Noam Calisar learned how to play baseball while living in Japan as a child, but the 17-year-old was unsure of his baseball future in Israel after aging out of the Juniors League last year. Now this has all changed.
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The Israel Association of Baseball has just launched the first-ever Israel Baseball Academy, for elite players between the ages of 14 and 21.
Noam, and another 10 top-level players from all over Israel, now have a whole new world of baseball opportunities open to them.
The academy is recognized by Major League Baseball, and the players will have access to the MLB’s programs for the best young players in Europe.
“This will open many doors that were previously closed to our players,” said Nate Fish, IAB national director and director of the academy.
“The goal is to develop our top players so they’re ready to compete on the highest levels, can train in the United States, and play college and even professional baseball,” said Fish.
The academy players train together every week at the Baptist Village in Petah Tikva.
Head coach Fish is joined by national team coach David Schenker and former college pitcher and longtime Israel national team player Dan Rothem.
As part of a long-term plan for the academy, a group of 20 players have been placed on a scouting list as potential candidates for next year.
Calisar, who lives in Binyamina, chatted about the program while warming up for his weekly session.
“Till a year ago, before Nate Fish came from the United States to become Israel Baseball’s national director, having an academy like this was only a dream,” said Calisar.
“Now it’s all happening so quickly, and I know that I will go further in baseball as a result. It gives us a connection to the MLB for the first time,” he added.
Ofer Bobrov, 15, who travels every week for two hours by train and bus from Misgav in the north, is extremely motivated.
“It’s an honor to be here,” he said. “We are developing really quickly and achieving a lot in baseball.”
“This program will ensure that we raise the level of Israel baseball, so that we create an outstanding group of players who will be very active in the Israel national team program, will coach younger players, and will represent Israel baseball internationally,” said Peter Kurz, president of the IAB.
“This is a great group of young players,” added Fish, “who have a chance to do something really special in the next few years.”