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...


Monday, July 2, 2007


Wow - today was one of those one-in-a-thousand games. I took the hill in Gezer against the Blue Sox again, who were 4-0 and in first place; with my Tigers at 2-1, a win would have put us 1/2 game behind them and even in the loss column. I had my stuff on all cylinders today, and pitched 6 innings of shutout ball with six or seven strikeouts. In the top of the 6th inning I loaded the bases before working out of it so they planned to bring in a couple of guys who had done great in relief so far to pitch the seventh against the bottom third of the order, and I got a lot of congratulations on the way to the dugout (we were the home team at Gezer b/c the field at Sportek is STILL not ready - maybe by Wednesday?) and I sat down to watch the last inning and a half with us three outs away from a 5-0 win. Bet Shemesh was completely deflated - they even put a couple of bench players in and had their relief pitcher tossed from the game in the bottom of the 6th for arguing with the umpire, and all seemed like it was going to plan for Netanya.


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.