The New York Boulders announced today the Team Israel National Baseball Team will train and play an exhibition game at Palisades Credit Union Park this July as they prepare to compete for a medal in Tokyo this summer.
Team Israel, with a number of former Major League players including four-time All-Star Ian Kinsler, will play the Boulders in an exhibition game on Monday, July 12. They will also have a free workout on Saturday, July 10 from 8-10 p.m.
Team Israel won the round-robin tournament featuring Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the Czech Republic, the top 5 teams from the 2019 European Championship, in Italy, Sept. 18-22, 2019. As the winner of that tournament, it qualified to be one of the six national teams that will compete in Tokyo.
Japan automatically qualified as the host country while Mexico qualified as the best team in the Premier 12 tournament from the Americas. South Korea qualified as the best team in the Premier 12 from Asia (other than already-qualified Japan). The two remaining spots in the six-nation field will be determined in tournaments this June.
Team USA will compete in an Americas qualifier in Florida in early June, along with the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela, Canada and Colombia. The dates and sites of the Americas qualifier are yet to be determined.
The winner of that tournament lands a spot in the Tokyo Games, while the second and third place finishers in the event will get a chance to earn the sixth spot by joining Chinese Taipei, the Netherlands, Australia and China in the final qualifying tournament hosted in Taichung, Taiwan in late June.
Kinsler, 38, broke into the major leagues with the Texas Rangers in 2006 and also played with the Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres in a career that spanned 14 years. He retired after the 2019 season with the Padres. Kinsler was an All-Star in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014.
Kinsler won the World Series with the Red Sox in 2018 and the World Baseball Classic with Team USA in 2017 and is going for the trifecta with Team Israel in the Olympics.
Team Israel’s roster also includes infielders Ty Kelly and Danny Valencia, as well as catcher Ryan Lavarnway.
Kelly, 31, saw time with the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies between 2016-18, while Valencia, 34, logged time with six teams from 2010-18. Lavarnway, 33 and a member of the Cleveland Indians, has seen time with seven other MLB teams in a career that began in 2011.
Tickets for the exhibition games are scheduled to go on sale on April 19 and are subject to New York State Department of Health guidelines. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Israel Baseball Association to help offset their expenses and help grow the sport of baseball in Israel.
“I am quite excited to be coming to Rockland and being hosted by the Boulders as Team Israel begins its workouts to prepare for competing for a medal at the Tokyo Olympics,” Peter Kurz, Israeli Association of Baseball general manager, said. “We were ready to come last year, and the anticipation now is that much greater.”
He added, “As someone who grew up in the New York Metropolitan area it will be a true homecoming, and to bring Olympic Team Israel along is a dream come true. I look forward to meeting the fans, and the players are itching to get back on the ballfield.”
Team Israel was scheduled to play two games in Rockland last July – one versus the Boulders, the other against the NYPD Finest. However, due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, those games were cancelled.
Boulders’ team president Shawn Reilly said, “We are pleased and honored to host Team Israel as the Olympics are one of the world’s great sporting events and Team Israel is sure to be one the great storylines of Tokyo. They had many options to choose from to train in other locations so we are thrilled they chose our wonderful community so our local residents can come and cheer on Team Israel before they head overseas.”
Team Israel team will possess a local flavor with Westchester County resident Eric Holtz as the team’s manager. Additionally, Yorktown Heights native Jonathan DeMarte, 27 and a pitcher in the Chicago Cubs’ organization, is expected to represent Israel.
“As a Westchester resident for 30 years and the head coach of the Israel National team, playing the Boulders in Rockland could not possibly get any better for me,” Holtz said. “Like a homecoming where both of my worlds collide. I couldn’t be more excited to get out there and also get the Rockland community behind our boys in blue and white.”
To be eligible to represent a country at the Olympic Games, a person must hold citizenship in that land.
After their game in Rockland, Team Israel will continue their tour of the Northeast United States before heading to Tokyo on July 21.