Monday, November 5, 2007

New blog-

Thursday, October 4, 2007

To recent visitors:

From the looks of things, I haven't posted anything here in over a month. While I have no shortage of material to write about, I find myself with much less 'free time' to spend writing than I had while in Israel. Traveling, the job search, catching up with friends, the job search, watching college football, the job search... sense a pattern developing?

Another reason is that I am hesitant to contribute more to this blog for fear of tarnishing what has turned out to be a successful diary of my summer in Israel. From feedback that I have gotten, it was an entertaining read, and I might as well quit while I am ahead, so to speak.

Finally, I want to keep things short here at the top (chronologically speaking) so that people that are just coming to the site for the first time don't find just another blog written by some guy who just graduated college. For some reason, Blogger has decided not to allow users to change the arrangement of posts so that they flow in the correct order, first to last. Instead, tonight's post will appear at the top of the site, further pushing down the (reputedly) quality material from Israel that lies beneath.

So, if this is your first time to my blog, please feel free to begin (appropriately enough) at the beginning, which can be reached through the "Blog Archive" down a bit on your left (my right).



Friday, August 31, 2007

Week goes by...

I won't lie - it is definitely great to be back in the States. Luxuries like carpeting, having my own car, and high definition television have coddled me in an environment that I am glad to call my own again. I do miss Israel, though - the guys from the league, the Israeli public and their purposeful way of life, the beautiful geography, the morning call of the peacock...

In the last week I have moved into my new house, caught up with parents and friends, and spent a lot of time simply enjoying being back. Here are some photos to share, just a few shots, but be sure to take note of the Israeli influence on my new bedroom's decorating: it cannot be denied.

Another item of note would be the new website that my cousin (and former NASA computer programmer - yeah, that's a pretty big deal) has started, located at - it's a very cool idea and very good at its purpose, which is to gather information about your favorite sports team from all over the internet into one location.

So, check out the pics and website, and I'll be back periodically with updates.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Long goodbyes

After spending the past couple of months bonding with teammates and other-team mates alike, it's strange saying bye to so many after such a short amount of time. The experience has left us all with something we can hold onto for the rest of our lives, not only that we were part of history in bringing baseball to Israel, but also the sense of living with a purpose that people in the Middle East seem to have every day. When a persistent conflict surrounds the environment every day, with the (even slight) possibility of violence happening in your own back yard - that gives each and every day more meaning and intensifies the emotions experienced by all. It has been something that no one will forget, and everyone will cherish.

Most everyone I have talked to wants to return next summer for the second year of the Israel Baseball League, given that circumstances allow for it. For myself, it will depend on where I am working and the state of my baseball readiness. If I were able to come back every summer, I certainly would. Everyone has worked to hard to right the ship and it has shown, and the players are all thankful for the long hours put in by executives Larry Baras, Dan Kurtzer, and Martin Berger, as well as the under-appreciated and over-achieving interns - David Rattner, Andrew Wilson, and Jeremy Baras. Thanks guys, for your hard work, and for making this a summer I will never forget.

This will close out my blog from Israel. I hope to continue this as new pictures catch my eye and memories pop into my head that I may have forgotten, and will post them once I return to the states (I fly at 11:30pm tonight). Thank you to everyone who read - I was blown away by the sheer number of visits that this blog received, and I appreciate all those who left comments and words of encouragement.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

New Photos

Click here for some new happenings

Not bad...

I guess Ben Bernanke is an everyday reader - thanks for the 50 basis point cut to the discount rate, Ben! Gained back 3.5% today on my portfolio.

Back to baseball... the Netanya Tigers lost today to the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox, sending Bet Shemesh to the championship game to face Modi'in. With our season now over, I find myself with three full days to spend with absolutely zero obligations here in Israel - a prospect that is both exciting and a bit challenging. I have been trying to save as much money here as possible, but having this much time to kill will certainly present me with plenty of money-spending opportunities. Hopefully my discipline will allow me to return home at least in the green for the summer.


Thursday, August 16, 2007


What the heck are you guys in the states doing over there? Every time I check my portfolio I'm down another 2%... all of the gains I've experienced through careful forex manipulation of my paychecks have been shuffled away by losses in the stock market. Will someone do some buying please?

Subprime concerns, whatever... it's not like these loan companies are just giving money away, what's the big deal? Oh wait, yes they are giving money away. Hm

I'd like to see a nice 8-9% bump in the S&P tomorrow... can those of you reading this see what you can do on the buy side for me? I'd appreciate it.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Long Overdue

Sorry for the absence of good material of late - in all fairness to me, this post was ready yesterday but the internet ceased to function in the living area last night, so here it is:

First things first – some of you may have noticed the progression of my hair length over the summer, and are probably asking the question, “Did you really just go 2 months without getting a haircut?” Well, the answer is a resounding “Yes”. The decision to grow my hair out, as the kids say these days, was something more of a distrust for Israeli hairstylists than a fashion statement. The result has left me looking like something of a cross between European wine connoisseur and prairie dog.

Being as it is, the longest it’s ever been in my life, my hair has produced a source of entertainment in those dark times when absolutely nothing else presents itself. I find myself running my fingers through the bushy mass and examining for length the hairs that dislodge. Fellow IBL players reading this, feel free to call me out on it – sometimes I don’t even realize that I’m doing it, and I do want to keep the habit under control.

But enough about my hair, there are many other things much closer to the ground to talk about – like Matt Comiter, and the great job he is doing this year for the Netanya Tigers (who, by the way, clinched 4th place for the regular season tonight, quite an accomplishment for a team that had a 6-game losing streak at one point). Matt consistently has great control and changes speeds to keep hitters off-balance, and has been a cornerstone of our starting rotation all year. He had another great start tonight and held Ra’anana to one run in six innings. Shlomo Lipitz has given us an added boost in the second half of the season. A former professional player in the US, he joined the team about a month ago and has been as dependable as the sunrise so far for us.

As far as the league is concerned, everyone is working hard to wrap this season up in fine form. Larry Baras has been present for player meetings and gave a great speech this morning at a Tree Planting put on by the Jewish National Fund. We were educated about the rich history of planting a tree in Israel, given almond saplings, and instructed to pick a spot for our new addition to Israeli foliage. I found some of my teammates and we formed the Tiger’s Den of almond trees, which will hopefully grow to bear abundant fruit for the locals in the future. In addition to this very cool trip, the league has made great strides in the department of player comforts, including wireless internet in the rooms and improved cafeteria food at the Kfar.

In other league-related matters, tomorrow is a contractual pay-day. I am looking forward to receiving my final paycheck, and that’s all I have to say about that.

I spent the weekend with the McKemie family at their new home near Jerusalem. The view from their new abode is spectacular – to one side, the Mediterranean Sea is visible on clear days; to the other lie the Jordanian mountains in the far distance. A constant breeze blesses the area, relieving this weary pitcher from the heat of coastal Israel. It was a beautiful visit, again complete with bountiful food and great company.

I’ll wrap it up here, as I need to get some sleep if I am to make it to the gym in the morning. One week from now I will be aboard a Delta jet on my way back home, barring any delays. Time has really flown here, and I’ve had a blast so far. Hopefully the final week will bring four more wins for the Tigers and seven more days of great memories.


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Marietta Daily Journal article

Should have time for a proper post by tomorrow afternoon. I've been at the McKemie's new digs for the weekend and having a great time, indulging all of the senses and catching up on sleep.


Tuesday, August 7, 2007

It has finally happened

I've been waiting for this night for a long time. Finally, I am exhausted to the point of being unable to write anything meaningful or worth reading. This is due, happily, to the fact that I threw a complete game tonight in my best start of the year. After the necessary couple-mile run to keep the arm in shape, I'm tuckered out and ready for a movie and sleep.




Monday, August 6, 2007

Weekend shots

Photos from the trip


It's a great feeling, one of accomplishment and 'having done something'. I've got that right now.

This morning, I successfully depressed the snooze button on my phone 6 times, amounting in a total of one full hour of snoozing. That, my friends, is a feat.

