Theodor Herzl, the father of modern Zionism, dreamed of building a Jewish state in Palestine. Larry Baras, the owner of a specialty baking company in Boston, dreams of building a baseball league in Israel.
Come next summer, Baras’s dream may become just as real as Herzl’s.
The Israel Baseball League is slated to be a six-squad, 48-game professional league with teams throughout the country. While the exact sites have yet to be determined, four players already have been signed, thanks to tryouts held over the summer in Massachusetts.
“I was pleasantly surprised by the caliber of the men who came to the workout,” said Dan Duquette, former general manager of the Boston Red Sox and Montreal Expos. He is now the IBL’s director of player development. “We have some very impressive players, many of whom played in the pros.”
Those now under contract include Adam Crabb, a pitcher from Australia; outfielder/first baseman Dan Rootenberg, a New Yorker who was born in Israel; Willie Bumphus, an infielder from San Diego, and Leon Feingold, a pitcher from New York City who played in the Cleveland Indians organization.
On November 10, tryouts will take place in Israel. More than 50 native Israelis and Americans who’ve made aliyah have signed up.
But baseball is more than just guys running bases.
“There will be Cracker Jacks, hot dogs, beer and falafel,” Baras said
Daniel C. Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to both Egypt and Israel, has been named commissioner and is setting up a committee to define rules for the league. But this being Israel, there are bound to be questions beyond how to call balls and strikes.
“The one question I hear more than any other is ‘Will games be played on the Sabbath?’” Baras said. “At this point, the answer is no, for reasons both practical and philosophical.”