Thursday, August 23, 2007
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
Monday, August 13, 2007
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
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
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
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!
"Captain" Dan Rootenberg and Mike "White Crane" Kerfeld.
Eriksen, Ike, Crane, and Amit "Meat" Kurz.
Monday, July 9, 2007
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...
Monday, July 2, 2007
The top of the last inning was started by a walk to their leadoff batter by our first relief pitcher... and then another walk to the next batter, then the next batter, then the fourth straight walk forced in Bet Shemesh's first run. That pitcher came out of the game (the strike zone was tight again, and with no warmup mounds at these fields it can be a tough adjustment... but you still have to just throw it over with a large lead) and another pitcher came in to face the next batter with bases loaded, no outs, and Bet Shemesh down by four. Can you guess what happened?
So, after the game-tying grand slam (you *did* guess grand slam, didn't you?), they added insult to injury with a three-run homer and a couple of other assorted hits, including a 2-run double by the same guy who hit the slam, giving him 6 RBI in one inning... and while we scored a run in the bottom of the 7th we still lost, 10-6, a game we had in our hip pocket. No one in the world thought they would or could come back from 5-0 in one inning after not showing anything all game... which tells me a couple of things.
1) luck is fickle.
2) unless my body parts are hurting or falling off or both, I am never coming out of a shutout game again.
I don't blame anyone for what happened, and I tip my hat to the Bet Shemesh guys who executed when they needed to. Lord knows I've been in the reverse situation and lost the game to waste someone else's good game, but it's never fun when it happens, and this was really a game we wanted to win and a team we wanted to beat. At least I knew I threw well and intend to do so again the next time we play, and I really think Netanya's pitching staff is the best, top-to-bottom, in the league - and we all know pitching wins ballgames. The two guys who relieved me are two of my better friends in this league, and I have no qualms about turning to either of them in the future. Like I said, it was just a freak, one-in-a-thousand sort of thing. It won't happen again.
Or if it does, it will be us doing it to someone else.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Our home field, Sportek in Tel Aviv, is STILL not ready to be played on, so the league has canceled some games and rescheduled others. Ahh, the pleasures of bringing baseball to a new country.
Still, this means there's a lot of free time this week for the Netanya Tigers and Tel Aviv Lightning, the two teams which share Sportek as a home field - we have off Tuesday and Wednesday and I think Tel Aviv has off two other days this week. Anyone out there in the Tel Aviv area want to show about 40 baseball players some of the local attractions? Write me!
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Oh, yes - baseball! We had our first practice yesterday. I threw off a mound made of soil, and my cleats kept getting stuck. An inauspicious debut! But once I stopped falling over I threw pretty well, I thought. We don't know who will be getting the opening day start - it's probably going to be between me, Mike Kerfeld, and Rafael Rojano, from Columbia. Looks like we have a pretty solid squad, and I'm definitely thinking we're one of the favorites for the championship this year. The field at Petach Tikva is great! The field at Tel Aviv's Sportek, however, needs work.
Must run - going with a teammate to check out the local town of Ramat Hasharon on our new bicycles we bought yesterday. Shalom!
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
The travel itself was long, but not too bad. It was about 7.5 hours from New York's JFK airport to Zurich, and then 3.5 hours from Zurich into Tel Aviv. Between the flights (especially with an hour+ delay leaving JFK due to air traffic), airplane seats, and time change, I thought I'd be in for a tough trip, but I was pleasantly surprised. The IBL had booked us on Swiss Air rather than El Al (apparently the Israeli airline wasn't willing to negotiate the prices down at all so they lost out on over 100 tickets!), and the seats were actually comfortable and spacious. In addition, Swiss Air has built-in entertainment handsets, which when combined with the exit row/bulkhead seating, allowed me to spend most of my time either sleeping or playing games like minigolf and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? For the record, I made it to the million dollar question once, and I would have beaten the game a few times if it weren't the British version, with thoroughly random questions I had no way of knowing. I actually got the 100 pound question wrong a couple of times - very unlike me, as I love trivia games.