Kidding aside, after I finally did arise from bed, I managed to weasel my way into the Grounds Director's (my title for him, as the beloved Kfar Hayarok apparently doesn't bestow titles upon officers) office to reset the wireless router that has been not operational for the past 2 days. (side note - I just tried to type 'inoperational' and Firefox wanted to change it to 'in operational'... does that make sense? If you have grammatical insight here, please let me know)

After resetting the router and restoring internet access for thousands of IBL players here at the Kfar, I made my way up for a surprisingly satisfying lunch at Cafe Kfar. After discussing career plans and good movies with my friend and teammate Ben Engelhart, I then retrieved my laundry and returned to my room to compose this glorification of a simple morning's events.

The Tigers have been unable to string together a bunch of wins as we had hoped (and still think we have the talent to do). Rafael had a tough go at it last night, and was dealing with a very tight strike zone in the first inning. The umpire seemed to get the idea, albeit a bit late, and opened up a bit as the game progressed. It was too late, and Bet Shemesh had opened up a 7-0 lead that we fought to a 7-3 count before we were out of at-bats.

Movies that I want to see:
Life Is Beautiful
Ocean's Thirteen
Die Hard 3 (sitting on my computer already ready for a watch... after a conversation with teammate Sam Faeder, I've come to find out that the latest version in theatres does not accurately reflect the Die Hard series, so I have decided to see the original trio. The first blew my socks off)

Have a movie I should see? Let me know!


Sunday, August 5, 2007

Clarification of yesterday

I really that my tone here isn't misread: I have nothing but good feelings toward this league, which has provided me with an experience of a lifetime. While it has not been perfect here, the fact remains that we're here, we're playing baseball in Israel, and we are all having an absolute blast. We appreciate the work that it took to get us all here, and I hope that conditions will allow for my return next summer.

The last thing I want to do is provide "bad press" for the league. I hardly think that this blog actually constitutes "press" at all - but, I should be clear to say to those reading this that everything here should be read with an overwhelmingly positive light. If I bring something up that seems negative, it just means that I may have run out of new fun times to talk about. I don't want to complain or be of any burden to the league.

I was not asked to write this, but after considering the implications and tone of some of my more recent posts, I wanted to make sure everyone knows how great everything here is, and how certain 'gripes' are only brought up because they represent interesting situations.


Saturday, August 4, 2007


I wanted to thank everyone for the comments that have been left of late - many of which are anonymous so I have no way to thank you by name, but to Craig, Tim, Sherry, and everyone else that has been leaving their kind words - thank you!

To answer Craig's question, the league decided to take the link to my blog off of their page yesterday. Two days ago I posted a quick summary of a possible strike situation due to late salary payments by the league - apparently this was information that the league had preferred to keep private. After being told by one of the hard-working interns (seriously - these guys make this league happen) that certain officials were not happy with the content of that post, I decided to remove the post and take the option to have my blog "de-linked", instead of sending each post to the interns for screening prior to posting on the web.

This way, in the future, I can say what is on my mind without worrying about stepping on any toes, at least as far as the league is officially concerned.

Had a great trip to northern Israel today - Amit Kurz acted as tour guide and did an excellent job of sharing the cuisine, market experience, and beautiful scenery with us. Pictures will follow-


Friday, August 3, 2007


Yesterday the Tigers beat the Miracle 7-6; this morning we lost to the Express in another game that featured some questionable umpiring. While it is frustrating, there comes a point when we just need to move on - no, the umpiring is not up to U.S. professional standards. As players, we need to accept it and play the game. Everyone (including myself) has been disappointed with a call this season at some point or another. How we react affects the rest of the game in a negative manner, more often than not. Myself and everyone else needs to just accept what we have and finish the season having fun and playing the game - concerning ourselves with things we can control. Arguing a call has not once changed the umpire's mind, so let's get past it.


Weekend coming up, Shabbat dinner tonight with friends and a nice day off tomorrow to maybe catch a movie or some beach time.



Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Eilat and Petra

For most of the story, check out the Photo Blog.

The cab debacle that I refer to, explained:

Before we left Tel Aviv, Ty made reservations with our hostel in Wadi Mousa (the city right outside the Petra ruins) to have us picked up at the border. So, upon arriving in Jordan, we were greeted by our very friendly and English-speaking driver and headed for the cab. There the situation got a bit pulse-quickening.

A pack of white cabs was parked near the road, waiting for people who were crossing. This was their 'territory', being the city of Aqaba. Our driver was not from town, and instead drove from Wadi Mousa to pick us up. Thus we had a problem that reminded me far too much of most Middle Eastern conflicts that I have learned about in school (admittedly, not the best way to learn about conflicts, but it's all I have). One group has territorial claim, and the other has a special arrangement that allows them to be there. Looking back, it is a bit humorous; at the time, it was far from it.

So we're loading our bags in the trunk of our Yellow cab when 4 drivers of the White cabs come to pay us a visit. About 5 minutes of intense arguing in Arabic ensued, with the three of us not altogether too sure what the heck to do. At one point, one of the drivers looked Ty in the eye and asked, "My friend, you want problem here? You get in this cab, you have problem." Ty stood frozen, as Josh and I did, and we waited for the arguing to start again. One of the White drivers put his arm in the trunk of the Yellow cab to keep our driver from closing it, but that proved to be an ill-fated move for a few of his forearm skin cells as our driver just closed it right on his arm. That triggered some pushing and shoving, a few punches (none landed - a sloppy fight, had to go to scorecard) and us looking at the border house for help. We caught the attention of some military personnel, who came to diffuse the situation.

In the end, we got in our cab and left, and had a great drive through the beautiful Jordanian countryside on our way to Wadi Mousa and Petra.

Enjoy the pictures -


Saturday, July 28, 2007

Jordan, for the win....

YES! (Marv Albert voice)

I'm writing from the Petra Gate Hostel in Wadi Mousa, Jordan - the site of our slumber and other overnight activities while we prepare for tomorrow's exploration of the ruins at Petra, recently named one of the 'new' 7 Wonders of the World. It has been a long day which started at 9am in Eilat, crossing the border into Jordan, and driving via taxi to here.

I will share the details of the trip once we return to the Kfar, but for now I wanted to just say how enjoyable the weekend excursion has been up to this point. Eilat is quite a place, Israel's Las Vegas (although gambling was outlawed a few years ago), with beautiful beaches and booming nightlife. Snorkling was the main event of today, which we spent 2 hours doing at the Coral Beach. It was only my second time snorkling, the first being in Key West at the home of Frank McKemie (seems like I always find my way into the kind grasp McKemie hospitality). The scenery underwater was breathtaking - although that could have just been the salt water getting into my snorkle. Kidding aside, the fish and reefs were beautiful and made me wish I had some sort of underwater camera for documentation. Fish that I had only previously seen on National Geographic provided a very unique experience - being able to actually move with them and see them from whatever angle or distance my heart desired was really cool.

More will come later, but for right now sleep is a must - we will get up at sunrise tomorrow and set out for Petra for a full day, to return to Israel tomorrow at 8pm.

Here's to a hopefully good night of sleep, if the wedding-celebratory fireworks outside our window ever cease.


Friday, July 27, 2007

Lightning strikes twice

In a 3-game series that brought back fond memories of my days at Tennessee, we only managed to win one game against the Tel Aviv Lightning, a team that we have had mixed luck against this year. After splitting yesterdays' double-dip, today served as the rubber match - like many past Sundays did for weekend series against other SEC schools. It made me realize how much I miss this format, and I hope that the IBL considers a scheduling change for next year, as I think it makes each game carry more weight. It's how games are played in (most) every professional league in the states, for good reason. For the first year, however, the seemingly random game schedule of opponents works just fine.

We have a 10am game tomorrow against Petach Tikva, after which myself and 2 teammates will be hopping on an Egged bus down to Eilat, to be followed by a trip into Jordon to see Petra. I'm really looking forward to the trip, as it should afford the opportunity to see and experience even more of the Middle East, as well as contributing to more interesting reading material than that which has lately occupied this little place in cyberspace (but no lack of assonance!).

