We'll, the regular season is winding down and I am proud to say that the boys from Ra'anana have battled their way into the playoffs...along with every other team in the league. It was smart to include every team in the playoffs because if they had stuck to the original plan, a two-team playoff, the losing teams would have probably waved the white flag long ago. This way everybody has a chance and baseball can be an unpredictable game.
I know I've said this before but this league is unlike any other than I've experienced. Can you imagine a bunch of rough-and-tumble, tobacco-chewing baseball players taking pre-game to techno music blaring in the background? And then there's all the non-Jews who now sing Hatikvah, the Israeli National Anthem, before each game. One of my non-Jewish teammates went so far as to tattoo "baseball" in Hebrew letters across his arm. Perhaps the greatest difference is the fact that we play games six days a week. Of course, staying healthy is an issue, but the schedule has several benefits. For one, if you lose or just have a bad game, there's no time to whine or psych yourself out because you must immediately start preparing for the next game. And on the other hand, every day games allow the players to get into a very regular rhythm. This is also the first league I've ever played in where I know my competitors intimately. As an outfielder, you can talk smack to your buddy on second base like, "you better not run home on a base hit if you're smart." From the opposing dugout you hear things like, "if you get another hit, you're buying dinner tonight." While this closeness works most of the time, sometimes it backfires--like the time we almost got into a melee over a hit batsman and then had to share the bus back home. What would the bus driver have thought if he looked in the rear-view mirror to see people being chucked over the seats and punches being thrown?
As the dog-days of summer roll on, tension and frustration with self and league have become commonplace. A good example of said frustration may be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHb2fVcKHkg . Pay special attention to the pitcher and also see if you can pick me out. The umpires have received the brunt of the players' frustration. And while these umpires are by far the worst I've ever seen in my life, I admire their perseverance, because if I was as bad as them, I would have quit a long time ago.
Knock on wood, the season is ending pretty well for me. For one, my limbs are all in tact--mainly because of the shiatsu massages I've been receiving from Tiger, the league physio(therapist). He calls me "magic carpet". Take from that what you will. My Jewish genes are inescapable. On the field, I seem to have found my happy place at the plate, something about breathing out of my eyelids and cutting down on strikeouts because they're fascist. I take it one game at a time and let my teammates handle the rest (note: if you haven't seen the movie Bull Durham, do).
As my time in Israel draws to a close, I've spent countless hours contemplating what I've learned and how I've grown. After spending so much time in this beautiful country, I'd like to think that I'll take a little bit of Israel with me when I go. That's why I came up with this list:
You know you've spent two months in Israel when....
...you consider 90 degrees a cold front.
...you start saying things like, "the 5.10 sheckel bus ride will get us back to the green village by 23:00."
...you consider Domino's a gourmet pizza option.
...you are no longer phased by the 7-minute mid-movie smoke break.
...you urinate wherever it's convenient.
...you feel cheated if you don't stay out until 6 a.m.
...you hear a Cindy Lauper techno remix and don't change the radio station.
...you say to yourself, "you know what, the male speedo really isn't that bad."
...you say to yourself, "I think I could survive on sunflower seeds and chick peas alone, and furthermore, more than one ice cube is really unnecessary."