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.


Initial Information

My address here (copy exactly as written below):

Mike Kerfeld / IBL
Hakfar Hayarok
Ramat HaSharon 47800 Israel

Still working on a phone, as well as working air conditioning. It is, as they say, "hot" here.

We had a nice breakfast this morning, consisting of plain yogurt (a personal favorite of mine, much to the contrary of the popular opinion of the others here), scrambled eggs, hot bread, and cereal, all served buffet style. We ate around 7:00am, a couple hours after we arrived on campus from the airport.

Lunch to come around noon, with a little run beforehand.

Much more will follow about our trip over, including pictures and stories from Milan.