If you had told me three years ago, that I, a born and bred in South African, was soon to metamorphose into a die-hard baseball fan living in Israel, I would have laughed. But three seasons after my 10-year-old son started playing baseball in our small town in the Sharon region, I’m a huge fan. Not of the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, or the LA Dodgers (and I actually had to Google that!), but of the Tel Mond Nationals.
Nationals? Yes, you read right. An enterprising father/coach organized sponsorship from the “mother” team in Washington and the local boys are making their big brothers on the other side of the ocean proud. On Friday June 19 they play the Ra’anana Jumbo Pretzels (actual name) in the championship game of the regional juvenile league playoffs.
I love it that this true-blue American sport is being played all over Israel with huge enthusiasm. In their classic baseball pants, helmets, batting gloves, baseball mitts and Nationals team shirts, the boys play on our weedy, sandy, uneven field, where horses, donkeys and goats frequently roam free, bringing cricket in the times of the Raj to mind.
We’re a stalwart group of parents – Israelis, English, South Africans, and even Americans – who support the team, home or away, often arguing about baseball’s tenuous connection to the British pastime of rounders and constantly complaining about the intense heat (Raj again?). We heckle and cheer and enjoy every minute of watching the kids playing their hearts out every Friday afternoon.
I have to give credit to The Israel Association of Baseball (IAB), which has been active since 1986 in promoting and developing baseball in Israel and ensuring that the rule book is adhered to in good Anglo-Saxon fashion.
Now, not only is my half-South African son on his way to becoming a pitcher, and can actually hit that little, painfully hard ball with that narrow sliver of ash, but I am also proud that I have learned about RBIs, line drives, pop-ups, foul balls and strike zones so as not to embarrass my American-born husband too much.
Go Nationals and go Israeli baseball.