Baseball Israeli League Throws Out Inaugural Ball in NY

Play commences June 24 with a 45-game schedule covering eight weeks and culminating in a championship.

The Israel Baseball League officially announced its inaugural season at a press conference in New York yesterday.

Play commences June 24 with a 45-game schedule covering eight weeks and culminating in a championship.

The three managers already named to manage teams in the six team league - former major leaguers Ken Holtzman, Art Shamsky and Ron Blomberg - attended yesterday's press conference along with the league's commissioner, Daniel Kurtzer, the former U.S. Ambassador to Israel; Dan Duquette, the former general manager of the Montreal Expos and Boston Red Sox, who serves as director of baseball operations, and Larry Baras, the Boston businessman who created the league.

"We're going to build up the infrastructure of the sport, so we can perpetuate the growth of baseball," said Duquette, who said the league has already applied to compete in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

Eighty players, including two promising Australians, were signed in tryouts at Duquette's Massachusetts baseball academy and at Yarkon Sports complex in Petah Tikva.

Another 50 players are expected to sign from upcoming tryouts in Miami, Los Angeles and the Dominican Republic, Duquette said.

The teams will be the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox, the Modi'in Miracle, the Tel Aviv Lightning, the Netanya Tigers, the Ra'anana Express and the Petah Tikva Pioneers.

Former Yankee Blomberg will manage Bet Shemesh, and former Met Shamsky will manage Modi'in.

Holtzman, the winningest Jewish pitcher in major league baseball history, with a lifetime 174-150 record compiled over 15 seasons with the Cubs, Athletics, Orioles and Yankees, will manage Ra'anana.

Steve Hertz, who pitched briefly for Houston in 1964 and who is the head coach at Miami Dade Junior College, will manage Tel Aviv. Shaun Smith, head coach of the Auburn Orioles, the highest level of play in Australia, will manage Netanya.

The sixth manager, who will manage Petah Tikva, is expected to come from within Israel. Games will be seven innings long and contests tied after seven innings will be decided by a Home Run Derby.