On their journey to a baseball tournament in Cooperstown, N.Y., home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Israeli National Youth Team made a pit stop in Westwood, where the team was welcomed by the owner of Tri State Sports, home of CloseoutBats.com.
CloseoutBats.com is a family-owned business that specializes in wholesale sporting goods. The visit allowed the team from Israel a rare opportunity to shop for baseball equipment, which is difficult to come by in their home country, where basketball and soccer dominate the market.
Team manager Yaron Erel has long bought baseball equipment from CloseoutBats.com, and called to arrange a visit to the company’s warehouse.
“We normally don’t open until 3:30,” said Roy Zitomer, owner of CloseoutBats.com. The store, however, made an exception and opened its doors exclusively to the Israeli team early in the morning on Friday, July 9.
|The Israeli International Youth Team stopped by Tri State Sports for some batting practice on their way to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. PHOTO”ˆCOURTESY OF TRI STATE SPORTS|
According to director of operations Matthew Bender, the shop also set up a batting cage outside for the athletes to test the bats, which were discounted heavily for them.
“We did our best to accommodate the little guys,” Bender told The Jewish Standard.
Sales representative Bill McDermott ran a demo of the baseball bats, showing the players the difference between aluminum and composite bats and one-piece bats and two-piece bats.
“Everyone always asks me which is the best bat. And I say, ‘Whatever feels best in your hands,'” said McDermott. “But in the end, it doesn’t matter what equipment you have. It’s all about confidence no matter what sport you play.”
The team, made up of elite youth players from all corners of Israel, traveled to America to compete in the 14-and-under Cooperstown Baseball World Tournament July 10 to 16. In addition to Erel, the team is led by head coach Amit Kurz and coach Aryeh Klein.
“We usually compete in Italy,” said Erel. “But because most of our players are religious, we cannot play on Saturday. In Cooperstown, there is no Saturday game – it is Sunday to Thursday.”
In the past, the team has participated in tournaments with games on Saturday, during which commissioners have allowed the Israelis to bypass the Saturday game and play a triple-header on the Sunday instead.
“Tournaments know, they either make an exception for us or we don’t come,” Erel said.
Players appeared hopeful that the shopping spree, coupled with months of training, would help them do well in the tournament.
“If we play as well as we practiced, we are sure to do well,” said Tal Erel, an Israeli National Youth Team player and son of manager Yaron Erel.
The Israelis won two games against New York but lost a total of six games in the tournament to finish 8 of 9.
They did not know what to expect in their first-ever competition against American teams. It didn’t help that their pool consisted of the California Cyclones and the Florida Pumas, teams that finished second and third, respectively. in the tournament.
“Four of the games were close,” said Erel. “The games could have gone either way, especially against California and Florida. One hit here or there and the outcome would have been different.
“In all it was a great experience and I’m really proud of the way we played.”
After the tournament, the team spent a weekend at Camp Mesorah in Guilford, N.Y., where they played baseball with the campers and staff, as well as ran clinics for the entire camp.
“No matter what country the kids are from, they speak the same language,” said Zitomer’s father-in-law, Howie Kule. “It’s universal when it comes to sports.”