Saturday, July 28, 2007

One Crazy Game

Let’s start today’s episode with a few cultural lessons. Lesson number one: it might be unwise for Israelis to wear shirts with English slogans. Among countless examples, here is my favorite: “I [heart] me.” Someone please explain. Lesson number two: when traveling, extract 5.10 sheckles before getting on the bus. If you don’t, here’s what happens: first the bus driver shuts the door upon your unsuspecting body. Then, taking no pity, the driver (who looks like he’s been driving the same loop for 36 hours) hits the gas well before you have reached your seat. If you are not in full athletic position, you get slammed into fiberglass while digging for coins. The driver proceeds to take hairpin turns at 110 kilos per hour while everyone sits in silence because this is completely normal. Apparently Israel has more driving fatalities per capita than any industrialized country. Lesson number three: Jews are allowed to get tattoos. Everyone in Israel has tattoos. You can be buried in a Jewish cemetery if you have a tattoo. On a side note, pop rocks and soda don’t explode in your stomach.

Next on the agenda is baseball. The game I am about to describe is just as memorable as any I’ve ever played in. When the Ra’anana Express faced off against the Modi’in Miracle, the scouting reports pointed toward a pitching duel. It was Dominican versus Dominican and at this point the hitters had not been taking batting practice at all (see previous blog). Our ace, Esquire Pie a.k.a. The Attorney General threw the first no-hitter in league history. Somehow in the top of the seventh after walking three batters and going down 3-0 to the next guy he escaped by throwing two strikes and forcing the batter to roll over on a ball to third base. Amazing. The Miracle’s ace, Ol’ Maximo, had surrendered even fewer base runners and scattered only two hits. This game ended regulation in a 0-0 tie, but it did not go into extra-innings per se. You see, in the IBL, we decide ties by means of the home run derby and this was the first one in league history. After our derby batters outswung the Miracles’, we thought we’d won, but controversy was in the air. Supposedly, our first baseman, Scott Feller, had used a bat made of composite wood—a big no-no. However, since the umpire has previously checked the bat and found no problems, we were awarded the victory after all. As a side note, the bat was confiscated and will be placed in the IBL hall of fame (whenever it gets built).

On a personal note, the change from metal to wood bats has been huge. I’ve hit a few balls that would have been doubles (or home runs) with metal but were caught on the warning track in this wood bat league. It’s amazing how much the batters are able to “cheat” using metal bats. Using wood, your weaknesses are amplified and you are forced to become a better hitter as a result (hopefully). Being the purest that I am, I’d change all youth baseball to wood if I could. But because Louisville Slugger and Easton are making small fortunes manufacturing metal bats and today’s emphasis is so strongly geared toward power hitting, I doubt this will happen any time soon.

Lately, I’ve been starting to see the ball better. I’m three for my last five including a home run. Baseball is an amazing game because it’s all about the process. Baseball is one of those things that doesn’t lend itself to immediate gratification. In baseball it takes days, weeks, months, perhaps years to reap the fruits of one’s labor. Furthermore, once one reaches a certain level of expertise, it opens the door to new layers of growth. Many of you I’m sure have experienced this in other realms of life. Over the last year + I’ve often said to myself I wish I could be a sophomore in high school again knowing then what I know now. But obviously this is not how it works and paths often become more meaningful in retrospect. Enough fluffy stuff. Someone pray to the baseball gods that I continue hitting the ball.

Off the field, I’ve been doing a fair amount of site-seeing. When the fam was here (Jason on birthright and the ‘rents touring the country and watching baseball), we explored the ancient city of Jaffa, which lies just south of Tel Aviv. Actually, Tel Aviv owes its founding to Jaffa, Tel Aviv was founded when the Jews were thrown out of Jaffa by Muslims some 100 years ago. Additionally, I went to the Museum of the Diaspora, which is absolutely amazing for history dorks like moi. This place chronicles the history of the Jewish people from the time they were kicked out of Israel after the destruction of the temple until the founding of the Israeli in 1948. Here are some fun facts: the first synagogue in the western hemisphere was in Curacao. Sephardic congregations spread sand over the sanctuary floor to symbolize the exodus. And it’s actually not our fault that we deal in money a lot considering we weren’t allowed to own land for much of the last 2000 years. Lastly, Houdini was a Jew (where was that Adam Sandler?)

Peace in the Middle East

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