Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Post Win Thoughts

Hi everyone,
Just checking in after a really huge win tonight against Modiin. It was big because we played against this pitcher twice already, once on opening night, and once another night where he 'no-hit' us. To be able to fight back shows that the shovelmen are really starting to come along. A-Mo pitched lights out, and it was just an awesome day at the field. Willy-B also woke up with two big time home-runs, and we finally beat a top team with their top man on the hill. Its a big emotional win for us, knowing we can play well against the best in the league.

Additionally, there were around 450 kids and staff from Moshava at our game tonight. Playing in front of a crowd of rowdy 10th graders is the best way to rile up your team! After the game it was great to sit and meet the kids. At first I was hounded by the typical lines:

"Can I have your autograph?"
"Can you give me a ball?... a batting glove? your bat? everything you own?"
"who are you again?"

but then came some fun questions.

"Oh you are from Boston? do you know _______ (fill in the blank)?"
"Yaakov Green is your brother?? He was my advisor in youth groups!"
"Can you hang out with us on shabbos?"

But onto the update;
So yesterday was Tisha- BeAv, the 9th of Av, a day commemorating, among other things, the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. I went back to my friends house in Chashmonaim, to read the traditional book of Lamentations (Eichah), and spend the fast among friends and air conditioning. It was a bit hard going off for the fast. We had a rough game the day leading into the 9th, and I had to run off immediately after it finished in order to make services on time with enough liquids in me to last the 25 hour fast. That has actually been a really interesting point for me this summer. On the one hand, I have made some really good friends on this team. Buts, A-Mo, Chopper, Crot, Willy... (the list goes on) have all been a ton of fun to be around, and play with. But at the same time, when shabbat comes around... or a religious fast, I'm the only one on the 'field.'

Now, this shouldn't be seen as complaining. Everyone on the team is truly respectful and understanding. But at the same time, every weekend I turn down invitations to the pubs and clubs on Friday night... Its just a distance that has to be.

But I take the positive with the more tough to handle... All those kids screaming my name because we have the same background, and coming up to me afterwards because I went to Yeshiva with their older brother. Those are the guys on the 'field' with me while I respectfully decline every Friday night, and partake in every fast.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Trip to Jerusalem

I promised to talk about my time when I'm not playing, and seeing as how I've had a lot of that lately... here is a recap of our trip last week. Since the league was still putting the finishing touches on the Tel Aviv Sportek field, a group of Pioneers (whom I will only refer to by nickname... your job is to figure out who I am talking about) and myself headed up to Jerusalem on Friday. Now there was one other opportunity for the players to head to J-town, but seeing that it was on Saturday and the city officially shuts down on shabbos, A-mo, Buts, Chopper, Epps and myself waited for an off day where we could really soak in the entire town. And being that I had lived outside Jerusalem for a combined three years, I was designated tour guide, which was fun because I got to choose the spots to visit. And those spots all contained food.

Now Epps has been to Israel countless times, but for A-mo Buts and Chop,this was there first time in the holy city, so I needed to make an impression. The first stop on our tour was to the famous Shuk (open market). Now for those who aren't familiar, think *Aladdin*, only without the stolen melons and crafty monkeys. Everybody yelling that their prices are the lowest, their fruit the freshest, and their meats the most kosher. Its a lot of fun to see, haggle, and taste on Friday afternoons when everyone is rushing to prepare for shabbos. We took the necessary picture next to the smelly fish stand (a classic) and headed for the center of town to catch some lunch that didn't smell like bread salmon apricots.

On the way to lunch we stopped at the back end of the Shuk for one of Jerusalem's most famous places. Its not the Prime Ministers house or the Knesset (Parliament), but some of the most important decisions of the Middle East take place right there. Cinnamon or Chocolate? (Always Chocolate).Blueberry, or apple? (Always both). I'm referring of course to Marzipan,home of the best rugalach in the world. It was awesome getting to introduce these guys to their first Marzipan experience, and watch their eyes melt along with the gooey interior of a freshly baked batch. It is honestly an honor to buy them their first few. But they are on their own tab now.

