class A Bradenton Marauders, part of the Pirates organization.
Ngoepe posted a .232/.330/.668 batting line in 2012, his first full year in the Florida State League, but he has more than just personal success on his mind in the Classic.
“It’s one of those things that you dream about one day — to play for my national team,” the 22-year-old Ngoepe said. “It would be more than winning a few games in a tournament. It would be winning games for my country.”
Team Israel, meanwhile, is perhaps most notable for its former Major Leaguers, including manager Brad Ausmus and outfielders Shawn Green and Gabe Kapler. Israel has been considered the front-runner in this qualifier thanks to them and the other Jewish-American players added to the team from the Minors.
This qualifying round might be the most difficult step for Team Israel on the way to the Classic. If the Israeli team advances, it could benefit from the addition of big league stars like Ryan Braun, Ian Kinsler and Kevin Youkilis in the main tournament in March, giving them about as much talent as any team could hope to assemble. But first, Ausmus is quick to point out, Team Israel has to survive this week.
“Having bigger names certainly brings more attention to the sport and would help the sport grow, but I’m not looking past our first game. March is a long ways off,” Ausmus said. “If we don’t win here, it means nothing.”
Ausmus spoke several times of promoting the sport back in Israel, trying to get more native Israelis involved. That’s one thing both of these teams, however different their circumstances might be, can share: bringing the game they love back to their home country.
“We hope that it helps grow the sport in Israel. We hope that 25, 30 years from now, Israel will field a team of native Israelis,” Ausmus said. “That’s the ultimate goal: to not have mostly American-Jewish ballplayers, but to have Israeli native citizens.”
“If we win this qualifier, it’s going to be a big deal,” Ngoepe said. “They’ll be able to watch the games over there on their TVs and radios, and there’s going to be big publicity over there for the people. It would say, ‘Hey, baseball is in South Africa.’”
Standing for Money, Ideology, Coercion and Ego (also known as the Republican platform, ZING!), the show is remake of “The Gordin Cell” and will find Berg writing and directing the pilot, in addition to producing as well. And we’ll let Deadline break down the specifics of what it’s all about: Gordin Cell revolves around the Gordin family and centers on Israeli-born Eyal Gordin, a decorated Israeli Air Force officer in a high-security post who loves his country and family. His parents Michael and Diana, Grandmother Nina and elder sister Natalia emigrated from the USSR in 1990. Eyal has no idea that his parents were Russian spies. When Miki and Diana’s former handler appears one day, demanding that they recruit their son into espionage activity (watch the scene below with English subtitles), Eyal faces an impossible dilemma: his cooperation with Russian intelligence determines his family’s fate, while his dedication to Israel’s homeland security tests his family allegiance. His country, or his family… who will he choose to betray?
The redo will transplant the setting to the United States, with Berg teasing “There are still real issues between the U.S. and Russia — they’re spying on us, we’re spying on them.” Of course, the question of when he’ll actually get to this remains to be seen.
Berg wants to be heavily involved in the first season of the show, working with the writers and producers, who are all apparently fans of “Homeland” which may indicate the tone and direction this one might be taking. That being said, he’s currently gearing up to shoot “Lone Surivor” with Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Eric Bana and Ben Foster, so he’ll be busy for a while yet. He’s also attached to a couple other projects as well including the drama “Father’s Day” as well as the long talked about “Friday Night Lights” movie. But Berg tends to wear a few hats at once, so this one we’d guess won’t be too far away on his desk. But until it emerges, here’s the credit sequence for “The Gordin Cell” to get a bit of a taste.
This week I had the privilege of attending a Rosh Hashanah dinner. I did not know what to expect because this was my first time attending not only a Rosh Hashanah dinner but also a major Jewish holiday dinner. The journey to the host’s house took me and my fellow students deep within an orthodox Jewish community and the streets were filled with families of orthodox Jews walking in the middle of the roads. At first it was a bit intimidating; however, our poor navigation skills forced us to ask dozens of people for directions. The people we encountered were exceptionally friendly and went well out of their way to help us find our way to dinner. When we arrived, we were seated at the table by gender and were crammed into a small room with some forty people. The meal itself was fantastic, and each course was accompanied by a blessing and a prayer, each with their own significance.
Rosh Hashanah — the Jewish new year — is so different from North American new year because the former is filled with prayers and actions that hope to encourage a sweet New Year as oppose to a drunken frenzy like the latter. Furthermore, the Rabbi retold the story of Abraham and Sarah and their struggles with infertility but when Abraham prayed for the Philistine King Abimelech, he was blessed and he bore a child at the old age of ninety-nine. In a world where selfishness is not only accepted but also encouraged, the Rabbi’s choice for the new year was well chosen — to start the new year not thinking only for yourself but someone else who is just as in need.
The Education Ministry was not aware that high school students had been sent to the filming of a TV song contest at the expense of regular school hours, a spokesman for the ministry said.
The television show “The Voice” is a popular music competition in which four well-known musicians coach a different group of youngsters, hoping to lead their group to victory.
On Sunday, seven buses stopped outside the Neveh Ilan studios. Hundreds of high school students in uniform and their teachers were excited to be part of the audience for an installment of the show.
The trip was arranged in cooperation with commercial companies. The cost of transporting the students was covered by a firm employed by concessionaire Reshet – the producer of the show.
That day, students from schools in three different parts of the country took part in the recording, so it was more than a local initiative. This was backed up by the production company, which said “the audience is mixed and consists of high school students.”
