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Professional baseball will come to Israel today when the Petach Tikva Pioneers host the Modi'in Miracle at the Yarkon Field in the opening game of the Israel Baseball League (IBL).

The inaugural season will feature six teams - the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox, Modi'in Miracle, Netanya Tigers, Petach Tikva Pioneers, Ra'anana Express and Tel Aviv Lightning - each playing a 45-game schedule with an all-star game on July 29 and a one-game championship on August 19.

Games are seven innings instead of nine. Ties will be decided by home run contests rather than extra innings.

The 120 players that will make up the six teams hail largely from the United States, with a local contingent of a dozen and several players from the Dominican Republic, as well as players from Australia, Colombia, Japan and Ukraine.

The players will spend the three-month season at the Kfar Hayarok youth village near Tel Aviv and will be paid around $2,000 for the season.

The IBL is the brainchild of Boston businessman Larry Baras, who has enlisted former Montreal Expos and Boston Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette as director of baseball operations.

The league's advisory committee includes Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, New York Yankees president Randy Levine and baseball economist Andrew Zimbalist.

The IBL's commissioner is Daniel Kurtzer, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel.

The team managers include former major leaguers Ken Holtzman (Petach Tikva), Art Shamsky (Modi'in) and Ron Blomberg (Bet Shemesh). Israeli Ami Baran manages the Netanya Tigers, Australian Shaun Smith the Ra'anana Express, and former Miami Dade College coach Steve Hertz will manage Tel Aviv.

A crowd of 2,000 is expected for today's opener, which will be broadcast live by the Sports Channel - the first of its Sunday game-of-the-week broadcasts. The game starts at 6 P.M., with pregame ceremonies beginning at 5:15.