Thursday, August 23, 2007

One unforgettable Summer!

Wow - what a summer! I am now back in New York City, with a farmer's tan (arms and face dark, the rest of me white) and a bad cold picked up my last few days in Israel and exacerbated with 15 hours in and around airplanes. More importantly, I have a treasure trove of memories and pictures from my experiences as a member of the inaugural player class of the Israel Baseball League, and they are among my most cherished.

I want to thank everyone who has been by my side this summer, including my teammates and leaguemates, as well as the people who have helped the IBL weather many storms and stay the course throughout the season. I want to thank my family and friends who came to visit me in Israel, as well as those who couldn't make it in person but kept in touch through email, telephone, and Skype, among others. I want to thank all the fans who came out to our games this year, and while some fan families stand out more than others (Jake's crew especially; special props to Sareet and Ilana!) I am glad so many people came to experience professional baseball, and nearly all left impressed with the league and the sport in general. I think baseball has a huge future in Israel, and I can't wait to see what lessons the league has learned from this year’s experiences and how they will prepare for next year.

It is still too soon to put all my thoughts in words about my experiences, but I do want to say I have developed a new appreciation for Israel as a vibrant, exciting country, as a safe and enjoyable vacation spot for people of all religions, and for the citizens who have gone out of their way to make ALL of us IBLers feel welcome. I also made friends this year, both Israeli and non, who I expect to be in touch with and friends with for a long time.

I have posted many of my photographs from this summer on my profile at FaceBook (search for my name) and welcome anyone who has been reading this to add me as a friend with a note so I know to accept your invite - I do intend to go back next season if not earlier so feel free to write as often as you like!

Also, if any of my new friends are interested in visiting or moving to New York City, make sure you let me know! I always have a couch open for friends, and I work in real estate so I know of all the cheap apartments here in Manhattan. :)

It's only sinking in now that I am back in the States, and that my Israeli/IBL summer is actually over. I fully expected this morning to wake up and see my roommates Josh Eichenstein and Fabian Armenta passed out in their beds on the other side of the room - it's hard to believe they're in California now, and I may not see them again for another year if at all. I was a little homesick for NYC while I was gone, and that feeling grew stronger as the season drew to a close. I'm already homesick for Tel Aviv, and I wonder how long it will be before I have to go back?

In conclusion: I loved the summer, I love being back in NY, I would love to return to Israel. And I love you all. Thanks for reading.

Leon Feingold #45

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Tigers Advance to Semi-Finals

Rafael Rojano just shut down the Ra'anana Express in a dominating performance, 3-0 complete game, and we're now in the semifinals against the league's top team, the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox. Game is tomorrow morning at noon Israeli time, 5am EST. I get the start, and hopefully we will get the victory and move on to play Sunday against the victor of Modi'in and Tel Aviv... but they're throwing Juan Feliciano, another of the league's top pitchers. I am definitely looking forward to tomorrow! It should be a great game, and I really feel like I've matured as a pitcher this season. I expect nothing but the best from myself tomorrow and am confident I'll be able to shut them down again. Hey, if I don't believe in myself, who will? Tune in tomorrow to see how it all turns out...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Less than two weeks left

Hey everyone! It's August 10, and my Tigers have just swept a very unusual doubleheader from Petach Tikva early this morning. I was supposed to pitch the second game with Rafael Rojano pitching the first, but a funny thing happened to the first game - it only lasted 1/2 an inning! With two outs in the first, Ryan Crotin of the Pioneers argued a called check swing and was ejected from the game. Upset over his ejection, Ryan announced he would not leave the batter's box, and for the next twenty minutes he paced back and forth in the batter's box as the game was eventually declared a 7-0 forfeit and the umpires walked off the field

Anyway, I was supposed to pitch the second game but with Raffy warm and ready to go, he pitched the second game as well and I came in relief to close with two scoreless innings as we won, 6-2. I've really been throwing much better of late, keeping the ball down and focusing more rather than just winging it and flinging the ball. Hope to see more success!

Hi to Erin and Jodie and Brooke and mom and Sarah and - well, everyone. Less than two weeks left! Looking forward to seeing everyone again, although I will definitely miss Tel Aviv and Israel. It's so amazing here... hopefully we return as reigning IBL champions!!!

Leon Feingold :)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


Here's a quick update on the power of superstition.

Nearly all ballplayers are superstitious. Even those of us who don’t do things like throwing salt over our left shoulder when we spill some, or crossing our fingers for luck, still have baseball-related ones. For example, Ty Eriksen and I and a couple of others have been creative with our facial hairstyles this season, especially lately. I went from clean-shaven to scruff to a beard to a goatee to a handlebar moustache (think Terry Leach of the late-1980s Mets) within a month or so, and just in time for my start against first-place Bet Shemesh, I shaved the handlebar down to what can only be described as a "1970s 'stache." I only did it for fun, and I think it looks awful. But I wore it while pitching the game, and we came back to score 4 in the bottom of the 6th, and won 5-3. So I kept it for another day.