I caught Hector De Los Santos' home run on video tonight, which I will upload as soon as I can - it was an exciting moment and his first of the season.

Finally - something which I'm quite jazzed about (yep, 6'7" guys have that capability) - the Atlanta Journal Constitution has decided to do a story on yours truly, complete even with excerpts from this very blog. It is an honor to be featured at all, let alone by a publication with the readership of the AJC - hopefully the subject matter won't disappoint.

'Till next time


Catching up on pics-

From a sports store in the Herzila Cineplex (mall + movie theatre): actual baseball hats! The Yankees and Braves were the teams available (yeah ATL)

Bruce Willis in Die Hard 4, complete with Hebrew subtitles

The beautiful Yarkon Field, viewed from center

The aforementioned cineplex

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Haiku for today

Split our doubleheader
Had my best outing to date
Now must give body rest

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A warning

With renewed confidence in Hollywood's ability to produce a quality experience after seeing Die Hard 4, we decided to try out Transformers this afternoon.

My review would simply be this: If you enter the movie knowing that its target audience has never driven a car before, you might enjoy it. The special effects are stunning, and the main actress is very attractive - the two high points for me. However, being the somewhat-critical viewer I am, the holes in the plot and lack of background information almost ruined it for me. There were just too many unexplained occurances and the viewer was given little to no information on why what was going on, was going on.

And there was a 10 minute 'intermission' as the projection room tried to figure out how to get reel #2 onto the projector.

However, as I told Josh, it was time spent better than what our original plan was - on the beach, sweating in the 93 degree heat.

Time for chocolate in Herzilya-


Monday, July 23, 2007

2 more in the win column

Sunday night in front of a live TV audience, Leon threw an absolute gem against the Modi'in Miracle, and we won 2-1 in what was a fun, if a bit tense, game. In a game like that when the pitcher has his best stuff, nobody wants to be the one who strikes out or makes an error - but nobody let anyone down and the team played formidably behind Mr. Feingold.

Today was a bit more fun, as we came back from an early deficit to defeat Ra'anana 8-4. Julio Guerrero (Vladamir's brother if I haven't already noted that here) started and went 5 strong innings. Justin Prinstein made his return to the mound after a week of illness and injury, and threw a great 6th inning, paving the way for Rafael Rojano in the 7th to close it down. Bryan Pinchuk knocked his first home run of the year, and Dan Rootenberg also hit one out as both of them are swinging the bat particularly well of late. It seemed that everybody in the lineup was on base at one point or another, so it was a great team win.

For more on the Saturday trip, go here... I just don't think a full recap is going to happen. Sorry to all of those holding their breath

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Saw Die Hard 4, and it was ridiculously entertaining. Most action movies seem like excuses to use special effects, with a casually written and hole-filled plot thrown in; this movie was 'good' as far as movies go, plus all of the entertainment value. It's no Dr. Strangelove or Godfather, but it did its job of entertaining me for 2 hours and making me want to see it again.

So... here's where I should be writing about today's trip, but I am allowing laziness (and the 2:33am showing on my clock) to point me in favor of sleep. So, I'll recount tomorrow. G'night-



Saturday, July 21, 2007

Caesaria and Beyond

Had a great trip today around northern Israel courtesy of the Jewish National Fund and the IBL, left at 9am and got back around 5:30pm. Our stops included Caesaria, a Jewish internment camp, and finally an ancient Roman aqueduct that we got to walk through. For now pictures will tell the story, as it's time to catch a movie.

Friday, July 20, 2007

1 personal victory, 1 team victory

So the start went ok, but it was a huge step forward for me as I made it through 5 innings, giving up 5 runs on 5 walks and 2 home runs. I still have much work to do with consistently being in the strike zone, but there were no streaks of walks as there were against Bet Shemesh. Guys on the team have been supporting me well, and even guys on other teams have come up to me and offering their words of encouragement. Not too often that happens in baseball, but this is something pretty different, and special, here in Israel.

Today at Gezer Field the Tigers defeated the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox, 17-6 in an offensive outpouring that saw 8 of the starting 9 collect base hits. Ryoju Kihara, our right-hander from Yokohama, started the game and went three innings, leading the way for Leon Feingold and Ray Rodriguez to finish the job. Ray picked up his first win of the year with another solid performance on the mound, further establishing himself as one of the team's top contributers as he is also our starting 2nd baseman and leadoff hitter.

So, you may be asking yourself, "Mike, it's 11:00pm on Friday night, what are you doing typing on your blog? Shouldn't you be out partaking in the Iraeli nightlife?"

Good question.

Answer - dehydration. After the game last night, I went for a run here at the Kfar and must have exhausted my body's water supply, because around 5am I woke up with a pounding headache and full-body aches. I barely had enough strength to make it to the bus for today's game, but managed to drag myself to the game and back - for which I'm glad, because it was a glorious victory today at Gezer.

The headache has subsided, but it still hurts to move, so I am taking it easy tonight. Had a good dinner in the cafeteria - apparently they make a nice Shabbat dinner on Friday nights for us, although I've been missing in favor of McKemie accommodations. A nice surprise was the orange flavored juice/soda that was served in pitchers on the tables instead of the now all-too-familiar cherry/cranberry/notsurewhat-berry juice that we usually get from the fountain. Baked chicken, potatoes (greasy variety), watermelon, and my perennial favorite - bread and hummus (seriously). I have taken to hummus like a 3-week old bird to flight. I put it on anything and everything, from chicken schnitzel to bread to rice - can't get enough of it.

So, now I'm ready for more sleep, with some of the Harry Potter movies that I've heard so much about to whisk me off. Hope everyone has a great weekend-


PS - looks like I'll turn over 2000 hits very soon - thanks to everyone for reading - really makes it worthwhile to do this when so many people are keeping up with me!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The dog days of July

Not a whole lot has been going on of late, other than baseball games. Who would have known - baseball players playing baseball games? Fortunately for me, that means less free time to kill and more baseball to play - the reason I'm here. Unfortunately for you, that means less time for deviations and various adventures that I can report here.

Don't fret, my dear readership (man I feel like a big deal saying that). Over the all-star break in a week or so, a few teammates and I will be heading to Eilat and Petra, Jordon to explore the sights. Abundant with historical and archaeological significance, this trip should provide plenty to write about, take pictures of, and later claim to friends that "I was there".

The Tigers are hanging in there at 5-11 on the year. Fortunately for us, the league decided to change the playoff system and now all 6 teams in the league are eligible for postseason play, with the top two teams earning first-round byes. For the sports-uneducated, this means that, for all intents and purposes, it doesn't matter if a team finishes the regular season in 3rd or 6th place - everyone is equal once the regular season ends, except the top two teams, who automatically advance to the second round of playoffs. So, we are focused on staying healthy, improving as a team, and being as good as we can be for the playoffs, and focused less on each individual game. If we win, we are pumped; if we lose, we aren't depressed and we look at where we got better and where to improve.

Tonight we play Ra'anana at the marquee Yarkon Field, and I have been fortunate enough to get another chance on the hill after my last "outing" against Bet Shemesh. Keep your fingers crossed - I am prepared, but every little bit helps

Also, I'd like to give a shout-out to Jeff Baker - rub and rub out, man.


Some Pics:
The photographers were amazed by Ty's juggling skills... and I was amazed at the photographers' amazement

The view from Leon's 4th floor studio in Tel Aviv (notice the free advertising for Croat-Kerfeld Homes - Ken and Loren, if you're reading this, you might expect some international orders soon. You're welcome-)

Our own version of Where's Waldo - Where's Ryo? Today, Ryo was found doing a light jog by the river during the 5th inning

The mighty Israeli black ant, capable of towing 5,000 times his body weight in pistachios

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Catching up

After another great weekend at the McKemie's highlighted by a few words of English that Nancy decided to share with me, I returned to the Kfar Hayarok for lunch Sunday and night game at Sportek versus Petach Tikva. It was a crazy game, with Leon giving up 7 runs and leaving the game in the 6th inning (which was determined beforehand to be the final inning due to darkness) with the bases loaded and nobody out. Against all odds, Rafael Morales came in and got the next three hitters out to save the one-run victory for the Tigers. An awesome performance, in the toughest conceivable situation in baseball.

