Managers named for new Israel League
NEW YORK --Ken Holtzman, Ron Blomberg and Art Shamsky are among the former major leaguers who will manage teams in the new Israel Baseball League.
Tel Aviv, Bet Shemish, Modi'in, Ra'anana, Netanya and Petach Tikva were announced Monday as the six clubs to play this summer in the inaugural season of the league. Former Boston Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette is the director of baseball operations.
Holtzman (Ra'anana), Blomberg (Bet Shemesh) and Shamsky (Modi'in) will be managers, along with former Houston pitcher Steve Hertz (Tel Aviv) and Shaun Smith (Australia's Auburn Orioles). The Petach Tikva manager has not been hired.
"The idea really grew on me as a challenge and a chance to get involved with something that was starting up and be able to grow with this league," said Shamsky, an outfielder who played for Cincinnati, the New York Mets, Oakland and the Chicago Cubs from 1965-72. "These games are being played in the most historical place in the world and I think it will be interesting to see how everyone reacts to this."
The six-team league starts play June 24 and will use Gezer Field in Kibbutz Gezer (Bet Shemish Blue Sox and Modi'in Miracle), Sportek in Tel Aviv (Tel Aviv Lightning and Ra'anana Express) and Baptist Village Field in Petach Tivka (Netanya Tigers and Petach Tikva Pioneers).
Duquette has supervised three tryouts over the last few months, signing 80 players from eight countries, including Israel, the United States, Australia and the Dominican Republic. The league plans to hold tryouts in the Dominican Republic next month and set a goal of obtaining an invitation for Israel to play in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
"We're going to have a very representative league," Duquette said. "But at the same time we're going to build up the infrastructure and the coaching and the fundamentals and the programs and the role models so that we can perpetuate the education of ballplayers in Israel."
Shamsky joked about having to learn a new language so he could argue with umpires, reading out the Hebrew translations of "Are you blind?" and "Open your eyes."
"Hopefully, a little of what we've learned in all the years I played in the major leagues, we can try to pass on to these players and the people of Israel," said Holtzman, a pitcher who won 174 games during his 15-year career with the Chicago Cubs, Oakland, Baltimore and the New York Yankees.
Leon Feingold, a 33-year-old right-hander, spent two years in the Cleveland Indians' organization before shoulder surgery in 1995. He's now a real estate broker in New York and intends to play in the new circuit.
"Getting the chance to play baseball again, it's like getting a second chance at something most people don't get a first chance at," he said. "If nothing else, this will make my mother extremely happy."