HAVERFORD BASEBALL ALUMNI TO COMPETE IN ISRAELI BASEBALL LEAGUE
2007 baseball graduates Nat Ballenberg, Ben Field and Travis Zier finished their Haverford diamond careers just after 6 p.m. on May 1, all contributing to a season-ending victory over Neumann College. The next time they'll throw or hit a ball when they're keeping score will be half a world away, in a country which has never seen a professional baseball game on its own soil. On June 25, the rivals were host Tel Aviv Lightning, as in Tel Aviv, Israel. Ballenberg, Field, and Zier will be wearing the uniform of the Ra'anana Express of the newly established Israel Baseball League, getting paid (modestly) and being managed by someone who surely knows his way around a baseball field, Ken Holtzman, former star hurler for the Chicago Cubs, Oakland As, Baltimore Orioles, and New York Yankees.
Ra'anana is a far northern suburb of Tel Aviv. Many of its residents have American roots, and thus a reasonable fan base is expected, though one of the great unknowns of the IBL is whether it will have an initial draw in a country which lavishes its sporting passion on soccer, basketball and tennis.
Zier and Ballenberg are pitchers and Field a southpaw-swinging outfielder, all major cogs in the Haverford baseball renaissance of the last few years under Coach Dave Beccaria. Field was named All-Centennial Conference Honorable Mention this season.
Their manager, Holtzman, was dubbed the "new Koufax" when he arrived on the major league scene, in tribute to his nasty left-handed stuff and perhaps his shared ethnicity with the Hall of Fame Dodger lefty. He didn't quite reach that status, but now again his name will be linked with Koufax's. In the IBL draft, Koufax was honored by being chosen as the final pick for the initial IBL season.
Each of the six teams in the IBL will have 20 players. Players will come from nine different nations. Four of the managers will be ex-big leaguers; Holtzman, one-time NY Met Art Shamsky, former Yankee Ron Bloomberg, and Steve Hertz, now an Israeli, who had the proverbial "cup of coffee" with the Houston Astros.
Some other ex-major and minor leaguers will be playing as well. And, you don't have to be Jewish to play in the IBL; many of the pioneer players aren't and at least one contest was played on a field owned by a Baptist church. The league does hope to develop Israeli players, though, as quickly as possible.
Stay tuned to Scoreline and the Haverford Athletics Web site to keep track of how the Fords progress during the season. Those who want to know more about the IBL or the Haverford representatives should visit www.israelbaseballleague.com.
— Ryan Griswold