Tuesday, March 25, 2008

One out, one left stranded: What ever happened to the Israel Baseball League players who were signed by the New York Yankees?

So whatever happened to the Israel Baseball League players who were signed by the New York Yankees? Unfortunately, they’re not exactly about to be swatting homers out of the House That Ruth Built. In fact, one never made it near pinstripes, at all.

When catcher Eladio Rodriguez of the Modi’in Miracle and Bet Shemesh outfielder Jason Rees got deals with the New York Yankees organization in the days before the defections of its distinguished commissioner and most of its advisory board over its financial opacity, the flailing Israel Baseball League made great hay over the deal— though the triumph was immediately dismissed by critics as a publicity stunt cooked up by several Yankee honchos on the IBL board.

And as it turns out, there was more smoke than fire to the announcements. Rodriguez and Rees both were assigned to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees AAA farm team in northern Pennsylvania.

But according to Scranton Times-Tribune sportswriter Chad Jennings’ blog:

“Eladio Rodriguez, the catcher who was signed with Jason Rees out of the Israel Baseball League, never reported to the Yankees. (Farm director Mark) Newman said he had some sort of visa problems."

And an article this week in the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader shows that Aussie outfielder Jason Rees, the Michael Johns of the IBL, may have taken a strange journey with his stop on the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox, but may not be moving much farther up the ladder:

“Rees put up outstanding numbers for the Bet Shermesh Blue Sox. He batted .362 with 50 RBI in 42 games, and led the league with 17 home runs.

“'I went to Israel because I wanted a chance to play every day,’ said Rees. ‘Back home in Australia, the teams only play twice a week, so that makes it difficult to get into a hitting groove.’

“There were two major differences between baseball in Israel compared to the American game, according to Rees.

“'The skill level isn’t as good as it is here, and there’s more diversity,’ said Rees. ‘It was definitely a learning experience.’

“Rees enjoyed taking center stage. He was named the league’s ‘Co-Defensive Outfielder of the Year’ and made the all-star team.

“He made a strong impression on manager Ron Bloomberg, a former New York Yankee who wound up contacting the Yankees on his behalf…”

The article concludes:

“Rees is a long shot to start the season at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre because the outfield will likely consist of Justin Christian, Brett Gardner and Jason Lane.”

A closer look at the Times Leader article also shows that the writer continues the awkward factoid tradition of misspelling the name of MLB star and former IBL manager Ron Blomberg. This post from Wiki Answers sets the record straight:

Q: Is Ron Blomberg and Ron Bloomberg the same person who played for the Yankees?

A: The baseball player Ron Blomberg has had his name misspelled (Bloomberg) many times. If you see a Ron Bloomberg in a baseball story it would be safe to say that the name is misspelled and the person referred to is really Ron Blomberg.

There is a Ron Bloomberg that was a TV writer from the 1970s to the 1990s. This Ron Bloomberg is not the Ron Blomberg that played for the Yankees.

Meanwhile, what does the future hold for baseball in Israel? Our Man Elli in Israel is in Our Man Elli in The United States this week, in from his adopted home of Jerusalem on a lecture tour and buttonholing the carpetbagging businessmen and players personally.

Stay tuned…

FUN FACT: Eladio Rodriguez was a prospect for the Boston Red Sox eleven seasons ago, and formerly went under the aliases of Ivan Rodriguez and Carlos Aleman. Some sort of visa problems, we'd assume.


Anonymous said...

Jeez. You are SUCH an idiot, with no comprehension of what it means to be assigned to AAA ball. I mean...

/shakes head/

Never mind.

Anonymous said...

^ Amen, brother.