Players say Baras making good on bounced checks
Too little, too late?
By Elli Wohlgelernter
Despite having paid off almost all its debt to its players, the Israel Baseball League still faces massive financial problems, sparking growing rumors that the second season is about to be canceled.
"It makes sense," says Michael Rollhaus, general manager of the league champion Bet Shemesh Blue Sox, and one of the major investors in the league. "There are no fields to play on, as Gezer and Baptist Village were not paid this past year. So if there would be a second season, they would have to be paid for last year, and the league would have to pay for next year in advance. There is also no Tel Aviv field, as that has been torn down."
While the league conducted tryouts for next season in Massachusetts during the last week of the 2007 season, it is unclear if there will be a second season. There has been no news from the IBL on the league's future, and their Web site has not been updated since August 31.
Nate Fish, third baseman for the Tel Aviv Lightning (below right), said it would be sad if the league were to close after one season, but that he's happy to have been a part of it.
"It sucks that Israelis will be deprived of a great game that they might have loved," Fish said. "In the end though, no big deal either way-- there are more important things. I do give Larry [Baras, founder of the IBL] credit, though. Besides running a half-assed operation, he tried something most people wouldn't, and gave us all a memorable experience."
Some players are still angry at the league for the way they were treated both during the season, and since the season ended on August 19. Most of the players have been paid, though some are still owed some money. Jesse Michel, catcher for the Ra'anana Express, said his salary has been paid, but the league still owes him money that the bank charged for a bounced league check.
"Of course no one wants to owe people money, but unfortunately this is where we are right now," he said. "There isn't much I can do about it but wait patiently. And I know this is not the way that they want to run their business, and am confident that as soon as they have the financial means, I will get paid.
We call IBL headquarters in Boston for comment
"Of course people are upset, and were upset, and trying to get answers. But ultimately, what can you do? The league goofed financially, and both sides are feeling the brunt of those mistakes. I'm confident that the league is doing everything it can to make things right."
Scott Cantor, a pitcher for the Petah Tikva Pioneers who was the oldest player in the league at 51, said he too has been paid his salary in full, but is also owed money that the bank charged for the IBL's bounced check.
But Cantor said the money issue was just an example of the systemic problem of the whole running of the league, and the treatment of its players.
"I felt disappointed with the money situation, mainly that the league that I am involved with is so bush league in many respects," Cantor (left) said. "And I'm open to the possibility that these types of shortcomings are not unusual. But they hurt themselves more then anything else, with sub-standard fields, bounced checks, lousy nutrition, ill tempered managers, and serious communication problems with the players, coaches and managers. All these add up to either less then good player performances, or turning people off to a wonderful concept and a great game."
Cantor said he has tried to reach out to the league to help, but has been rebuffed.
"Personally, I have offered thru e-mails to speak with management about the Pioneers, and about the league. I have reached out on the pay issue, and have requested info on next season. No response. I feel sad and hurt. I emptied my insides for that team last season, 'cause that's what I do, and I struggle with the lack of any direct communication from the league including not getting a response to my emails.
"We formed a community around this league, and the mistake being made is leaving the league's greatest strength out of the loop. Everyone or almost everyone wants nothing but success for this thing, and those in charge act as if it's just them. Re-grouping may be a really good idea."