With the Help of Others, Team Israel Plays Ball

The World Baseball Classic is underway in Jupiter, Florida.  It's the third time since 2005 that the international baseball tournament has taken place. And while some countries such as the U.S. and Japan are known for their skill on the diamond, another country is also making its way through the tournament with the help of a New Yorker.

Israeli-New Yorker Shlomo Lipetz pitches for Team Israel. During Wednesday’s qualifying round, Israel beat South Africa by a score of 7 to 3. He said the win was a good way to start the tournament.

“It’s a short tournament,” he explained. “You really don’t have time to make any mistakes, especially not in the first game of the tournament.”

This year’s Classic is a double elimination tournament, and Israel plays again Friday, heading to the field to face winner of the Spain vs. France game.

This would be the first World Classic for team Israel. The tournament has made some adjustments for the team. For example, Lipetz said Friday’s game time was moved up – to 1 p.m. to allow the game to take place before the Shabbat.

Lipetz, 33, is actually one of only three Israelis on the team, and he says the eligibility rules for the World Classic are loose. If a player is eligible to become an Israeli citizen, meaning they must have one Jewish parent, grandparent or spouse, he can become what is known as a heritage player for Team Israel.

“That allows, obviously, us to pick from a larger pool of players besides only Israeli citizens,” he explained.

Lipetz acknowledged that baseball isn’t really a big sport in Israel. “It’s still considered a niche sport. You know, if you’re a top athlete you would still be playing, you know, basketball, soccer. But baseball definitely has the room and you know, this is the highest level of competition, so we’re definitely on the map.”

When he’s not playing ball for Team Israel, Lipetz is the music programmer at the downtown Manhattan music venue City Winery.  He says he is busy, but still always has time for world class baseball.

Fans here in the US can watch the games live on worldbaseballclassic.com, and Lipetz said if you want the real inside-the-locker-room scoop, check out kingofjewishbaseball.com, a blog written by Team Israel player Nate Fish.