The next day (yesterday), we beat Rana'ana and took over 4th place from them. So I kept it another day.

Today we play last-place Petach Tikva for two games; if we sweep this doubleheader it means I'll have to continue to keep this thing on my face for another day. At this rate, I don't know whether I'm rooting for or against us. I miss my face, and don't really want to look like this for the rest of the season, even if it means winning the IBL championship:

Ah, who am I kidding. I'd shave my head bald if it meant we were going to win the IBL Championship. It is pretty ugly though, right?

Maybe from now on I'll start looking for four-leaf clovers for luck, and stop relying on the mystical power of fab facial hair.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

All-Star Game Experience

Just a quick update, now that the IBL All-Star Game has come and gone. I have to say, we have some REAL talent here in this league. I pitched my inning for the North team and gave up an RBI to one of the league’s top hitters in Eladio Rodriguez, but felt good about my outing and aside from that pitch I feel I did a good job. I am still maturing and learning as a pitcher, and I had a good conversation with Kenny Holtzman before the game (he's the manager of Petach Tikva and the winningest Jewish pitcher in MLB history) which I think will serve me in good stead the rest of the year. It's basically about my approach to each hitter and what I should be taking from each outing to help me improve my next one. I really wish I had someone like him to talk to when I first started playing baseball competitively, almost 20 years ago. I am lucky, however, that I have a good enough arm, body, and mindset to allow me to compete at the professional level at an age when most people are slowing down. I really am rededicating myself to my physical conditioning and next year I expect to be back, and even better...

In the meantime, the game itself was an amazing experience. At times we’ve played here to crowds of fewer than 200, so it was great to play in front of over 1000 again - and I have developed quite the fan contingent here! When I was younger I remember many of my favorite players had their own fan bases - like Doc Gooden's K Korner posters, and David Cone's Coneheads... I wonder whether my supporters can and will come up with something? But I think that's something I need to earn - and that means throwing fewer balls, getting ahead of more batters, and hitting my spots. I know I have a well-above-average fastball, curve, and change for this league, but my problem has been consistency and accuracy. I have basically been beating myself. For the rest of this year, I look forward to working on some of the things Kenny and I discussed, and hopefully I'll stay healthy and have an even better second half of the season!

Finally, I've been having a wonderful time here in general. The people in Israel are amazing, and they all have their own stories about their lives, many of which I've been learning. The nightlife is great, my teammates are tremendous, and the whole experience is fantastic. I miss all my friends from NYC, and I wish they could each be here! I did have recent visitors from the States, and will be having more, and I am touched they came all this way to see me and share my experiences.

I have a month left and I intend to make the most of it! Here are a few pictures from All-Star weekend, including a couple which were sent to me - hope you enjoy them!


Pregame lineup of both All-Star rosters

Scott Perlman, my teammate at home in NY for the Fordham Red Sox

A moment of zen on the warmup mound before my inning

Knocking knuckles with my catcher Juan following my All-Star inning, as Nate Fish runs by

Posing with my sister and mother after coming out of the game

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The great game of baseball !

Wow! It’s been a while since I’ve written – and so much has happened! Here’s a quick recap: Pitched against Rana’ana Express, looking for my first win of the year, gave
up no earned runs and came out in the sixth with a man on base; the next hitter went yard off the relief pitcher for a 2-run HR and we lost, final score 3-1. My ERA was 1.04, with an 0-2 record. So it only makes sense that my NEXT start against Petach Tikva would be a ridiculous 8-7 win, where I would give up all seven runs in the first three innings and we would fight back tooth and nail and take the lead, and then Raffy, the pitcher who gave up the ill-timed HR in the Ra’anana game, came in and SLAMMED the door on the Pioneers and we won! I give up 7 runs, I win. Go figure! That’s why I love baseball.

