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Israel Newsbeat

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Exclusive: Israel baseball brings Kinsler into the fold

Following Team Israel’s meteoric rise to Olympic heights, four-time MLB All-Star Ian Kinsler, widely recognized as the greatest Jewish second baseman of all time, made aliyah earlier this month. His goal: helping the blue-and-white squad win Israel’s first-ever medal in a team sport.

Israel will be one of six teams in the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic baseball tournament (if it takes place). As host, Japan automatically qualified. Israel qualified by winning the Africa/Europe Qualifying Event in September 2019. Mexico qualified as the best team from the Americas, and South Korea qualified as the best team from Asia or Oceania (other than already-qualified Japan). Another team from the Americas will qualify through the Americas Qualifying Event in Arizona. The last spot will be awarded to the winner of the Final Qualifying Tournament.

Kinsler was inspired by the monumental achievements of his new teammates. The 37-year-old brings an impressive résumé to a line-up that already includes slugger Danny Valencia, Ryan Lavarnway (who, like Kinsler, earned a World Series ring with the Boston Red Sox) and a great pitching staff.

Besides his All-Star selections, Kinsler earned two Gold Gloves, and retired after last season just shy of 2,000 hits over 14 campaigns in the majors. His 243 steals led the all-time list of Jewish major leaguers, and his 257 home runs placed him fourth (behind Ryan Braun, Hank Greenberg and Shawn Green).

QLE Posted: March 24, 2020 at 12:38 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: ian kinsler, israel, olympic baseball

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Israel’s unlikely Olympic baseball team dreams big for Japan

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — As a baseball-crazed kid growing up in Miami, Danny Valencia dreamed of playing in the Major Leagues. The thought of heading to the Olympics, for a foreign country no less, never crossed his mind.

But after nine years and nearly 100 homers in the big leagues, that’s the next surreal step for the 35-year-old Valencia, who recently became an Israeli citizen thanks to his Jewishness and is now the star player in Team Israel’s improbable run to the Tokyo Games. Baseball is returning to the Olympics after being dropped for 2012 and 2016 and Israel is one of six teams vying for the three medals.

“It’s pretty cool to be playing in the Olympics,” he told The Associated Press at a team event in Tel Aviv. “For it to come about the way it did, especially for my mother who is a practicing Jew and very pro-Israel, it just meant a lot to her. So, to do this, especially at the end of my career, it is like the icing on the cake. ”

It’s even more of a dream fulfilled for the small baseball community in Israel, comprised mostly of American immigrants, and which has languished for decades in the country’s sporting wilderness. Israel has zero tradition of the American pastime, which is largely derided by locals as an arcane and boring sport. In Israel, soccer and basketball reign supreme while baseball, long popular among American Jews, has failed to catch on with the rough-and-tumble native-born Israelis who have taken more of a liking to the strategy and hard hitting of American football.

After the events of the last couple of days, feels time for a story about baseball outside of MLB, doesn’t it?

 

QLE Posted: January 15, 2020 at 01:22 AM | 2 comment(s)
  Beats: israel, olympic baseball

 

 

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