Former MLB Star says Israeli Baseball Team will contend for WBC
Manager Brad Ausmus has already recruited two former major leaguers
Team Israel could become the unlikeliest contender at the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
Two former Major League Baseball players; outfielder Gabe Kapler and former Toronto Blue Jay Shawn Green, have agreed to suit up for Israel, team manager Brad Ausmus told the Associated Press.
Kapler, 36, last played in 2010 for the Tampa Bay Rays and Green, 39, hasn’t played since 2007 when he was with the New York Mets. Both could serve dual roles as player/coaches with the team, Fox Sports reported.
According to WBC rules, team rosters can include players who are eligible for citizenship, even if they are not actual citizens of the country which they are representing. Since Israel’s Law of Return grants automatic citizenship to anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent, approximately 15 current MLB players are eligible to play for Team Israel at the WBC.
Ausmus, a former All-Star catcher and currently a special assistant for the San Diego Padres, says he hopes to recruit a few more Jewish MLB players, including two-time All-Star Ian Kinsler, 2011 National League MVP Ryan Braun and three-time All-Star Kevin Youkilis.
But Kinsler, Braun and Youkilis could also be invited to compete for Team USA at the WBC, creating a tough decision for these three American-born players to make.
“If you’re born in the US, it would be an honour to play for your country. We’re certainly going to respect what each player decides,” Ausmus told Fox Sports.
New York Mets first baseman Ike Davis, Minnesota Twins pitcher Jason Marquis and third baseman Danny Valencia, Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Sam Fuld and Texas Rangers pitcher Scott Feldman could all potentially suit up for Team Israel as well.
“I feel pretty good about the potential of this team,” Ausmus told the Associated Press on Monday in Jerusalem, during his first visit to Israel. “I never guarantee anything in the sport of baseball, because you just don’t know, but I’m more than comfortable with the potential of this roster.
The 43-year-old manager and three-time Gold Glove Award winner says he has been in contact with every Jewish MLB player or their agents and while none have formally committed to play for Israel thus far, each says they would be “honoured” and would not rule out the possibility.
Israel is one of 16 teams invited to play a qualifying round this November in Florida, with the top four teams advancing to the WBC in March 2013. Israel’s preliminary round match-ups include Spain, France and South Africa.
“I'm not looking past the qualifier right now. The goal is to win the qualifier,” said Ausmus.