May 27, 2010

If You Build It They Will Come

The JNF used to be the place to go when you wanted to plant a tree in Israel. Now, you can also go to them to arrange a baseball game in Israel.

The JNF has started a new fund you can donate to that promotes building baseball fields around Israel.

From the JNF Project Baseball website:

In 2005, the IAB held its third annual Tel Aviv Peace Clinic. Eighty Israeli Arab and Jewish students escaped the daily pressures of life in Israel to spend a day playing baseball. The children spent the morning learning the game’s fundamentals and then played a real game in the afternoon. The setting of a baseball field, playing a game new to most of the children, gave them a rare opportunity to interact and work together.

It is estimated that the number of regular baseball players in Israel exceeds 2,000 and continues to grow…or has the potential to grow. But therein lies the problem.

The growth of baseball in Israel has been stymied by several factors, but without a doubt the key one is a severe shortage of baseball fields. Examples:

In Jerusalem, where hundreds of adults and children participate in league play, there is only one true baseball field. And that field does not have a single blade of grass, but has a dangerous combination of dust, rocks, and thorns.

In Bet Shemesh, where children play baseball all the time, the one field is built on a slope, such that players must run uphill to first base.

In Tel Aviv, players rush to and from their positions between innings because there are no lights at the lone baseball field, so all play must cease at dusk.

Haifa, Be’er Sheva, and Tiberias have players, but no baseball fields at all. Players from these cities must travel elsewhere if they want to play.

Why baseball, you ask?
After all, baseball is only a game.

To the uninitiated, that is a true statement. But for those who have come to play it, study it and fantasize about it, it is far more.

Baseball embodies values that are far too diminished in today's society, ideals such as patience, and sportsmanship in the face of failure. Immense value is placed on the individual, whether alone on the pitcher’s mound or with all eyes centered on the lonely hitter in the batter’s box. But baseball also personifies teamwork and interdependence.

The famous columnist George Will once wrote: “Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal.”

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