Israeli baseball: How Team Israel went from underdog to superpower

Although the Israeli national baseball team is not very well known in the country, the team is making its way to the World Baseball Classic semifinals. So how did this happen? Most of the national team is made up of American Jews representing Israel even though they do not have Israeli citizenship.
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Israel’s national team is rocking the World Baseball Classic. That sentence may sound like science fiction however, Israel did need a bit of resourcefulness and imagination in order to reach this goal. A huge achievement for Team Israel that has nearly no Israelis.

“The support from Israelis, from American Jews, from Israeli Jews, from Jews around the world has been remarkable,” said MLB pitcher Josh Zeid, who is representing Team Israel. After this morning’s surprise win in Tokyo against Cuba’s strong team, Israel stands with a 4-0 record and is very close to making its way into the World Baseball Classic semifinals to be held in LA.

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Israeli baseball Photo Credit: Channel 2 News

“It’s a dream,” said Israeli pitcher Shlomo Lipetz. “I’ve been playing baseball since I was 10-years-old. I played baseball in Israel in the Sportek, Ra’anana, Petah Tikva, Jerusalem, but to play at this level is an unreal experience.” Lipetz is one of only three official Israeli citizens on Team Israel. All the rest of the players are American Jews, most of whom have never been to Israel and do not have Israeli passports.

The Israel Baseball Association has utilized the World Baseball Classic’s rule which states that a player is eligible to represent a country if he would be granted citizenship or a passport if he applied for such citizenship, even if he does not currently have a passport from that country. In Israel’s case, the Law of Return allows any person with at least one Jewish grandparent to receive Israeli citizenship.



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