How is a World Baseball Classic Qualifier game featuring Israel and Great Britain playing at MCU Park in Brooklyn different from a typical Major League Baseball game?
Thursday night’s Israel vs Great Britain WBC game featured three national anthems and two first pitch ceremonies, and a robust Maariv minyan after the third inning with scenic views of the Coney Island cyclone, Nathan’s Hot Dogs and the fifty person-long kosher food line.
Fans draped in Israeli flags chanted “Let’s Go Israel!” – and greeted friends from summer camp, youth group and the neighborhood. Of course there were also fans cheering for Team Great Britain – mostly sitting in section three.
Team Israel received special Shabbat accommodations – they played both Thursday night and Friday at noon to avoid a potential play-on-Shabbat issue. With both games ending in victory, the blue-andwhite will play in Sunday night’s final with a berth in the WBC main draw on the line.
Welcome to the Qualifiers of the World Baseball Classic double elimination tournament.
One team – Israel, Great Britain, Brazil or Pakistan will advance to Pool B in the first round of the 2017 World Baseball Classic taking place March 7-10, 2017 in Seoul, South Korea.
It is not so easy to get to MCU Park in Coney Island, along the Atlantic Ocean, at the tip of Brooklyn.
Fans battling rush-hour traffic and a 90-minute commute from Manhattan exited the N and Q subway trains at Stillwell Station in Coney Island, affectionately marked “Last Stop.”
My train car coincidentally included Michael Zalta, the Yeshiva of Flatbush graduate selected to sing the US national anthem. Some groups in attendance Thursday night included Yachad-National Council for Jewish Disabilities, Solomon Schechter of Westchester, Manhattan Day School, Yeshiva University, USY and the choir of Yeshiva of Flatbush, who sang Hatikvah. No one seemed to mind the long security lines and extra police presence outside of MCU Park.
Once inside, fans experienced baseball with a few surprises.
Jeremy Posner, attending with wife Paulette and three sons – Harry (10), Jacob (8), and Isaac (5) – was moved when the players on team Israel removed their caps for the national anthems to reveal blue Team Israel yarmulkes on the heads of each player and coach.
Steven Cohen, vice president of the Single-A Brooklyn Cyclones of the New York-Penn League, and affiliated with the New York Mets, is pleased that Major League Baseball felt that MCU Park would be the perfect venue for the World Baseball Classic.
Making his way around the stadium, speaking with fans and watching from many vantage points, Cohen could hardly contain his excitement.
“The event is exciting, it is well-received and it is great for baseball.”
Two old friends sitting five rows behind home plate, Seth Golob and Joe Orenstein have enjoyed playing sports together since their days as campers at Camp Ramah.
“Playing in a game like this has always been a childhood fantasy. Having a chance to see Team Israel play is amazing,” said Golob.
Friday’s noon game for Israel vs Brazil game offered Jewish day schools a unique opportunity to come out and cheer on the blue-and-white.
Magen David Yeshivah in Brooklyn attended with 350 students. School principal Rabbi Alan Berkowitz saw the game as “an opportunity to fully enjoy the great American pastime at its best while connecting with Medinat Yisrael.”
While the Posner children, sporting Team Israel hats, were enjoying Team Israel’s Thursday night comeback victory, the Posner parents realized the homework they had packed for the ballpark was not yet completed.
By the time they arrived to their subway stop in Manhattan, two of three boys were asleep in their parents’ arms. They still made it to school on time Friday morning.
When Israel plays in the final on Sunday night, expect five Posners in section 3, row C, with all their homework already done!