SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - MARCH 09: Infielder Cody Decker #14 of Israel holds team mascot The Mensch after the World Baseball Classic Pool A Game Five between Netherlands and Israel at Gocheok Sky Dome on March 9, 2017 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

Ballplayers in blue-and-white will be remembered for their chutzpah at bat and Mensch on a Bench mascot in debut appearance at global baseball event.


Team Israel had a great run at the World Baseball Classic tournament while it lasted. The ballplayers with a David vs. Goliath approach came out swinging hard and stunned the world with four consecutive wins in the preliminary and second rounds.

But two losses in a row – today’s 8-3 loss to Japan and a 12-2 clobbering by the Netherlands (March 13) – made advancing to the finals a dream for the next global tournament.

Today’s game started with five scoreless innings. But Japan blew open a lead in the sixth with five runs and added three more for good measure in the eighth.

Israel scored all its runs in the top of the ninth.


The World Baseball Classic is a tournament in which the best baseball players in the world compete. Team Israel had bookers betting against it even making the main event.

But the blue-and-white uniformed ballplayers, who were ranked 41st going into the Classic, not only made it to the preliminary rounds but won an astounding four in a row at the tournament.

Dubbed the Cinderella team of the contest, Team Israel stunned Cuba 4-1 in the first WBC quarterfinal game at the Tokyo Dome and before that swept the first-round of games by beating South Korea, Taiwan and the Netherlands.

Only three of Team Israel’s 28 players are Israeli; the rest are Jewish Americans. According to WBC rules, anyone eligible to hold citizenship in a country can play for its national team. There are other teams with players who do not hold passports for the country for which they’re playing.

Israeli right fielder Zach Borenstein hits a one-run single at the top of the sixth inning for the game winner against Cuba at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo.

“The players love playing for Israel,” Israel Association of Baseball President Peter Kurz told ISRAEL21c. “A lot of them want to come and visit after the tournament or after they retire.”

For fans, that the ballplayers are proud to wear “Israel” on their uniforms and represent the country is more than enough.

“Take Me Out to the Ballgame” drew more than a hundred baseball fans to an empty lot in the center of Beit Shemesh, a small town nestled in the hills outside Jerusalem. In a country where Little League Baseball is unheard of and Cracker Jack snacks are nonexistent, this was no typical weekend in the Jewish state. Jan. 6 marked the groundbreaking for the new Beit Shemesh Baseball Complex, which will be Israel’s fourth major baseball field.

“While baseball fans around the globe have taken notice of Team Israel due to their surprising athletic prowess, Jews around the world — many of whom have never watched a single inning of baseball — are drawn to Team Israel out of deep Jewish pride. Not because they are Israelis, but because they aren’t — they are largely American Jews who have decided to wear uniforms emblazoned with the Jewish star and don kippot during Hatikvah, to identify as Jews in such a public way,” says Klein.

Jewish Rapper Kosha Dillz raps about the amazing Cinderella team.

Team Israel will also be remembered for its hilarious mascot, Mensch on the Bench, a stuffed doll that was the Jewish answer to the popular Christmas toy and story “Elf on the Shelf.”

Japan’s win today over Israel means it advances to the semifinals in Los Angeles along with the Netherlands. Japan finished Pool E with a 3-0 record, Cuba 0-3, Israel 1-2, and the Netherlands 2-1.

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By Viva Sarah Press – Israel21C


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