Professional baseball took its first steps today when the inaugural game of the Israel Baseball League was played. There weren't any Cracker Jacks, cotton candy, or peanuts, and there certainly wasn't any pork sausages. All food was strictly Kosher. The Israeli crowd of 3,000 cheered on as the Modiin Miracles defeated the Petah Tikvah Pioneers 9-1.
The games almost didn't happen due to some customs issues with their equipment. Customs you say?
“They don’t know baseball. Soccer balls come in the country. They know what soccer balls are. No one knows what bats are. No one knows what baseballs are. No one knows what batting helmets are. They weren’t familiar with them, they had never even seen them before, didn’t know how to value them, price them, count them or anything like that,” league President and COO Marty Berger said.After days of negotiating, the gear was finally released from customs on Thursday. Once the game went on, the announcing team struggled converting the baseball lingo into Hebrew. Of course this could have been done beforehand, but after trying to translate the terms, the announcers gave up.
"How do you say 'home plate?"' asked one of the announcers on the cable sports channel, which carried the game live. No one came up with an answer.The six teams in the league will play a 45-game season, and the league has been modeled after the minor leagues. Give the fans a good time, and the fans will come back. To that end the fans will be showered with a variety of American-style promotions — fireworks nights, singles nights, bobblehead dolls, "Israeli Idol" singing contests, kids running the bases after the game, fans stuffed into giant sumo costumes wrestling on the field between innings.
And, because Israelis are used to soccer and basketball contests that end in two hours, the league will limit games to seven innings, with ties settled by a home run derby.
Today was a moment that was many centuries overdue. Dan Duquette, former GM of the Red Sox and Expos said it best:
"It's a proud day for Israel because this is the first professional game in 5,000 years."