Please excuse my excitement over the Israeli Baseball League, but I have sons and they have friends that are religious and could NEVER play baseball professionally in America. This league gives them hope of playing baseball while maintaining their religious observance. It is so cool!! Even if they never make it there, the dream itself is worth the effort!!
We have been lax in updating readers on the progress of the Israel Baseball League and the players with Atlanta connections, but what happened Tuesday at the Sportek Field in Tel Aviv on Tuesday night is worth noticing.
On what was the delayed opening night for Sportek - IBL founder Larry Baras blames a combination of government bureaucracy and contractor incompetence for the field's not being ready for its scheduled first game June 25 - Marietta native and Emory graduate Daniel Kaufman took a no-hitter into the final inning for the Tel Aviv Lightning against the Netanya Tigers.
The right-handed pitcher improved his record to 2-1 on the season with the effort.
On the night of Major League Baseball's All-Star Game, it was Julio Guerrero, the brother of the winner of Monday night's All-Star Home Run Derby, Vladimir Guerrero, who broke up Kaufman's no-hit bid. Guerrero hit a pinch-hit home run to lead off the top of the seventh inning. (IBL games are seven innings, not nine.)
Kaufman then struck out Hector de los Santos before giving way to reliever Dan Rothem to close the game. Kaufman finished with nine strikeouts, one walk, one hit and one run in 6 1/3 innings. He lowered his ERA for the season to 3.07.
"I'm not doing anything different than any other day," Kaufman told The Jerusalem Post. "The defense was real good today. I know that if I throw strikes, my defense will come through for me. It's a good feeling to have when you need to get through those tough innings."
An example of Tel Aviv's sterling defense came when third baseman Nate Fish made a diving stop of a Rafael Rojano line drive, thenthrew him out from his knees to end the top half of the fourth inning.
Lightning outfielder Bryan Langbord, another Jewish Emory grad, scored an insurance run for Kaufman in the bottom of the sixth inning after being hit by a pitch. Langbord continues to struggle at the plate, however, and entered Friday's games with a .133 batting average.
Aaron Rosdal, who used to roam the same Emory outfield with Langbord, also has struggled in the first few weeks of the season. An 0-for-4 night Thursday lowered his batting average to .118.
Native Jewish Atlanta Ben Field, however, has gotten red-hot for the Ra'anana Express. The outfielder's batting average through 14 games is .314 with three doubles, a home run and a team-leading 10 RBI.
Emory grad and Atlantan Mike Kerfeld had his first start Thursday for the Netanya Tigers against the Modi'in Miracle after three outings from the bullen, including a nightmarish outing against the league-leading Bet Shemesh Blue Sox (managed by Alpharetta resident Ron Blomberg) that ballooned his ERA, which now stands at 23.14. Kerfeld took the loss Thursday, his first decision of the year, giving up six earned runs in three-plus innings. He was pulled in the fourth inning after allowing the first two batters to reach base; both of them eventually scored.