Today, Rafael was again called upon, this time to start the game. He was throwing great until, with an 0-2 count and 2 outs in the inning, he threw an inside fastball and immediately grimaced in pain, grabbing his back. He had to come out of the game with a strained back, and from there the wheels seemed to fall off. Relief pitcher after relief pitcher came in, many being position players, and after the dust settled the Tigers fell victim to Modi'in, 15-1.

However, it was nice to see some of the position players get a taste for pitching and IBL umpiring. See, guys - it's not as easy as it looks; and, we're not just yearning for orange juice when we say that we're getting squeezed out there.

Umpiring here so far has been of the lowest quality that I have seen in some time, especially the consistency of strike zones. In baseball, it is normal and usual for an umpire to have his own strike zone that doesn't exactly agree with the rulebook. 99% of the time, a pitch thrown just below the armpits is called a ball, even though the rulebook says that it should be a strike if over the plate. To compensate, some umpires will give pitchers a few inches on either side of home plate. However, here in Israel, the umpires seem unwilling to give anything off the corners, and also have an even more constricted vertical zone. I would estimate that about a 5 inch depth exists around the knee where strikes will be called over the plate; anywhere else and it is not called. To make things worse, zones have often times changed in the middle of games. Pitches that were being called strikes early in the game are now balls, and vice versa. It changes the game and creates a lot of tension between the men in blue and the men on the field.

Rant over, let's win tomorrow


Friday, July 13, 2007

Home Run Derby – what were they thinking?

Of course the idea is a good one when looking on from the local fan’s perspective – what in baseball is more exciting than a Home Run? So, in the event of a tie after 7 full innings, why not decide the game based on which team can send the best three Home Run hitters to the plate to hit against their respective coach’s batting practice pitching?

From this player’s perspective, however, the idea needs some work. As you may have guessed, by “work” I mean deletion. Extra innings are what baseball is all about – play until a winner is decided, and every inning becomes do-or-die. Who can hit the most batting practice homers has little relevance to who should be declared the victor of a baseball game.

So, by now I am sure that it is quite obvious that we lost today. Matt Comiter had another brilliant performance on the mound, yielding only one run over six innings. Justin Prinstein came in for the seventh inning with the game tied 1-1 and struck out the three batters he faced to send the game into extra innings… I mean home run derby. Josh Doane connected for one home run, but it was the only one that the Tigers’ three batters mustered, and Petach Tikva’s three homers gave them the victory.

I am on the train to Bet Shemesh right now, eagerly awaiting the friends and meals that are eagerly awaiting me – a beautiful symmetry. I am again fully satisfied with the appointments of this train, allowing me to write in comfortable air conditioning with a table in front of me. As I look up from the screen momentarily, I am trying to determine if the eyes of the attractive young lady sitting a few rows ahead in the next car are indeed intermittently meeting with mine, or just the person’s occupying the seat to her front-left. Judging from her conversational actions, the latter seems to be true, but that won’t deter me from exchanging pleasantries with her upon detraining if she is also bound for Bet Shemesh.

More adventures to come… I’ll be heading back to Tel Aviv tomorrow evening to join my teammates at Amit’s house for a barbeque and beer drinking contest (just kidding). So, a shorter than usual visit with the McKemie’s, but I am confident that it will be just as gratifying.

Just received a call from Ben in fact, and we are to go for another swim after he picks me up – excellent news.

Till later-


My pre-train meal - delicious

Luxurious train cabin

Behind the scenes... the computer behind the blog

Sunset chez McKemie

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The most gratifying loss ever

First - a very funny link I must share, relating to an incident earlier in the season against the Blue Sox-

I didn't have my best stuff today, and lasted only three innings. 2 home runs, 4 walks, and 3 strikeouts later, I was back in the dugout trying to will our team to a come-from-behind victory, a feat we nearly accomplished. My velocity was down and my changeup was inconsistent, so hitters seemed to have a fairly easy time with my best efforts, and the Miracle scored (without seeing the box score yet) 5 runs before I was lifted in favor of Fabian Armenta.

The most disappointing aspect was that I was unable to defend the three run lead that my teammates had put in front of me after the second inning. After a 1-2-3 first inning with a strikeout, I was full of confidence - but my arm (and the Modi'in batters) simply didn't agree.

We fought back and drew to within 2 runs two separate times, but couldn't break through and eventually lost 8-6. Still, the persistence that was shown by our hitters and our defense was remarkable, and the vibe in the dugout was one of confidence. If we carry this spirit through the rest of the season, we should finish among the league's top teams. Even after I came out of the game in the fourth, instead of throwing a tantrum as I used to do in college, instead I was confident that the team would stay in the game and fight back. It was surprising and refreshing, and is probably just a result of getting older and more mature.

Anyways... we play early tomorrow at 10am at the beautiful Yarkon Field against Petach Tikva, and Matt Comiter will be starting on the hill. The team is in good spirits, and it will hopefully be a good start to the weekend.

Which brings me to report that I will likely be joining the McKemie's in Bet Shemesh again this weekend, as an invitation greeted me in my Gmail Inbox tonight. I'm looking forward to the experience and hope to have many stories to recount in the days to come.



Win yesterday, off to Gezer in 40 minutes...

The Tigers beat the Lightning yesterday 4-1 at Sportek in a great showing by starting pitcher Rafael Rojano, who threw a complete game.

We play Modi'in today at 5:00pm, which means that we're on the bus at 2:00... so I need to get going unfortunately. I will be the starting pitcher tonight, my first of the year. I'll be back tonight with more-


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

2 more losses

This is getting tough. I haven't been on a team with a losing record in a long long time, and it's really tough. I hope that I don't sound conceited, but it's just different for me. I really hope that we can turn things around soon and get back on track - and I'll do whatever I can in my power to help to that end.

Tomorrow we have a rematch with Tel Aviv at Sportek. Today, my Emory teammate Daniel Kaufman pitched 7 outstanding innings, holding us to 1 hit, a home run by Julio Guerrero. It was a towering, majestic shot over the left-field wall that likely crushed an innocent Israeli's windshield on Rokach Boulevard. He did an entertaining reenactment of his brother Vladamir's Home Run Derby-winning shot, tossing the bat and watching the blast until it cleared the fence before rounding the bases. It was the lone bright spot in an otherwise disappointing evening. We'll be out there tomorrow giving our best, and hopefully we'll avenge the loss.


Monday, July 9, 2007

Saturday recap

Awoke to my alarm at 10am, quickly hit snooze, and repeated three times until Ben let out a wake-up call of his own to rouse me from the largest bed in which I've slept in over 3 weeks. Bummer.

I sauntered downstairs to retrieve the coffee Ben had prepared and extended morning greetings to Nancy, who responded in kind in Hebrew. The night's sleep apparently had not changed her mind on speaking to me in English, so I was in for another day of listening hard for words I knew, then looking to one of the other McKemies for translation... a process all the more endearing. We then went to one of the family friends' home for a small Shabbat snack and good company. The most delicious cheesecake I have ever eaten was present, as well as a cournicopia of beverages ranging from beer to cactus juice to coffee. A little slice of personal heaven.

Returning to the house around 2pm, the majority opinion was in favor of a nap, and I saw no reason to submit a dissenting argument. Back to bed, laying next to the computer which had been downloading new Star Trek episodes for the past 10 hours - time for some relaxation.

Around 6pm everyone got up and lounged outside, watching Nancy go through her activities of swinging on the hammock and telling me stories in Hebrew. Occasionally I would respond as if I understood with one of the few Hebrew words I do know, and that seemed to egg her on even more - it was fun.