The Education Ministry has pledged to “examine each case specifically” – in any case, several schools had students taking part in the show.
According to the production company, Constantin, “The producers of ‘The Voice,’ like any other TV producer of a show filmed in front of a live audience, hire a company that ensures that there is an audience. The producers pay this company for coordinating and managing the audience when it arrives at the studios. The audience is mixed and consists of high school students, soldiers and various organized groups.”
by Jono Kalles
During my stay, I had the opportunity to eat in some amazing restaurants that I’ll be talking about over the next few weeks, as well as a few I’ve already reviewed (Charcuterie and Container).
However, I’m first gonna talk about the hotel where I stayed the last two nights before coming home, the Gordon Hotel & Lounge. Over the last few years, a large number of boutique hotels have opened all over Tel Aviv, and offer a great alternative to the much larger beachfront hotels. I’ve stayed in a bunch of them and will be discussing them over the coming months, but this one is fresh in my mind, and its location can’t be beat. It’s right across the street from the Gordon Beach, at the corner of Hayarkon and Gordon. The service and staff are amazing, starting with the warm welcome we received (along with a glass of Cava).
Considering that Size really doesn’t matter, the hotel only has 12 rooms that range in size from small to smaller. If you’re really looking to spend a lot of time in your room (it’s Tel Aviv, that would just be ridiculous) and need lots of it, then go somewhere else. This is not a place for a family to stay, trying to squeeze in an extra bed for the kids. There’s simply no room. But if you’re single or a couple, and are looking for a modern (less than 2 years old), cool place to stay, with a sick location, this is it.
There’s also Salt Kitchen and Drinks, the restaurant/bar on the main floor of the hotel. Breakfast is included for all hotel guests until 11:30am, and this isn’t your typical Israeli hotel buffet. You order whatever you want on the menu and it’s taken care of. I’m not a huge breakfast eater, but I enjoyed both mornings and it was great. They also have delicious menu for lunch and supper, and the setting is pretty awesome. I recommend trying their “interesting” cocktails, especially the Pinchas, Mint, lemon and shatta pepper – blushing from red grapefruit.
Israel’s maiden voyage to the global baseball stage will have a very American flavor.
Israel, which has only one playable baseball field and whose sports landscape is dominated by soccer and basketball, is one of 12 new teams competing in the 2013 World Baseball Classic as Major League Baseball continues to expand its global footprint.
In the double-elimination qualifying round that kicks off on Wednesday in Jupiter, Florida, Israel will play South Africa and then the winner of France versus Spain.
The best record of those four teams will move to the first round in March. The championship will be held in San Francisco.
“I feel very good about our chances,” Brad Ausmus, a former MLB All-Star catcher and the manager for the Israeli team, told Reuters in a telephone interview.
“I feel good about the team we have.”
Just three players on the Israeli team are Israeli-born and raised. The 25 others are Jewish Americans playing in the minor leagues, mostly in Double-A, although Josh Satin has played a handful of games for the New York Mets the past two seasons.
As long as one parent is Jewish and are eligible for Israeli citizenship, they are allowed to play for Israel.
“I hope that in 20, 30 years from now, teams will be represented by players born and raised in their countries,” said Jewish-born Ausmus, who retired in 2010 after an 18-year MLB career spent with MLB with the San Diego Padres, Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Joining Ausmus, whose mother is Jewish, in steering the Israeli team are former major leaguers Shawn Green and Gabe Kapler, who will serve as player/coaches.
Should Israel win its pool, its roster could be beefed up by some of MLB’s top Jewish players, such as Kevin Youkilis, Ryan Braun, Ian Kinsler and Ike Davis.
Israeli media have reported that Youkilis has already committed to the team, although Ausmus said he has not been notified of the decision.
However, Ausmus said every professional player with Jewish heritage has been contacted about playing for Israel. “Nobody told us no,” he said. “The majority of the responses were: ‘It sounds interesting.’”
Ausmus himself said he was not initially sure whether he wanted to be involved with the Israeli team but decided it would be fun and not too much of a time commitment that would keep him away from his family.
He also rejected the notion that managing the Israeli squad was a stepping stone to becoming a MLB skipper.
The qualifying round had been slated for November, which would have made it more intriguing since more big leaguers could have played. But Ausmus believes moving it up to September was a smart move.
“It’s the middle of the offseason for most major leaguers and they don’t want to touch a baseball until after New Year’s,” he said. “Here we have minor leaguers fresh off their seasons and their arms and legs are in shape.”
Although he likes his chances in advancing out of the qualifying round, nothing is a given. “It just takes one good pitcher or one good hitter to have a good game,” Ausmus said. “I am not looking past any team.”
Other countries competing in the qualifying round include: Canada, Germany, Great Britain, the Czech Republic, Brazil, Columbia, Nicaragua, Panama, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand and Taipei.
In a bid to raise the profile of baseball, Israel started the Israel Baseball League in 2007 but it folded after one season due to a lack of interest and financing.
Much of the baseball played in Israel, mainly on make-shift fields, is by kids whose parents moved from the United States.
Exposure to US baseball is also limited since most MLB games are aired by ESPN and Fox Sports in the middle of the night Israel-time, but the Israel sports channel occasionally broadcasts weekend day games that air at night.
When asked whether baseball could become popular in Israel, Ausmus said: “Maybe in 25 years it will be. It certainly takes time and you need a long vision.
“You need to teach kids and if you develop a love for the game, you hope it grows exponentially with each generation … I don’t know if basketball was that popular 40 years ago.”