So I pitched an inning earlier today against Bet Shemesh, the first-place team – we won, 17-6, and I pitched on my off day to get a little work in before my big start this Sunday against Modi’in in the TV game (someone TiVo it for me, please?). I thought someone was playing a trick on me before the game, as I took my cleats out of my bag before we stretched, and when I came back I only had my right cleat! The other one was missing – I figured someone was playing a baseball-prank on me, so I waited and waited for the other one to reappear… but it didn’t! So I warmed up pre-game, and then threw in the bullpen before going into the game – and had no left cleat!!! I pitched in the game with only one cleat on and a tennis shoe on the other foot, threw my inning and came back in – still no cleat. Luckily it wasn’t a long outing for me and the game wound up being a laugher after we scored 10 runs in our half of the 6th! So when I came back to the players’ dorms, there was the cleat, sitting in the middle of the floor. I had left it there myself, and I never even noticed. I could have sworn they were both in my bag…Anyway that brings us up to date. I just found out I’m on the All-Star team, which is a huge honor for me and I look forward to representing the North as well as I can. It’s also very humbling, as I know a lot of great players on all 6 teams, especially Netanya, who are great players and really deserved to play in this game. I look forward to doing the best I can in their absence, and enjoying the experience. I will be joined on the All-Star roster by my teammates Raffy Rojano and Justin Prinstein on the mound, Ryan Forsythe, Hector de los Santos, and Ramon “Ray-Ray” or Ray-Rod” Rodriguez on the infield, and laser-armed Josh Doane in the OF.

Erin is in town for two weeks, and my mother and sister are coming in two days! I also have my friend Gillian coming in August, and my coworker and friend Stephanie will be here also in August – it’s so exciting to be here in Tel Aviv, enjoying myself, playing baseball for a living again, and having so many people come to see me!!! I can’t express how much it means to me to get everyone’s calls and (in special circumstances) visits – I miss everyone so much, but definitely love my time here. Keep in touch, everyone, and if anyone wants anything from here, let me know ASAP!!! I'm also including some pictures of my time here - hope you enjoy them!

Me signing autographs for (on) a fan...

Me on the field Opening Day with two of my best friends on the team -
"Captain" Dan Rootenberg and Mike "White Crane" Kerfeld.

What I thought was a cool media blueprint for camera placement, Opening

Out for sushi in Herlziyya and showing off game tickets: Me with Ty "Leif"
Eriksen, Ike, Crane, and Amit "Meat" Kurz.

Finally, our own Pied Piper of Hamelin, the now-shockingly blond Ryoju Kihara, who has developed the amazing ability to teleport out of the stadium at the oddest times, usually leading local children and curious passersby in jogging sessions, Tai Chi, or naptime.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Daily Grind

Today is Sunday, July 8 (that's "shmonei" to those of you learning Hebrew at home), and we have our team's first real home game later today!? That's because Sportek Park, home to the Tel Aviv Lightning and my Netanya Tigers, is the third and final stadium to be completed with a fingers-crossed opening game at 5pm today!? I say fingers-crossed because we've been hearing several dates for a tentative opening day, and none have actually happened.? Apparently, it takes longer to do many things in Israel, and getting permits to build fields (and getting people to actually WORK on fields) are both among those things.? It has been a little frustrating with six teams fighting for playing time on two fields, which has led to a few 4-team doubleheaders and several game cancellations.? They have also changed the schedule, with 45 regular games reduced to 39 games, and a modified playoff schedule with the first two teams getting a first-round bye, and the other 4 teams playing a single-elimination, 9-inning game to win the right to play the first- and second-place teams, winners to play each other for the championship. Everyone got that?? OK, good - then someone explain it to me.

Israel has AMAZING parks.? I have commented to several local people that I think Tel Aviv is beautiful and clean, and they look at me like I'm crazy - some even said New York City was much cleaner!? It very well may be, but the fact remains that Israel has so much parkland and open areas, which are in near-constant use for BBQs and sports and biking and running and outdoorsy stuff - it's a jock's dream come true! Now all we need are for some of these people to pick up baseball gloves and go outside and throw, instead of all the pickup?soccer games, and we'll have a true sport utopia here.

I mentioned today's game - I am supposed to be the starting pitcher, which means I will have the unique (I think) distinction of being the starting pitcher for opening day at two of the three IBL parks (I pitched the first game at Gezer Field as well).? It will be nice to face someone besides the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox (originally on the schedule before the cancellations kicked in, I was supposed to pitch against them a THIRD time Friday, I think), and while every team is dangerous, at least Petach Tikva isn't 9-0 like Bet Shemesh.? Wish me luck!

I also promised a bunch of people international shout-outs - so from the top of my head (will leave off quite a few and so will do this again sometime soon, and in NO PARTICULAR ORDER, a hearty SHALOM goes out to:

Mom, Sarah, Erin, Jodie, Andreea, Scott, Armand, Adam, Jennifer, Holly, Rick, Brooke, Gwyneth, Christopher,?Stefka, Cathy, Ania, Elizabeth, Amber, Steph, ?Barbara, Jeremy and Jordan and all my peeps at Cooper & Cooper Real Estate, Gillian, Coco, my brilliant fellow SigXMensans, Rami, Linda, and everyone else...