Israel's National Baseball team will begin group play in the World Baseball Classic on Sunday against Nicaragua at loanDepot Park in Miami, the United States, the home of the Miami Marlins.
Team Israel returns for their second-ever appearance in the competition, after arguably being the story of the tournament last time around.
Back in 2017, Israel won four straight games out of the gate despite being heavy underdogs entering the competition and advanced to the second round before being eliminated by hosts Japan at the famous Tokyo Dome.
The Israelis continued the momentum from 2017 by qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which saw the return of baseball to the Olympic games for the first time since 1996.
The tournament's rules allow anyone who is eligible for citizenship for a country to be eligible to play, even if they do not hold official citizenship. This rule allows Israel's roster to consist of mostly American Jews who play in Major League Baseball and in the minor leagues.
The main attraction in the heart of Israel's lineup will be two-time World Series champion and two-time All-Star Joc Pederson, who plays for the San Francisco Giants.
Israel is being managed by Ian Kinsler, a retired four-time MLB All-Star. Kinsler played for Israel at the 2020 Olympics in Japan and won the World Baseball Classic with Team USA in 2017.
'In baseball, anything can happen,' Kinsler told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency regarding Team Israel's chances.
'This isn’t a five-game or seven-game series. This is one game (at a time), and if we can put together a really solid game, solid nine innings against these other teams, we have just as good a chance as anybody.'
The World Baseball Classic, which is scheduled to take place once every four years, returns for a fifth edition and the first one since 2017 after having an edition canceled during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2023 tournament features 20 teams and is divided into four divisions that will play in four cities during group play: Miami, Phoenix, Tokyo, and Taichung in Taiwan.
Israel’s World Baseball Classic group play schedule:
Sunday, March 12 (12 PM): Israel vs. Nicaragua
Monday, March 13 (7 PM): Israel vs. Puerto Rico
Tuesday, March 14 (7 PM): Israel vs. Dominican Republic
Wednesday, March 15 (12 PM): Israel vs. Venezuela
(All times are Eastern Standard Time)
Reprinted with permission from i24NEWS.