It was at this time that Ben and I decided to hike up the mountain in front of their house up to Beit Gemal. This was a great time, complete with some near-falls and close encounters with Jackals on the way down in the dark. The way up the mountain was not clearly defined - there were many paths, and some would look innocent enough until leading right into a 60 degree incline that turned your two heros right around in favor of an easier path. We made it to the top just in time to catch the sunset, which was breathtaking. I'll refer everyone to my picture link at the top-left of this page for a visual depiction.

After the hike, we ate again, and ate royally. Course after course game out of the kitchen, and after experiencing this weekly Jewish tradition, I'm tempted to move here. We had a soup that had been cooking for an entire day, the best baked chicken I've ever had (never been a fan, until this), beef brisket, rice, and assorted other things that escape me right now. Absolutely incredible.

After the meal, another coffee (I love this place) and a shower to freshen up before setting out for Jerusalem. One of my goals for the night was to buy a pair of the ever-so-popular Crocs sandals. I tend to not go for fads, but I tried Ben's on at the house and immediately decided to make the acquisition. So, Evie and I set out and our first stop once in Jerusalem was a mall - a large and very American-looking mall, so I felt at home - save for being the tallest person in the complex by more than 5 inches. We tried to capture this photographically but it didn't turn out as hoped, and we had more important things to do, like tracking down a pair of these fantastic sandals before stores closed for the night.

Luckily we found a place that was closed but let us in to make a quick pickup of XXL Black Beach Crocs. Now with happy feet, I strided confidently through the mall to the food court, where Evie directed me to a bakery and I bought 3 items that I was expecting to pay about $6 for. It turned out to be only 7 Shekel for everything, and they were all delicious, including one with a sweet-yet-sour cream in the middle that reminded me a bit of the cheesecake earlier in the day.
After perusing through the mall a bit more, we drove to Ben Yehuda Street, site of many a bar/club and hundreds of Israeli young people looking for (and mostly having) a good time. We stopped in at a waffle bar, another thing I was looking forward to at Evie's suggestion. I had mine with maple syrup and whipped cream, and of course a cappuccino. Decadent. We checked out the busy section where everyone seemed to be congregating - clubs, bars, tables outside with hookah partaking - all on a narrow strip that seemed to be the epicenter of the nightlife.

Our next stop was the Old City - we parked close and walked up to find it almost deserted... but it was 1am by now. Evie took me on an excellent guided tour of the area, from the Arab market district to the Western Wall, where I learned a lot of information that I probably should have already known about the source of the Israeli - Muslim conflict. I suppose that I, too, would be quite angry if someone built a building on top of the ruins of mine. It was moving, to see the most significant part of the entire world for so many millions of people, and I spent a long time just staring off into the night at what surrounded me. Again, see the pictures

It's about time to go now, our bus leaves at 4:30 and I still need to shower and dress myself. Hopefully the preceeding wasn't too long or boring; have a good day all-


Communication lapse

Much more on the weekend to come, but first a recount of the frustrating afternoon and subsequent cancellation of yet another of our games. After lunch back at the Kfar, we boarded the bus bound for Sportek, both teams bristling with anticipation for our new game site. The bus itself seemed like it belonged in the original image of Israel that I conjured up months ago in my mind, which closely resembled a third-world country. It was a manual transmission (stick-shift), something that I haven't seen on a bus since my summer in Canada playing for the Thunder Bay Border Cats, and therefore something that I previously thought had been banished to our northern neighbors.

The seat I chose seemed to be functional enough at first, but I soon found out that the seat backs offered little in the form of insulation from any knee activity from the occupant behind me. Upon looking up, I noticed some condensation forming at the hands of the struggling air conditioner. I didn't think much of it until about 10 minutes later, when an apparent act of God sent torrential indoor rain showers upon myself the players seated around me. Luckily I realized what was going on quickly, and moved out of the way to dry land (bus).

Now, once at the field, it was quite obvious to all of us that our game tonight would not be happening. Multiple pieces of diesel-powered machinery were hard at work adding dirt to the infield and mowing the overgrown grass, yet league officials present insisted to us that the game would go on. So, we warmed up, took batting practice, and prepared as we would any other day... but eventually knew that it would be all for naught, and shut it down.

So, instead, Ty, Amit, and myself caught a ride with Amit's dad to Yarkon Field to catch the Tel Aviv vs. Bet Shemesh game, one that saw the Blue Sox lose their first game thus far. It was fun to spectate again, but we are growing tired of the cancellations and schedule changes. We're ready for Sportek to be ready, and hope to play there Wednesday.

Stories from Jerusalem will come tomorrow... I'm too tired now to go into it - which is to say, that I want to do it justice, as I had an unbelievable time touring around with Evie (Ben's oldest daughter) and buying Crocs.



Friday, July 6, 2007

Quelle Vendredi

Awoke early this morning eager to get a win under our belt, even though I personally was out of commission - my arm isn't used to pitching so often. Boarded the bus at 7:30am (received a call earlier informing me of the ramped-up departure time... alarming, to say the least) and dozed until reaching the field.

Being a typically superstitious baseball player wanting to end a losing streak, I decided to mix things up a bit for my pre-game activities. I remained in shorts and undershirt until right before the first pitch, a move that garnered me an additional couple hours of much-needed leg tan. I also unplugged the headphones from my Blackberry to share the music with the rest of the team (well, those who happened to be in my immediate vicinity, as the 8300 does not exactly offer high-fidelity sound).

With the sounds of Daft Punk, T.I., Pink Floyd, and even a little Eminem caressing the inner workings of our ears, the Netanya Tigers felt a dynamic resurgence that carried us through the game with aplomb. Our starting pitcher, Matt Comiter, dealt out the good stuff; our hitters put up 6 runs and we never looked back. Good to get back to the winning ways.

After the game I showered, packed, and took the bus to the central Tel Aviv station, accompanied by an Ethiopian girl named, appropriately enough, Aviv. Once at the station, she directed me to the correct bus to take to the train station, where I took heed of the "All Aboard to Bet Shemesh" call. The trip was much nicer than the bus trek I did a couple of weeks ago, and will remain my transport method of choice.

Now I sit at the house of Ben McKemie and family again, happily full after a delicious Shabbat meal. Earlier, I attended services with Ben at the local synagogue and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Even though many a pair of eyes were aimed in my direction out of curiosity, I eventually felt comfortable with my surroundings and was able to take it all in. I have not been religious for some time now, so I approached it all with a very open mind and really had a good time. I was especially surprised at how casual everything was - there was no formal beginning or end, people came and went during the service, and there was definitely no priest-like leader who was directing the proceedings with any firm direction - everything was very open and friendly.

So, a great day from beginning to end, and I'm very much looking forward to the rest of the weekend here.



Leaving our beloved Kfar Hayarok

My travel buddy

View from the train station - they really go for the New York City comparisons... perhaps a bit too obviously

Me in appropriate headwear

Thursday, July 5, 2007


Another loss for the Tigers today, now three in a row. Rafael had a solid start and I had an improved showing in relief, but the Lightning had their way with us, 8-1.

We also found out that our game tomorrow has been moved to Yarkon Field at 10:00am, with an 8:00am bus departure, ensuring another early night. Luckily, Sportek is scheduled to open Sunday and we will finally be playing at home at normal game times.

Another tough one...

Another tough one…

Independence Day did not bring victory for the Tigers today, as we lost 6-1 to the Modi’in Miracle at Gezer Field. Umpires were again in question, as our starting pitcher Justin Prinstein appeared to be making excellent pitches that were not called strikes. As a result, he adjusted and threw more pitches over the middle part of the plate –a few were met with solid wooden contact and the Miracle came out on top. Blaming the umpires, I am not; both teams had to deal with the very tight strike zone. However, it was a factor and we will have to work to deal with it in the future.

