August 30, 2007
The Boychicks of Summer
How high hopes for Israel baseball went foul
(Page 4 - Previous Page)Not all Anglos felt the outreach. Rabbi Stewart Weiss, a lifelong fan of his hometown Chicago Cubs and a former Wrigley Field "bleacher bum," is director of an organization in Ra'anana helping new immigrants. He and his family attended several games to root for the IBL team named after his adopted city, the Ra'anana Express - but heard little, if any, information about the team and league in Ra'anana itself.
"They're called the Ra'anana Express, but they don't play here, there is no publicity about them in town, and you can't buy tickets locally," Weiss said. "There ought to be a concerted attempt to reach out to Ra'anana, a city of 75,000, one-third of whom are English-speaking immigrants.
"There has to be a stronger connection to the city in order to build team spirit and team support," he stressed. "Can you just name a team after a city without actually involving the city or its inhabitants?"
The league did try one marketing drive aimed at Israelis - they paid the Israeli sports channel to broadcast Sunday night games in Hebrew. But when payment stopped coming, so did the broadcasts.
"It's a shame this is what they are doing to us, after we put our heart and soul in it," Yaron Talpaz, the sports channel's vice president for business development, told Walla! "We did not expect this kind of management from a league whose commissioner was the former U.S. ambassador to Israel."
Kurtzer said everyone would eventually be paid, including, he admitted, himself, and that it was a shame the sports channel chose not to broadcast the second half of the season, including the championship game.
"Yes, we do owe them money, but I'm confident that they are gong to get paid. It's a haval [shame] that we didn't have the cash flow to pay them; it's haval that they didn't want to do it on faith that they are going to get paid, so, haval. Everyone's going to get paid."
Kurtzer said that plans for next season are already under way; that he and league management know what needs to be done and that a replay of the problems of this season isn't likely.
"It will be different in the sense that you will have other complaints - the food is always going to be a complaint - but I'd say that 75 percent of the legitimate stuff that these guys complained about this year - legitimate being because it was true - we'll fix it," he said. "And they're gonna get paid on time, and we now know that you gotta get the laundry right, so all that stuff will be done right."
The main problem, Kurtzer said, was not enough hands onboard.
"We need more personnel, league personnel, just to handle issues," he explained. "Very often, players didn't know to whom to turn, so you just need enough people - someone who is responsible for X and responsible for Y, and you know where to go. So those are the things we'll work on."
The players themselves understood that. By the time the Blue Sox beat the Modi'in Miracle for the championship, the players had put all the problems behind them, and were sad to see the inaugural season end. The camaraderie was evident the night before the playoffs, when they held an awards night and gave out "The Schnitzel Award" in a number of jocular categories.
Almost to a man, all players asked said they would love to come back and play another season - if they don't get offers to play anywhere else .
"My personal experience has just been wonderful in every aspect of it," said Eric Holtz, the 41-year-old player-coach for the Blue Sox. "To be able to play and compete, having my wife and children here for three weeks and having them involved in one of the most exciting things of my life has just been phenomenal. And being a Jew, you can't come here and not feel some sense of spirituality. And I'm not a religious Jew."
Asked if he and the other players would come back next season, after all they went through, Holtz didn't hesitate.
"If they lived through the worst and survived," he said, "then why wouldn't they come back next year?"