Israel National Baseball Team Tournament in Italy
Hi. I’m Zev Moore and I just came back from a baseball tournament called the Tuscany Series with my team, the Israeli Juvenile National Team.
The team has players from all around Israel, Gezer, Tel Aviv, Gush Etzion, Hashmonaim, Jerusalem, Modiin, and more. We cut down to this team in tryouts that we had in March. An approximate 35 kids aged 9-12 came to try out. Our head coaches, David and Josh, cut down the player total to about 25 after the first few tryouts. Then we had 2 more practices, and we finally had our 16 man team. I was told that I got on and I was very happy that me and my brother (did I mention that I have a twin brother) got to be on the team, especially because I recently heard that the team would be traveling to Italy at the beginning of the summer, which was just over a month away.
I was so excited that I would be able to do something special, especially in my first year in Israel. I moved 1 year ago in the summer, but I was pretty upset at the start hearing that there was little to no baseball in Israel. I soon found out how that was not true, and I play even more baseball here than I did in America, because I would not play on Shabbat. My dad used to set up pickup games for all the Jewish neighborhood kids in my town of East Windsor, New Jersey, but we sometimes only had about 10 kids, and they were all not at our level of play.
My dad told me about the National Team in September, but we didn’t really understand, and we only got the details of the team after the tryouts had started in March. We missed a little bit but soon fit in and made the team. I quickly made friends with the kids, and talked with the ones about how their trip to Czech was last year. Since our house was more than an hour away my dad just stayed their with us and brought us twice a week for practices, which I am very thankful for.
Basically, the team was quickly better with the practices, and the excitement was up. Finally, the end of school came at the end of June, and we were flying in 3 more days. We had 2 days of camp/practice with the team so we would be in shape for the tournament. It was up there in Gezer, where it’s hot, but we all went in the pool afterwards.
It’s Wednesday, 1:30 and we’re leaving to the airport (and yes it was 1:30 in the morning). I was tired but a bit anxious to already get to Italy and play some games. We were told to bring a button down and jeans to the airport to look like a team, so I knew we were serious about this thing. Our flight was at 6:00, and we got to the airport at 3:00.We basically got through security, and we had 2 hours or so until our flight, so we all went out to buy stuff and just hang out, in the lounge of the airport. By the time we got on the plane, there was already about 5 people who asked us who we were, what we’re doing, etc. We told them we were going to Italy to play baseball, and they all pretty much seemed surprised, saying they didn’t know that there was an international baseball team for Israel.
The 3 and a half hour plane was good with the great service of El AL, which had music, TV, and catalogs about the 19th Maccabiah (more on that later). I was sitting next to an older couple, looking like they were in there 70s. I guessed they lived in America, or maybe England, because they talked fluent English. They asked me some questions, we talked, and I tried to be as polite as possible so that they would have good memories of Israel’s people. I suddenly realized how important it was to act well in Italy, seeing as that was how the people would think of us and Israel.
When landed in Italy our whole team clapped, and we got off straight to a shuttle bus to the airport in Rome. It was only 2 minutes long, and then we waited to get our luggage. We finally, all got our stuff, and started moving from the luggage pickup almost an hour later. My bag was so annoying to take, that one of the adults with us traded bags with me.
After a 2 hour car ride from Rome to the place we were staying, called Grosseto. We brought our bags to our rooms and got ready for a team practice that we would have. Our rooms were nice and I was staying with my brother and another kid.
So the next day, we had 2 games planned for us. At 7:10 we left to the field, which was 15 minutes away, to get to the 9:00 game. On the bus ride, our coach David, announced the starting lineup. I was starting at shortstop and hitting 4th in the batting order. Their is another kid,, Avi Paley who also was competing with me for shortstop recently, and we were about equal. So Avi happens to be a good pitcher, so he started the series at pitcher. Our coach explained how the 3 pitchers pitching this game would not play other positions after or before they pitched. So here’s the pitchers and how they did. Avi Paley:2 IP, 1 Hit, 0 Runs, 1 K and 2 walks. Betzalel Kopietzky: 2 IP, 2 Hits, 2 Runs, 1 Walk and 1 K. Menachem Eisen 1.2 IP, 1 Hit, 4 Runs,4 walks, 1 K and a HBP. Noam Berger:0.1 IP 1 walk.
Basically, we allowed 6 runs and only scored 1 coming home with our first loss against the local team, Grosseto.. I had a hit, with the team total only at 4. Another stat to look at is our walks. 8 walks plus a few wild pitches resulted in almost all their runs. Everyone was down and a bit sad, but we all knew we could redeem the loss with a win, at our 4:00 game later today. When we got back at the we were all staying, we just hung out, restless for our next game.
We went to the practice again an hour and a half before the game, but this time we had more batting practice, Our coaches figured that hitting drills would help out our team’s lousy hitting in the first game. It did, and this game we won 8-3. I started at third base, because the normal player, was starting at pitcher. Our team only had to hit 3 times, because the games have a 2 hour time limit. Our pitching was also pretty good. We only had 2 pitchers, because their team only was up 4 times. Here are their stats: Benny Feins: 2 IP, 4 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks and 2 Ks. Akiva Sternthal: 2 IP, 2 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, and 4 strikeouts. That game I was 0-2 with a walk.
We just had to win the next game to get in the playoffs, allowing us to compete for the championship. Our next game was scheduled for Friday, the next day. I was pretty sure that I was going to pitch, because I was considered one of the team’s best pitchers, and this was an important game. (I don’t have any more stats for this game and on.)