After the game a group of us headed down to Tel Aviv for a 4th of July celebration at Mike’s Place, a restaurant and bar on the beachfront. This time, we traveled successfully via public transit, a product of our hours of study of the local bus maps and the presence of a single line that leads downtown. A breathtaking sunset met us as we debussed, and we decided to stop for a photo shoot – some of us are aspiring to become male models upon return to the States.

Thirty Shekels bought a buffet style all-you-can-pile-on-one-plate meal consisting of chicken, steak, pita burgers, fries, and hummus – we were delighted. A couple beers, pool games, and casual conversations later, and we took a taxi home in time for a good night’s rest. Again due to our home field being still under construction, our game is rescheduled for noon, which means a 9:00am bus departure. I’m writing from bed and will post this tomorrow, probably after the game, so by the time this makes it online there will be a game result to post. Hopefully an addition to the win column will be appropriate, bringing us back to .500 on the year.


Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Another day as not planned

Yesterday started off with the realization that our Netanya trip would have to wait, as the league called a noon meeting for all players to talk about issues and concerns with league officials. We welcomed this change of schedule, as a few areas of our daily lives remain in limbo. Our laundry service is up in the air - a company has been doing our baseball items for us, but as of now, we don't have any dependable way to clean our personal clothes. Some of us have used sneak skills to get personals in with the baseball items, and that has worked out so far, but a more regular and less covert method would be appreciated. We also lack workout facilities, and are hoping that the league will bite the bullet and get gym memberships for us players. Finally, our home field (Sportek) is still under construction, but we are told that it will be ready in time for the 2008 Summer Olympic training.

After the meeting we hung out in the library for a bit, then set out for Yarkon Field to practice and watch the game between Tel Aviv and Ra'anana. Instead of simply taking a taxi, as most sensible guys would have done, the six of us decided to try our hand at the local public transit. We boarded the 49 Bus after getting some recommendations from a friendly girl that appeared somewhere between 14 and 23 years of age (we are still struggling with age determination here).

After traveling in the correct direction for a few miles, we exited the freeway and started off in a direction perpendicular to that which we needed. After questioning some of the young English-speaking military women on the bus, we found that we were headed for the center of Petach Tikva, instead of the outskirts where our destination lay. Some unrest in the ranks followed, but after calming the more volatile ones in the group, we decided to hang out in the city for a bit and grab a bite to eat. We succeeded in getting a couple of phone numbers from local young ladies, filled our stomachs, and caught a cab to the field. The game was fun; played catch, checked emails, and even got in a few cuts in the batting cage.

Today we are going to visit Dan Rootenberg's new place in Herzaliya and hang out on the beach. We have a noon game tomorrow, so the bus leaves at 9am - dictating an early night tonight.

One more item of note - today at lunch I received a check denominated in US Dollars to compensate me for playing baseball.

I want to now bask in that fact for a bit...



Ok done.


Sunday, July 1, 2007

Tough loss

We were up 5-0, riding the excellent pitching by Leon Feingold into the 7th inning, and my job was to close the door and send Bet Shemesh home with their first loss of the season. What happened instead was very frustrating and a bit embarassing - I walked 4 straight batters, many on pitches that barely missed the strike zone, and I simply didn't make the needed adjustments to get the ball more over the plate. After I was replaced with another pitcher, Bet Shemesh's next hitter clocked a grand slam over the left-field fence, tying the game. The trouble didn't end until we were down by five runs. We pushed a run across in the bottom of the seventh, but could manage no more and we lost 10-6.

The loss was met with disappointment and a bit of disbelief, as well as the aforementioned embarrassment. A professional pitcher should not have that sort of breakdown, and I clearly have some work to do before I get on the mound again. I'm ready and willing to do what it takes though, and I look forward to being a critical part of this team once I find the zone.

Tomorrow we plan on heading to Netanya for the first time to explore the city whose name we bear on our jerseys. A bit of beach time and hopefully some good coffee will greet us there, and in the evening I hope to visit Ben for some good company and food.


Saturday, June 30, 2007

A most excellent day off

Funny how things never seem to go as planned, yet we still manage to have an good entertaining time no matter what happens. Today we set out for the beach and to find a good coffee shop with wireless to try and simulate the ubiquitous Starbucks scene that is so fun to partake in back home. We succeeded in finding the beach, a feat not all-too-impressive considering we had a 6 mile margin for error.

Still, we were proud of our navigatory accomplishment, and celebrated with a couple of Goldstars (appropriately enjoyed under a couple green Heineken beach umbrellas, for variety's sake). The others didn't eat, but I ordered up a Chicken Schnitzel plate with fries and veggies - a most delectable meal. Although all of these items had been served at the cafeteria back at the Kfar Hayarok cafeteria, I wanted to see if a real restaurant's take on the meal would be any different (read: not as bad) - and I was surely not disappointed as it was all absolutely delicious, and I even got to have real ketchup with the fries, a first since being over here.

After a couple hours on the beach (don't worry, I stayed camped under the umbrellas the entire time, fearing for my fair German skin) we walked up to the main street in search of a coffee house. We got tips from some local females, but never seemed to find the oasis that we were looking for; instead, we settled at a pretty basic restaurant and had a light meal with a mediocre cappuccino, and no wireless. All hope was not lost though - the lasagna enjoyed by Kevin and I was excellent, mine being of the mushroom variety (no meat due to kosher tradition).

We then walked down the strip, taking in a truly awesome sunset, and finding more spots for future patronage. A quick cab ride later and here I am, back at the Kfar, ready for a night of rest before our noon contest tomorrow against the league-leading Bet Shemesh Blue Sox. A victory would pull us to within a half-game of first place.

That's all - keep your fingers crossed for the Tigers tomorrow, and enjoy your evening (or afternoon, or morning, depending on which locale you're reading from)



I'm not nearly as tired as I look in this picture... yet

Interesting poster we saw on the way home - still not exactly sure what the point of it was, but we assumed it was a pro-Bush statement. There is much support for Bush here; a summary from our cab driver: "Clinton good at sex, nothing else. Bush good for Israel"

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Tigers Win!

With a 7-1 victory over the Petach Tikva Pioneers, the Netanya Tigers have achieved their first victory of the season, bringing their overall record to 1-1 on the year. Myself and a couple of teammates are celebrating in grand fashion in the library with some Goldstar and various other delights from the local gas station, including Mentos and a Twix bar. Not exactly how we envisioned our first post-win jubilee, but it will do. Our noon game tomorrow dictates that we get to bed early tonight, so the library soiree will have to suffice.

Tomorrow I will go to Ben's for Shabbat, which I am very much looking forward to. Saturday is a day off, most likely spent touring Jerusalem with Ben. Should be a great weekend-


Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Just some random things this morning/afternoon, nothing coherent really to report...

First, my official picture, with a bit of a funny story.

Traditionally, baseball pictures are done with either a bat or a ball and glove; pitchers will opt for the latter, due to the fact that most of what a pitcher does involves the ball/glove, and not a bat. This policy was especially enforced by one Rick Robinson, head coach at Young Harris College, back in 2002 and my freshman year. He made it quite clear to everyone that pitchers were not to hold bats for their pictures, and everyone obliged without much of a fuss. Being the stubborn and naive ne'er-do-well that I was, I insisted on holding a bat in addition to my glove for my picture. The picture turned out great, but I became not only the target of a verbal lashing, but also the subject of Robinson's constant watchful eye. I had tipped my hand, and he would now monitor me especially well for instances of not falling-in-line.

It was this type of decision that characterized my first few months of college baseball - doing what I wanted and thinking that I had that right, no matter what the authority figure told me. My parents had always taught me to be independent and think freely... but I think they failed to foresee two things; first, the extent to which I would take heed of their words, and second, the overbearing slave-driver of a man that was my head coach for 3 semesters at YHC. His objective was to have a fully homogenized team with no individuals and no room for personalities - and for good reason: baseball teams are best made when everyone works and plays as a team, without ego or individual deviation. However, he took it to an extent, like in this case with our photographs, that went beyond any baseball purpose and became a situation where his players became his personal targets for self indulgence.