Next stop on the food tour was to the best shwarma place I know in Jerusalem: Maoz, right at the top of the Ben Yehuda concourse. Now I'm sure this will spark a raging debate about how foolish I am, that Massov, or Melech or whatever is better shwarma, but... you don't like my taste? take it up in your own blog.

Four shwarmas and one falafel later (Epps wasn't man enough to handle the real deal) , we roll ourselves to the edge of the old city, outside Jaffa gate. Here my job as actual tour guide begins. For those familiar with theold city, we started at Jaffa, and walked through the Arab Shuk towards the Temple Mount, where everyone has the best deal... and they need 'just a minute of your time.' Three dollars for "Pearl Jam" T-shirts in Hebrew, random olive-wood camels, and of course 'antique' chess sets, and we are headed to the Jewish quarter of the Old City. We walked and walked, hitting all the major spots (the Western Wall, the Via Dolorosa, etc.) and all the major time periods as well. Attractions from thousands of years of history,dating from the First Temple (the original walls of Jerusalem dating from 1000 BCE) to the Temple Mount's Western Wall (From 500 BCE), the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at 400 CE, to the Cardo (A roman pavilion still used today for shops) at 600 CE, all the way to the ultra modern outer wall, built by the Turks at around 1500 CE. Getting to see 2500 years of life is a pretty unique experience, and I was honored to be able to go and show the beauty of the Jewish State, and its holiest sites and holiest city.

But back to food. So we tiredly, achingly, sun drain-edly (I know thats not a word) walked back to 'modern' Jerusalem, where we sat for lunch and drinks at a jazz cafe. I cant think of another place that encompasses so much; to be able to go from Cardo to Coltrain, the City of David to Miles Davis, in one afternoon. Thankfully Shabbos was right around the corner, so I was able to rest, but these are some of the things we have been able to do while playing ball over here... Shavua Tov everybody!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Disabled List

I don’t think I have ever felt a situation where at one side I have a ton of 'down time', but at the same time feel like I don’t have any moment for anything other than baseball. It’s kind of funny really; we play almost every day, and while the games are only a few hours, everything around the game seems to take up so much of our time and thoughts. Here on the Kfar where we all live, hours before the game starts we are all discussing either last nights events, ideas for the upcoming game, or just our thoughts on the league, play, baseball in general.

So on the one hand, I have a ton of time where I sort of just relax, yet on the other my entire life is consumed by baseball! kind of a different situation than what I'm used to, but believe me, I'm not complaining.

So many of you heard, (many being the five people that check into the blog) that I was one of the first players in the IBL to go on the DL (disabled list). It was kind of frustrating. After that amazing first game, (the score of which we don’t like to think about) with all of the crowds, fanfare, and buildup, I am taking infield and just doing regular warm-ups for the second game. The coach hits me a ground ball to flip to the shortstop, and then "pop-pop."

When I told the trainer and physical therapist that "I had never any back problems before in my life," I was given a response anyone with chronic back issues will say the doctor told them:

"well, you do now."

In truth, it wasn’t the worst. I had to sit about a week, and the trainers really helped. In particular, a friend of the family is an Osteopath, and realigned my back at his house after shabbat. He gave me exercises to strengthen the lower back, and my old coach (Coach Ringel from YU) basically told me, I will have to play and work through the pain, but the more I stretch and the more I move around, the better my back will feel. Throw in a lot of Advil before and after games and he’s absolutely right.

So this past week I got to get in some games, and even start one, so that was a really wonderful experience, even if it was belated, playing in front of fans, and just being back in the game was such a special experience. Even when I was injured there are a ton of ways to help the team, from coaching bases, throwing BP (batting practice) to even just being another set of eyes watching the game, seeing different angles.

Anyway, I am going to sign off for now, but I hope to write about some of the interesting religious experiences I have had while playing ball here in Israel. In the meantime, let’s hope for a strong upcoming week, and not lose faith with "the men who swing shovels." Things are just starting to heat up here in Israel.