The latest attempt to grow baseball outside of its traditional and current hotbeds (Western Hemisphere, Japan, Korea) is the Israel Baseball League, which went through a rocky first season last year, with board members leaving en masse, low attendance, and shekels flying out the window faster than you could say “oy gevalt!”
(Yup, I think I just broke the stereotype per-post limit. I’ll go turn in my yarmulke and menorah after I’m done here today.)
Well, the few fans the league managed to attract can rejoice: the L.A. DAILY NEWS’ Tom Hoffarth passes on the AP’s news that a slimmed-down league will be returning in just over a month for its second season.
There will be a few changes when the season opens, compared to last year.
The season will be cut in half, down to 20 games from the original 40, and two teams have been contracted. (I’ll miss the Tel Aviv Lightning.) New league president Dan Rootenberg and director of player development Dan Duquette (former Boston Red Sox GM) say the changes to a three-week season and a slashing in the number of teams is necessary to help develop a fan base. If they can develop that, they hope to get to a 45-game schedule in 2009, and hope to develop enough talent so the country can field a team at the World Baseball Classic at some point.
Sounds like fun, and something worth catching if you happen to be in the Middle East any time soon. Just make sure not to crack too many “bomb” jokes when it comes to home run references.
(I’ll go pick up my ticket for the 5:15 train to Hell for that one, too.)