(July 10, 2019 / JNS) Israel’s national baseball team took its first step towards qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo over the weekend, winning the Confederation of European Baseball’s (CEB) European Championships Pool in a perfect 6-0 sweep.
Team Israel, which overcame the Greek, Serbian, Bulgarian, Irish and Russian teams to take first place in its group, will now advance later this month to a three-game playoff series against the winner of the second Pool B group: Lithuania.
The winner of that series will move up to Pool A, and the top five teams from that group will advance to Olympics qualifiers in Parma, Italy, at the end of September.
Though many of Israel’s players were recruited from outside the country, seven began their baseball careers in Israel. Five are native-born Israelis.
“This team represents the best of Israel baseball, with players who have vast experience both on the professional stage as well as in colleges,” Israel Association of Baseball President and general manager of Team Israel Peter Kurz told The Jerusalem Post from the site of the win in Bulgaria. “With Team Israel’s great sixth-place finish in the 2018 World Baseball Classic tournament after beating some of the top teams in the world still fresh in their minds, their motivation is at an all-time high to represent Israel on this international stage and to go all the way to Tokyo in 2020.”
Former Israel Air Force pilot Danny Grossman, who has taken part in fundraising as well as assisted foreign-recruited players integrate into Israel, told the Post that New York Yankees President Randy Levine and Los Angeles Dodgers President Stan Kasten have donated suites for their use as they prepare for Olympic qualifiers, and have reached out to fellow MLB owners and executives to take part in supporting Israel’s team.