It’s not the World Series. But unlike the annual championship series America’s baseball leagues offer, the World Baseball Classic features teams from beyond North America. And this week, Israel qualified for the quadrennial tournament, which will take place in Seoul, South Korea, in March.
On Sunday, Israel slammed three home runs in a 9-1 victory over Great Britain in the championship game of the World Baseball Classic qualifier, earning its first bid to the international tournament.
Israel took a no-hitter into the eighth inning of Sunday’s game at MCU Park on Coney Island, with starting pitcher Jason Marquis throwing four innings and striking out five British batter and winning pitcher Josh Zeid getting through the next three innings with three strikeouts.
Catcher Ryan Lavarnway had two hits, including a two-run homer in the four-run fifth inning, and drove in three runs.
If the names Jason, Josh, and Ryan don’t sound Israeli — well, under the WBC’s “heritage rule,” Israel can field players who would qualify for citizenship under Israel’s Law of Return. Like most of the team, the three are former Major League Baseball players not now playing in the major leagues. (Two are in the minors and the third is a free agent.)
Pitchers Dean Kremer and Shlomo Lipetz are the only Israeli citizens on the squad.
In the March championship, Israel will face off against Chinese Taipei, South Korea, and the Netherlands.
Major leaguers will be released from their spring training commitments to play for their countries’ teams, but Israel’s manager, Jerry Weinstein, said that he preferred maintaining the camaraderie of the Brooklyn roster. He’s not planning on replacing any of his players with bigger names.
“I feel very loyal to the guys I was with for the last week and a half. I feel an obligation to them,” said Weinstein, 73, a coach in the Colorado Rockies system. “For me as a manager, I’m connected to these guys. I’d be very happy to take this team and go anywhere to play.”
In 2012, Israel fell a game short of qualifying for the tournament.
JTA Wire Service