Israel advances: WBC success means more baseball fields back home
Qualifying for 2nd round of the World Baseball Classic could have a lasting impact on country's growing baseball culture.
Israel continued its surprising run in the World Baseball Classic Wednesday, and it didn't even need to take the field. Thanks to a Netherlands victory over Chinese Taipei, Israel is advancing to the second round of the WBC, to start Sunday in Japan.
The Netherlands win comes after Israel shocked heavy favorites Korea Monday and then pummeled Chinese Taipei the following day in Pool A play. The Netherlands and Israel face off Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET to decide the winner of the pool.
Israel is already guaranteed a total of $300,000 for making it through to the second round, a major boon to a country still cultivating the game. "Most of the money will go towards developing fields in Israel," pending a vote by the Israel Association of Baseball, Peter Kurz, the association's president, told From The Grapevine.
Unlike most of the countries appearing in the WBC, who have established baseball cultures, baseball is a newer phenomenon in Israel.
Their unlikely success in the tournament so far — they're appearing in their first WBC and were the last of the 16 teams to qualify — should have a profound impact on its continued growth back home.
Currently the country has 28 baseball venues, but only one – the Baptist Village located outside of Tel Aviv – is a dedicated baseball facility.
This is where members of the WBC team practiced when they visited the country earlier this year. And with the hope that the team's success will attract more Israelis to the sport, Kurz's top priority is building quality facilities to cater to that growth.
"That's my main goal, to build fields here in Israel," Kurz told us earlier this year.
His immediate goal, however, will be the continued success of the WBC squad, because each victory equals better resources for his home country.
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