So... that all sounds pretty depressing, but I am at a point where I can look back and laugh - both at my own sillyness and ignorance of the right decision, but also at Robinson's lack of reason. Contrast that instance with this latest addition to the Mike Kerfeld photo archive, where no one questioned my decision and a few even cracked a smile at the 6'7" goof that stood perched in a questionable batting stance.

This time, however, it was more out of necessity - I did not have my glove with me, and the glove that others were using was right-handed. Rather than take my picture with a wrong-handed glove, or with no glove at all, I opted for the bat, and upon seeing the result, am quite happy with what transpired.

And now for some interesting facts about the league and where we're living:

The IBL roster of 120 players includes 77 Americans, 15 Dominicans, 13 Israelis, nine Canadians, six Australians, two Colombians and a native of Japan (I'm fortunate enough to be teammates with Ryoju Kihara, the representative from Japan)

From the IBL website, which I already knew but thought I'd share:

"The rules of the IBL are a little different too, all aimed at enhancing fan experiences. Our games are seven innings in duration and in the most exciting innovation of all, if games are tied after seven innings, they are decided by a Home Run Derby!
Baseball in Israel. It’s nothing but fun!!"

About Kfar Hayarok, the place we're staying:
"The fully-equipped farm includes such departments as animal husbandry - cows, chickens and horses - field crops, fruit-orchards and a modern garage which services the mechanical equipment. There is even a small zoo!"

...and now some photographic evidence of the zoo that exists not in a contained area like American Zoos that I'm accustomed to, but literally everywhere, including on the walk to the library:

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Game shortened due to darkness; Kerfeld's height remains unchanged

Tough loss last night as the game was shortened to 6 innings due to the inability of the field lights to illuminate the field. It's hard to understand how something so basic can fail at it's one purpose - lights exist to, you guessed it, light up the field.

Enough negativity though - it was a blast to get out on the field again and play. Leon pitched very well for 4+ innings, and I relieved him in the bottom of the 5th with one out and a runner on first. After nearly turning a pitcher's dream 3-6-1 double play (ground ball to the first baseman, relay to shortstop, and back to me covering first) I walked a batter, then threw a strike three fastball on a 3-2 count to end the inning. It was a huge relief to see the umpire pull the trigger on the call, because it was a borderline pitch that could have gone either way.

Our games tonight and tomorrow have been canceled, due to our home field not being ready to host baseball games yet. Kinks like this are just a product of this being the inaugural season, but 2 days off is a pretty big disappointment for us right now. Things would be different if we were at home, but in a foreign country with no easy way to get around, we are left with too much free time and not enough to do. These couple days should at least serve as time to catch up on sleep and bask in our newly-working air conditioning, as well as playing a little Xbox360 that I've been without for over a week (shocking, I know)

Until next time,


Monday, June 25, 2007

Opening Night

Many of us weren't sure what to expect as we rode the bus to the Yarkon sports complex in Petach Tikva, and more than a few were a bit pessimistic about what the showing might be. What ensued can only be described as a complete success. Over four thousand people were said to have attended, with 3,100 passing through the turnstile until they decided to open it up to everyone who was outside and waiting to get in.

The atmosphere was one of excitement, curiosity, and a bit of baseball ignorance - many of the people in attendance had never seen baseball before, but steps had been taken to make fans of all levels comfortable for opening night. A live play-by-play announcer kept the fans informed about what was going on with the actual game, something that came as a minor annoyance to us players; however, this was more than offset by the benefit that the Israeli fans were getting through better understanding of the game.

The Modi'in Miracle won the game, 9-1, and the game saw the first-ever home run in the IBL, a shot over the left field fence by Ryan Crotin. The offensive display by Modi'in kept the fans in the game, and hopefully many will return for the rest of the season's games.

Netanya's first game is tonight at 6:00pm at Gezer Field, against the scrappy Bet Shemesh Blue Sox. Report to follow...


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Quite the cab ride

As inauspiciously as this day started, it certainly turned out to be quite the adventure. After breakfast and some quality computer time, my roommate and I hailed a cab to get to Tel Aviv. What transpired took us through a full range of emotions, from fear to fascination to appreciation and overall a thoroughly enjoyable day.

The cab that we got into featured a very animated man in the driver's seat and his wife riding shotgun - this hard working man was making the best out of his Sabbath-spent-working. We requested a simple ride to a good coffee shop in Tel Aviv, but instead we communicated in broken English for a few minutes and ended up being taken to a local restaurant where the four of us enjoyed a colossal lunch. What we now surmise to be a traditional Israeli meal started with about 10 delicious adornments to be loaded onto pita bread. After about 10 minutes came skewers of selected meats, including lamb, beef, and turkey fillets. Jacob and I ate until we were satisfactorily full, then proceeded to watch in awe as our driver, Noam, continued to eat for another thirty solid minutes. We learned later that this man eats only one meal on the Sabbath, and we better understood his mammoth consumption.

60 Sheckels later, we were full and ready to proceed into Tel Aviv. We were dropped off downtown, and were asked for $100 (yes, dollars) for the ride. We used our powers of negotiation to bring it down to $65, a price that we still balked at, but were willing to pay for both the ride and the great company of this entertaining and friendly couple. We were shown much of the city, a great restaurant, and even got to witness some less-than-legal, alcohol assisted driving. (You may have some strong questions as to the wisdom of the decision to ride in the car as this was going on, but given the situation, we felt it best to just go with the flow).

Once dropped off downtown, we set off to see what this city was all about.
After exploring the beautiful beaches, maze of streets, and friendly people of Tel Aviv, we headed to the David International Hotel of Tel Aviv, where we partook in some beverages and good political discussion. Now, writing from the Inca Cafe (a cigar bar inside the hotel with free wireless), I am in a personal state of blissful leisure, taking down some Guinness, watching soccer on TV, and listening to some new music (The White Stripes) courtesy of Jacob.

If all of our off days are spent like this, I will be a happy man.

Opening day is tomorrow, and I am very much looking forward to seeing the much-publicized Israeli support for the newfound baseball. Let the games begin!

Good morning!

Our first practice yesterday morning was a very enjoyable experience, the first time that I had been back on a baseball field for a formal practice since over a year ago. I realized how much I missed the feel of gathering as a team and practicing for a purpose more important than individual betterment – now, together as the Netanya Tigers (the best sounding team name in the league, by the way), we began work to hopefully bring home the first ever IBL championship.

We arrived at the Baptist Village and were quite pleased with the condition of the field that will be the site of the opening game on Sunday. The grass was in excellent condition, and everything was just as a proper baseball field should be. The chain link fences surrounding the field reminded me of many fields that I had played on during my junior college days and my time at Emory – very respectable, humble places to play that lets one forget some of the pageantry and get down to the task at hand. We are here to play baseball games, and anything over and above that is an added bonus.

My two seasons playing for the University of Tennessee were gratifying and very enjoyable, but with the money surrounding the schools involved, sometimes we, as players, forgot why we were there and got caught up in evaluating who had the nicest stadium, who drew the most fans, and which pitcher’s mound was the most perfect duplication of a Major League example. I even remember returning to our home field at UT, Lindsey Nelson Stadium, disappointed with what I saw and wishing that we had the perfect infield of Georgia Tech, or the cavernous stadium of Mississippi State. Instead of pining for the 8,000+ crowds of LSU, I should have been more appreciative of what we had at UT, which was a beautiful 4,000 seat stadium coupled with a first-class field.

Back to the present - after unloading from the bus, the pitchers were directed to get with the catchers and throw bullpens. For those of you new to baseball, a “bullpen” can refer to one of two things – the most literal meaning is the area off to the side of the field in which pitchers throw off of a mound to a catcher, in preparation for entering a game. A “bullpen” can also refer to a session spent with a catcher in which the pitcher throws a certain number of pitches, usually between 25 and 50. The purpose of this session is to hone one’s physical mechanics and perfect one’s pitches, in terms of location, movement, and velocity.