We had to all wake up at 5:00 in the morning for the 6:30 practice and then our game. We all climbed on to the bus all tired, nervous, anxious, and excited. We all knew that this was a crucial win we would have to take if we wanted to win the championship. The team we were playing was called SAN GIACOMO. We were all very nervous but we played very well. We won 10-2. I pitched 2 innings, but my teammates’ hitting, really had the spotlight, scoring 10 runs! When we won everyone was really excited going into Shabbat. I knew that our coaches giving us batting practice before the game, was really helping our offense.
Right after the game, we got on a bus taking us to a city named Sienna. I recall that the drive was about 2 hours, but it was fun with all of my friends on the bus. We were all kids who had a great passion for the game of baseball, so much so that we left our houses and camps, going internationally for almost a week. I became very friendly with all the kids at the tryouts, and everyone understands one another, even though we were together for about just over a month.
When we were in Sienna , we toured all around the city. We came to this square that had this giant building with flocks of pigeons above and around it. Most of the group went up the building, but me, my brother and a few more along with a parent, went to browse for a souvenir. I ended up buying matching sunglasses and jackets with my brother, which was pretty cool. After the group finished the building tour, we met and continued touring Sienna. We found the only Jewish synagogue in Sienna, and saw all these beautiful buildings and churches. When we got back to the residence, we all got ready for Shabbat and then we prayed outside. Soon after we had Friday night dinner, and it was near the restaurant at the residence, and all the people looked at us like we were crazy.
In the morning it was a bit of a relief, because we were recently waking up at 3 and 5. I usually (Also on Saturday) wake up at 6 o’clock or earlier. I looked outside and guessed it was maybe 6:30 because it was bright there, and in Italy it is bright starting at 4. But then I saw almost the whole team outside playing soccer. Most of my team was big into waking up late, and I knew it was at least 8. I asked one of the parents what time it was, and they said it was almost 10! So that was nice. The day went fine, with it being mostly a day off.
We met also on Shabbat, a teenager who we recently saw practicing playing soccer he looked abut 15, and he was one of the best players I had ever seen. I talked with one of the kids on the team and he said he doesn’t know English, but he came up to us and asked to play a match of soccer with us. Over the course of the day, we became good friends with him and we started to learn about him. His name was Medhi Sakini, and his younger brother was Sammy. He had ok English, and told us that he lives in Belgium and is on their U16 National team. By the end of the day we had played several games with him, taught him how to play baseball, and had a great relationship with him.
On Sunday, the day of our last 2 games, the whole team was hyped and anxious to know who would get to play in the semi-final game. We were playing Nettuno Academy, first place in their division, and undefeated. Waking up at 5 wasn’t hard, with everyone practically dreaming about the games. When we got their at around 6:30, I don’t think the whole teams mind was on the practice, but the upcoming game. I was scheduled to hit in the number 4 spot again, as I did the whole series thus far.
We won the game on a stunning 9-1 final score. I hit my biggest hit of the tournament, a line drive to the left-center field gap. Somehow, this was easily or teams best played game. We had great hitting, using the 4-run limit, great pitching, with only 1 run allowed, and amazing defense, turning a great double play. Everyone was pumped up especially because our Finals game was in less than an hour. We all got things to drink.
We started to practice and warm up, seeing our opponent, a team called MONTEFIASCONE. We were a bit scared but very excited. I was told that I would play shortstop and play pitcher in the game.
So it started out, with both teams matching zeros until the bottom of the third, where they were up. Our pitcher, Benny Feins, was doing great until this inning. He gave up the 4 run limit after committing a crucial error on a chopper to him with the bases loaded. I felt like we had no chance because we were barely hitting anything, and it was the top of the 4th inning. We scored 2 runs, making the game close at 4-2, basically, in the bottom of the 5th, when I was pitching, with the game at 6-2 I told the coach that I had no more energy and I got taken out of the game. The other pitcher allowed 1 run, but at that moment we were pretty sure that we lost, because we didn’t know if the 4 run limit was applicable in the last inning. In that inning we hit amazing scoring 4 runs, with our backup player hitting a triple with no outs. The game was called over, at the score of 7-6. I was very upset at how it ended, but I told my self that it was just a game and that we played well. We had lunch near the cafe, because the awards ceremony was in 1 hour. When the team was at the awards ceremony, it was a bittersweet feeling. On one hand, coming internationally to play and making the finals in impressive fashion was nice. But on the other hand, we lost on a very close game. When they announced for Team Israel to come forward and take the trophy, I forgot all the sadness and I ran with pride in my heart, that I can come with Team Israel. Something special like that I will remember for all of my life.
When we got home from the airport, all the players family members and more were cheering and clapping. It was pretty emotional to say goodbye to the players and coaches, even though we would be seeing them in 2 weeks at a ceremony in honor of us at the Maccabiah Games. I saw my dad and gave him a big hug and I told him about the whole trip on the way home. When I told my family about the trip I was happy, because I will remember this trip as one of the best experiences in my life.
So we did have the ceremony. It was a game of Israel against Canada. We went on to the field for the national anthems and the announcer telling the crowd who we were. It was a great game, especially because Israel won 4-1, earning home field advantage in the semifinals, also against Canada.
So I have to thank my parents for spending the money for me to come, the great coaches who taught me so much, and my teammates for being nice kids and great players.