He’s not an Israeli. He doesn't have family in Israel. He's not even a Jew. He was in fact, a “ringer” from the Dominican Republic, brought in with several countrymen to bolster the roster of a fledgling hardball operation. But after his Triple A debut last night as catcher for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, Eladio Rodriguez is the Pride of The Israel Baseball League.
Playing against the Buffalo Bisons in Buffalo, E-Rod hit a double and walked twice in the Yankees' 10-2 win. The Bisons scored one run in the eighth off a passed ball to Eladio, but he was not charged with an error.
The hopes pinned on Eladio by both the Yankees and IBL is the most unlikely twist yet in the saga of baseball in Israel. After a knockabout journeyman career that had him on the mound and behind the plate, playing under various aliases and getting-- and losing a shot-- at The Big Show with the Boston Red Sox more than a decade ago, he went on to become IBL batting champ and co-MVP, only to have his minor league contract with the New York Yankees mocked as a publicity stunt to generate investment in the IBL. When he didn’t even show up for spring training in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the laughter intensifed.
But after a chain of mishaps starting with Yankee pitcher Jorge Posada’s injured throwing shoulder, Israel’s E-Rod is behind the plate in Scranton and looking for a possible move up to The Big Show after all.
Even more unlikely, this Spanish-speaking béisboler who's batting .333 has united all sides in the post-season Israel baseball conflict as friend and foe alike cheer him toward Yankee Stadium.