Given that this was the first time that I had thrown off of a mound in over 2 weeks, my session went very well. A few pitches were quite a bit off target, but toward the end I found my groove and was locating my fastball pretty well and getting my bread-and-butter pitch, the changeup, right where it needed to be. My catcher was Sam Faeder, and he was a great receiver (being 6’5” tall, the tallest catcher I’ve ever thrown to) and offered much encouragement.

After practice we came back and had lunch in the cafeteria, which was very good – three different meats, including beef patties, sliced lamb, and hot dogs. A few veggies and some much-needed water topped off the meal. After lunch, my roommate, Jacob Levy and I searched out a source for internet (the library is closed Fridays and Saturdays) and spent some time catching up on emails, the stock market, and some US news. Returning to the room around 5:00, I showered and relaxed with some of the guys next door, while Jacob went for a run. We had planned on going into Tel Aviv later to find a good coffee shop, but before he returned from his run, I had fallen asleep for what I had planned on being a quick nap. My body, on the other hand, took this opportunity to plunge myself into a deep sleep, from which I did not awaken from until around 1:00am, at which point I realized that Tel Aviv was not happening. So, I went back to sleep, and awoke this morning at 5:30, again fully refreshed and ready for a new day.

We hope to do our Tel Aviv trip today, with many goals – the first of which is the coffee shop. We have heard rumors of the possibility of renting a Moped for the two months that we are here, a prospect that would make our lives much easier. Some other random things to explore – window curtains (so that, if needed, I may sleep past sunrise), a refrigerator, and maybe even a TV for the room.

It occurs to me that this post has exceeded 800 words… so if you have read this entire thing, you must be exhausted by now. I apologize, and assure you that in the future I will try to keep things a bit more brief.

Until next time, stay classy, Ramat Hasharon-


Friday, June 22, 2007

What is this light pouring in my eyes?

For the second straight morning, I've been naturally awoken by the Israeli sunlight, feeling fully rested and ready to go. Perhaps I should bottle up this sunlight and bring some back with me In August to help me get up in the morning.

We have our first practice at 10am this morning, and it will be the first time I've thrown since Sunday afternoon. Hopefully I'll be able to shake the rust off and get it going.

Some interesting tidbits that I've learned about Israel:
Hitchiking is not only accepted, but government-authorized. People will stand in bus stops and try to hail drivers as they pass, and according to Ben, more often than not they will get where they need to go in a timely manner
Cats are not a household pet, but a wild animal here. After lunch at Ben's yesterday, he slung the remains outside the back door and three cats appeared and quickly disposed of our uneaten food.
Cashiers are much more somber and less friendly than in the US. I needed to find Visine at the local drug store, and after communicating some English and visual signals, got what I needed, all the time garnering a less-than-welcoming response from my helper. Later, as I extended my hand to receive my change, she instead left it on the counter and I had to pick up the 10-odd coins. Ben said it was completely normal.

I'm going to start a photo album on Flickr, and I'll post a link when it's ready.

Till then, Enjoy your day-


Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Wonderful Host

I'm writing from the desk of Ben McKemie, uncle to my longtime Emory roommate, Gordon McKemie. He has generously opened his home to me and has treated me royally thus far, from taking me shopping to pick up some essentials to preparing some great meals to quell my hunger. I slept from midnight until 7:30am this morning, a sleep pattern that I haven't seen in a long long time, due to my lack of descipline back home and love for, what seems to be, an ongoing competition with myself to see how late I can stay up and still function the next day. It is very refreshing to be up at this hour and have an entire day to look forward to.

After some sightseeing today in Jerusalem, I will return to our camp in Ramat Hasharon for some informal baseball practice and a meeting at 6:00pm, at which time we will also be taking pictures.

While these first days so far away from home have been at times difficult and a bit emotional, Ben's presence along with his beautiful family has certainly made me feel at home.

I'm looking forward to our first official workouts tomorrow morning, and hope that the past few days of travel have not left me too rusty - luckily we have four more days until our first game to prepare.



Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Trekking from Atlanta

The journey started pleasantly enough - my mother dropped me off at the airport and within a few minutes I found my traveling partners without a problem. We left plenty of time to spare, and ended up with an opportunity to take down some Q-doba before boarding our Boeing 747-400 serviced by Delta. The plane itself is quite a spectacle - I had never flown internationally before, so this was my first time seeing 7 seats per row on a plane, spliced by two columns. Even more amazing was the fact that I was able to stand safely in a fully upright position on this plane, without having to resort to the Neanderthal pose that I usually occupy while pacing airplane aisles.

Once seated in the plush leather seat, I was greeted by a screen on the headrest of the seat ahead. Immediate reaction - money maker for Delta. Upon further exploration, however, I found that there was a plethora of free content available on this wonderful little touchscreen that would, as it turned out, serve as a sanity saver.

This screen brought me many various pleasantries, including watching Jim's brilliant faxing prank on Dwight (The Office) and a very enjoyable In-Flight trivia game in which yours truly, seated in 39F and carrying the nomenclature "TALL", brought home the victory. It was a high point of my traveling career, and we hadn't even lifted off yet. This fact was due to the 5 hour mechanical delay that I've neglected to mention until now. Boy I tell you what, Delta had no idea what it was getting into when it decided to make sure that our starboard engine was fully functioning before clearing the 747 for takeoff. When our loyal Captain announced the delay, the reaction was one that almost seemed to favor taking off regardless of the engine condition. "This is just ridiculous... hurry this **** up already" was heard from a few especially cranky older couples. Yeah, that's a good idea, these engine repairs don't really require as much care as they think - simple machines really, jet engines...

Once in the air, the flight was smooth as the ever referenced and only-recently-because-of-Michael-Jackson balked at Baby's Bottom. A buttery landing topped off what was really an enjoyable experience, complete with me dosing off for a few hours while watching a not-as-entertaining-as-the-preview-promised Breach , but at least it was free thanks to Delta's headrest monitors.

Once in Milan, we were greeted by the fact that we had landed a full 3 hours after our connecting flight to Tel Aviv had taken off. Given the absence of time travel technology in Italy (when will they ever catch up?) we were forced to make other arrangements, the most feasible of which being a flight serviced by Alitalia which left at 11:00pm. So, we were faced with a 10 hour layover, and the three of us were overjoyed. We now had the opportunity to experience one of the most romantic cities in the world with all-male company and our carry-on baggage.

We set off for Duomo (wiki) via public transit, a feat we accomplished through the questioning of no less than 8 friendly (and 2 quite unfriendly and awfully rude) Italians along the way who eventually guided us to the incredible cathedral. Inside it seemed even larger than it looked from the outside, and we were in awe over how something this size could have been constructed using 16th century technology. I then reminded my companions that the diesel engine, so popular in Europe today, was actually invented in the 1400's by a group of Italian painters who were experimenting with new techniques, and thus probably aided greatly in the hoisting of the Duomo marble and glass.

After lunch we headed back to the airport, following the bread crumbs that we had dropped along the way. Our flight to Tel Aviv this morning was relatively uneventful, with a nice bonus of 3 exit-row seats being available for us. Those of you under 6'2" tall may not know this, but emergency exit row seats are just one more bit of proof that God loves us - twice the legroom, no more cost, and usually available because most passengers do not know to check right before the flight.

We arrived at the magnificent (really) Tel Aviv airport on-time, and made our way through passport services and customs with no delays. One of the cleanest airports any of us had seen, Ben Gurion International Airport is standing evidence that Israel is truly a modern country and has every reason to be proud of its progress. (In addition, free use of luggage carts!)

We were greeted shortly by another young man who is playing in the IBL and was commissioned to pick us up at the airport by one of the league officers.

All three of us. And our luggage. In a very common-in-Israel compact 4-door hatchback. 3 large males with 2 months worth of luggage, plus a driver.

So we sought the services of a local taxi, which took myself and Daniel on a harrowing ride through northern Israel here to Hakfar Hayarok, a youth village which will be our home-sweet-home for next two months.

Thanks for reading - shoot me an email or post a comment here if you have any - I'd love to hear from you.