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Israel in a whole new ball game

    Israel has been invited to participate in the qualifiers for the 2013 World Baseball Classic, the first time the country will have performed in the competition.

    Haim Katz, the President of the Israeli Baseball Association, told the JC that the announcement would be "revolutionary" for the sport in Israel.

    "It is probably the most prestigious tournament any Israeli team has participated in since 1970 when the soccer team was in the World Cup. It can have a significant snowballing effect."

    The Classic is run by different rules to the Olympic baseball tournament, so any player with Jewish heritage can play for Israel, and not just those with Israeli passports.

    Though the prospect of enticing players from the US Major Baseball League is a long way off, Katz refused to rule out attempts to convince some of the league's stars to play for Israel, and said that he had already received significant interest from players wanting to be involved in the squad.

    "We're in a golden age with over a dozen Jewish players in Major League baseball. We are committed to putting the best team possible on the field."

    The 2013 edition of the event sees it expand from a 16 to a 28 team tournament, with the likes of Brazil and the United Kingdom joining Israel in having the chance to qualify for the first time, and Katz is optimistic about the team's chances.

    "We feel we can put together a competitive team. The world baseball classic must also think so, and we're optimistic we can be one of the contenders to go to the championship."

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