We lost a tough one last night, 2-1, to Bet Shemesh. I was the starting pitcher (first pitcher in Netanya Tigers history!) and had a no-hitter through three innings, but they scored one in the 4th and 1 in the 5th to take the lead, and the game was called after 6 innings due to darkness (Kibbutz Gezer's field is a converted softball field, and although the lights were on they were not very strong, never having been intended for baseball, and apparently the umpires were having problems seeing the ball clearly). It was great hearing the fans chanting "We want seven!!! We want seven!!!" once the announcement was made after the 5th inning that the game would be shortened - had flashbacks to the MLB All-Star game where Bud Selig declared the game a tie and canceled the rest of the game when the all-stars ran out of pitchers. I had a funny story of my own yesterday - I drove in the first run in Tigers history with a run-scoring groundout, but a minute later the umpire ruled my bat illegal (it was a composite wood bat I'd gotten from the Cleveland Indians organization, and I didn't know that it wasn't legal in the IBL!!!) and the runners had to go back to their bases and I was declared out. :( The run came around to score on the next batter's single, but it still was a pretty weird way to start the season. I did record a bunch of firsts for our team, however, and currently lead the league in baserunners picked off, with two. :) It was a great game to watch, and we had nearly 1000 fans in attendance, including Dave Lelonek, my Scoutmaster from Ten Mile River Boy Scout camp from twenty years ago (!) and his family who I met for the first time, who just happened to be visiting Israel this week. There were some amazing plays on defense, including a couple of diving, hit-robbing plays by CF Josh Doane and SS Hector de los Santos, and a great inning-ending play at the plate where Josh threw out a baserunner trying to score on a fly ball and Sam Fader, our catcher, made a great diving tag. The score was close, the game could have easily gone either way, and even though we came up on the wrong end of it (I allowed too many baserunners due in part to the tightest strike zone I have EVER seen) I am proud to have been a part of it and I know the fans all got their shekels' worth. I've been spending a lot of time with the team, and when not with the team been going out and exploring the local cities, not just Tel Aviv. Every day we are pretty wrapped up with baseball activities, and at night we've either been playing cards, going out and meeting locals (and a lot of international tourists), and starting very soon, working out at a real gym (we have been negotiating with local gyms to try to find one we can use daily). I bought a bicycle both for transportation and exercise, and plan on biking several miles today before the game tonight, which I won't be playing in but will be going to watch, and going to try to take some swings in the batting cage. I do look forward to learning more about Israel and Israeli culture; it's definitely a work in progress; we've been here just a week and I'm still learning a lot about the language, customs, etc. but I can definitely see why people move, live, and visit here. It's really interesting.
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!