Israel’s national team opened its first trip to the World Baseball Classic with a 2-1 extra innings victory over South Korea, one of the favorites to win the tournament.
As the underdog Israel was made to play the game on the road in Seoul’s Gocheok Sky Dome, but they got out to an early lead and managed to contain the Korean offense for ten innings. After scoring on an infield single in the top of the 10th inning, Israel retired the side in the bottom half of the frame to complete the upset.
The Israeli team, mostly composed of American Jews, has been the butt of many jokes about the world baseball tournament. ESPN described the team as a “rag-tag bunch of MLB wannabes and has-beens.”
“If you aren’t familiar with Team Israel, they’re essentially the Mighty Ducks, Hickory High, and the Jamaican bobsled team all rolled into one,” wrote ESPN senior writer Eddie Matz.
The team is comprised of only eight players with major league baseball experience, one of whom, Jason Marquis, was the starting pitcher in the game. The 38-year-old righty hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2015, when he went 3-4 and posted a 6.47 earned run average.
Starting at third base for Israel was Ty Kelly, who despite getting an at bat in the MLB playoffs last season said that this was the “most stressful game” he had ever played in.
Definitely the most stressful game I’ve ever been a part of. But it was worth it. #teamisrael
— Ty Kelly (@tykelly11) March 6, 2017
The team, which wears “Jew Crew” t-shirts and has a life-size “Mensch on a Bench” as its mascot, is the lowest seed in its group, which in addition to South Korea and the Netherlands includes Chinese Taipei.
— Kovi Fleischmann (@kovfl) March 5, 2017
Cody Decker, a minor leaguer playing in the Milwaukee Brewers system, has said that he likes the fact that Israel is going into the tournament “under the radar.”
“What I like about our guys is that a lot of us have been discarded and pushed aside in their careers, and all have something to prove,” Decker said. “I like the fact that we’re under the radar. That no one is paying any attention. But this is something that’s very important to some of us.”
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