I was traveling from NY with a group of maybe 20 IBLers, many of whom I had met earlier at our local IBL practices or from my time playing ball in the NYC area, but there were about half I did not know and we spent some of our down time on the flight or between them meeting each other. It was pretty easy to see who the IBL players were; most ballplayers tend to stand out in a crowd. Besides, most of us were wearing some sort of baseball paraphernalia, and a few of us signed autographs when asked by curious passengers with what group we were traveling.
So we arrived in Tel Aviv - and the airport is beautiful!!! I'm used to massive stone structures designed for unaesthetic mass people-moving in LaGuardia and JFK - but the Ben Gurion airport is beautiful and clean, with a waterfall falling into a pool in the center of a brightly-lit courtyard, and high-end shops and boutiques all around. We passed through customs mostly uneventfully (I say 'mostly' because one of us was pulled aside for questioning and had to meet up with us later) and met up with some of the IBL personnel who loaded us onto buses and brought us to Kfar Hayarok.
Kfar Hayarok is basically a cross between a boarding school and a kibbutz, maybe 10 minutes away from Tel Aviv proper. I've been here for about 24 hours already, met some fun people, and realized I’m going to have to get a refrigerator. The rooms here are very sparsely furnished, with 3 or 4 players to a room and all with 'twin-sized' beds, which are the smallest commercially-available size. Being 6'6", my legs sort of hang off the edge of the bed unless I curl up in a ball to sleep - such is life! I wasn't expecting the Ritz, and it's certainly worth it to be here and part of this IBL experience.
The weather has been gorgeous and looks like it will continue to be - might as well enjoy the weather and local sights before we need to turn our attention to more pressing matters - like watching Netanya win the IBL championship. :)
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
I just did an interview with Orthodox Union Radio - take a listen to http://www.ouradio.org/ouradio/channel/an_athlete_like_no_other/ for the audio!
In the meantime, I've been pretty busy with tying up all sorts of loose ends before we fly out in two weeks. (Two weeks! Can't BELIEVE how fast the time has flown!) Work clients have to have their issues resolved, my cell phone service has to be suspended, my roommates need to be instructed on how to pay bills (and feed my fish) in my absence, I need to stay in shape and continue to work out, and I need to pack! I know I'm going to wind up bringing twenty pairs of socks and three pair of underwear; I just get forgetful like that... If anyone out there has any recommendations for what to bring other than the basics, I'm all ears.
We have a practice tomorrow morning with the local IBLers, our next-to-last Wednesday practice. I've really enjoyed them, and I feel they've helped me a lot - especially with my batting stroke - so I feel confident going into this season about my chances to stay healthy and succeed. Looking forward to leading Netanya into the playoffs!
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
Sunday, April 15, 2007
I have no idea how the draft will go - might I be a first-round pick? Mid-round? Might I be an afterthought in the 20th round? I have a sneaking suspicion I'll be among the first group to go, but I don't want to give myself the evil eye - isn't that an appropriate saying for the IBL? Kein ayin hara!
Some of us here in the New York City area are planning on having a full workout before the draft, and a couple of the IBL league people are expected to attend. I've spent some time talking with Art Shamsky, who was one of my favorite players on one of my favorite teams (the 1969 "Miracle Mets," who won the World Series against great odds by beating the favored Baltimore Orioles) and now will be managing one of the six teams. I have a feeling he'd like to check out some of us ahead of time in order to get a good idea about who's worth drafting early - but it's definitely a huge rush to have his number on my phone and be able to have him around to ask questions and discuss the new league.
I also wonder how much publicity the league is getting over in Israel. I understand they're going to do a big media push over the next month or two before the league starts, but if anyone from Israel reads this, drop me a line or send me a comment here; I'm curious to know what sort of reception the IBL is getting over there. Also, anyone who wants to meet up and show some of us around once we get to Israel is cordially invited to have the favor returned when and if they come visiting to New York City. I’m one heck of a tour guide.
