Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Israel Baseball League
THERE IS ACTUALLY FUN in the midst of the stresses of the Middle East. The fascination with baseball has been building in Israel for over two decades. Now, Israel is playing hard ball – literally. The newly formed Israel Baseball League is playing daily this ball season. They also boast an impressive website and lots of baseball paraphernalia. My favorite page is "Baseball in the time of our forefathers," a funny look at modern baseball with a biblical view.
Though I love baseball, I have not attended a major league baseball game for over 20 years. This week, my son treated me to a game for my birthday, a real father-son evening. Baseball here is a bit surreal. To arrive at the field, we had to travel through the Ayalon Valley - where the sun stood still for Joshua. The game was played in Gezer- one of the most important international cities of the ancient world and the gateway to the hill country of Israel. And now the battle is won by slugging the ball over the back fence!
The game began an hour before dusk. Uneventful in any country but Israel. As the sun approached the horizon, the sports announcer came across the PA system saying that a minion would be meeting behind the bleachers in a few minutes. A "minion" is at least ten Jewish men needed to officially pray the evening prayer. As the game continued on, prayers could be softly heard between strikes and balls. Even Orthodox Jews love baseball.
Israel’s league has some real gold, panned from U.S. Ball teams. The manager of the Modi'in Miracle team happens to be Art Shamsky, ball player for the New York Mets years ago. Taking advantage of the “ground-floor” inaugural season of the IBL, I requested a signed poster, baseball card, and hard ball, signed by Art - and received them all! More “ground-floor” fun for us was remaining behind after the game end and being asked by Modi'in Miracle team members to help set up the batting cage for the next day. In grateful thanks, they gave us a ride to Tel Aviv later that evening. My car was in the garage and we had really had to finagle to arrive from Jerusalem at rural Kibbutz Gezer where the game was played. Now my the only difficulty I have is to decide which team to favor. I am leaning toward the Modi'in Miracles.
Another surreal facet to Israeli baseball – the team who call Modi'in home – the city where those brave enough to resist the Syro-Greek Empire and save Judaism. Without that rebellion, Joseph and Mary would not have had Nazareth in which to play their roles in the redemption story.