Looking excitedly forward to the draft later this month! I hope you all are, too.
Thursday, March 8, 2007
I was also asked to speak, and I talked about my experiences in the past as a professional athlete and how I saw the IBL as a second chance to play baseball, a chance most people don't even get the first time. (That quote made it into several write ups!) I also talked about the impressive talent level of the IBL, both at the tryout in Hinsdale, MA I attended, as well as what I've heard from tryouts held around the globe, and while I fully expect to be one of the league's top pitchers this season (hey, if you don't have confidence in yourself, who will?) I definitely think we're going to see some amazing plays and great talent thrown into the mix on the field in Israel this year.
The press conference was very well attended and I wound up doing one-on-one interviews for another half hour with news outlets from both Israel and the United States, and I was definitely enjoying myself. I've since received congratulations from friends all over the world who read about or saw on TV information about the IBL and my role in it - I'm obviously very excited. All I can do now is make sure I get myself into top game shape before the season starts in June, and I'm doing my running, lifting, and throwing here in Manhattan as the opportunities permit. If anyone in NYC thinks they can keep up, I'm always looking for new athletic friends to train with...
Monday, February 19, 2007
Growing up in Long Island, New York, I enjoyed playing sports (soccer especially, which is 'football' for those of you outside the United States), but my only connection to baseball before high school was collecting baseball cards. I never was involved with Little League baseball like many other kids were, and I never watched it on TV or listened on the radio. I only started playing baseball around the age of 14 or so when I read somewhere that you couldn't really appreciate baseball cards unless you appreciated baseball. That year for the first time I tried out for my high school baseball team as a sophomore; I could run and throw but I couldn't hit very well or field at all. I wound up getting sent to the nurse's office during tryouts because I missed a lazy fly ball with my glove and caught it with my forehead instead.
I didn't make the team that year (needless to say) but I did start practicing, and that summer I played with a league outside of school and became an All-Star third baseman and first baseman - I guess I had some natural talent and I just needed a little coaching and a lot of practice. I didn't know how to pitch, then - someone suggested I try it because of my size (I'm almost 2 meters tall now - 6'6" - and even back then I was one of the taller kids on the team) and because I threw pretty hard. I was lucky enough my first year to have a coach who was patient enough to show me the difference between the stretch and the windup, and teach me all the other things I needed to know as a pitcher, a position I grew to love. The next year as a junior I made the high school Junior Varsity team as a pitcher, made the Varsity team my senior year, and went to college and pitched all four years on the Varsity team at State University of New York at Albany.
I attended a tryout camp in Watertown, NY with the Cleveland Indians after I graduated college and after throwing in the low-to-mid 90s I was offered a contract - to the best of my knowledge, I remain the only player signed by the Cleveland Indians out of that tryout camp. I spent the next two years pitching in a few cities around the United States: Watertown, NY; Butte, Montana; Winter Haven, Florida; and Burlington, North Carolina. I had a great time and made many friends around the country, but following two shoulder surgeries I figured my professional career was over. I attended law school at Hofstra University School of Law and worked a variety of 'real' jobs, including working as a Senior Analyst with the Wall Street Reporter Magazine, Managing Editor for the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, Operations Manager for American Dynamics Corporation, and now as a Broker with Cooper & Cooper Real Estate - but all the while, my love for the game never wavered and I harbored not-so-secret desires to one day find my way back into professional baseball.
Once my arm got better I played semi-professionally with tournament teams and summer leagues, and was clocked as high as 93mph a few years ago in a tournament. At that point I knew I had the ability to pitch professionally again, and just needed the opportunity. Imagine my surprise when one of my teammates on the Westchester/Rockland Wooden Bat League, where we had been playing with the Fordham Red Sox, told me about a new professional league in Israel (The Israel Baseball League) that was starting up - I knew I had to check it out. I came, I saw, and - well, here I am.
And here we come.