Thursday, August 16, 2007

Catching up to the Playoffs

blog 7...
Life is good. Last time I wrote, the Blue Sox had fallen on some hard times. We were not playing well and the teams behind us were. Well now the tables have turned once again. We have won five in a row and seven of our last eight. We have a 2 and a half game lead in first place with about 15 games to go until the playoffs. Our pitching has stepped up and our offense has returned to form. We have the league leaders in batting average, home runs, on-base percentage, RBI’s, stolen bases, wins, ERA (you get the idea). We are playing well again and at the right time. The ‘ship is far from in the bag, but I like our chances much better right now.

I finally got my first professional win after one loss and 4 no decisions. Again, I had my family there and it made it that much better. It was 106 degrees on the field and no breeze whatsoever, which may explain why I have never in my life been so tired after pitching only five innings. I am really starting to feel more confident on the mound. I feel almost like when I was in high school, when I pretty much peaked. Every time I took the mound, I felt like I was going to win. I was not afraid to go after any hitter and beat him with my best pitch.

I would not over think or second guess myself on the mound. Once again, life is
good and I like the way things are going. We had the All-Star break last week. As I had not made the team, two of my friends from other teams and I decided to take a trip to the one of the southernmost points of Israel, Eilat. Getting out of the car after the five-hour drive I was hit with a wave of heat like I have never experienced. In Eliot, it is not uncommon for it to be over 110 degrees, at night. I have never been to Arizona but people have said that it is the driest heat you could possibly encounter. Well, to them I say 115 degrees with a 115 degree wind blowing in your face has to be worse.

I had planned on staying in Eilat for two days, then going to Jerusalem for a day then back to Tel Aviv. However, midway through our second day in Eilat I got a very interesting phone call. One of the pitchers on the All-Star team could not throw in the game and the managers of the team recommended me to replace him. I could not have been more surprised or excited. After a frantic search for a way back home, I found some other players who had taken the trip who were going back to for the game. Seven hours later we were back and I was running on fumes.

That changed as soon as I got on the bus to go to the game. All the best players in the league and I was one of them. It was an awesome atmosphere at the field. There was about as many people as the inaugural game and they were all cheering for different teams. We had the home run derby, which was pretty competitive with Stuart Brito, a first baseman from Tel Aviv, winning it by one in the finals. All the players sat together, with their taking pictures and video cameras. It felt just like the Major League All-Star game, minus a few things here and there. After the derby, the coaches went through the lineup. I was throwing the sixth inning.

The first through the fourth innings I was really nervous. I mean I had thrown 107 pitches on Friday and it was only Sunday, and my arm is not as resilient as it used to be. However, once I started stretching and throwing in the bullpen I felt relatively calm and I was ready to face a lineup of the best hitters in this league.
It went pretty well, I’d say. One inning, no hits, one walk, one strikeout and one big sense of relief. After that I just enjoyed the game, which we won 6-5.

Afterwards all the players were taking pictures together and signing autographs for each other. It was an incredible experience that all the arm pain in the world could never tarnish.

In conclusion, baseball is good, my time here is good, life, is good. My time here is running short and, in some ways, I am looking forward to being back in America. For now, though, I am going to get all I can out of the last couple weeks and make sure I leave her with no regrets, on or off the field.

blog6... It has only been about 10 days since my last post; however, quite a bit has changed. We are no longer undefeated, having hit a little bump in the road and losing three out of four. We have gotten back on the winning track and now sit at 16-5, 2 and a half games ahead in the standings.

I finally had a decent start, five innings, two runs, six strikeouts. My first good day on the mound was nullified a tad by the six errors made behind me, which ended up leading to another no-decision. My statistics, not that I check, are beginning to come back into this universe so that also is a plus. It felt good to finally feel like I could pitch again. What made it even more special was that my parents were actually able to be at this one, as they are staying here for the remainder of the month.

I am very close with my family so it meant the world to me to have them here. My brother Loren and his wife Ali are arriving today and I cannot wait for them to see me play some ball and experience Israel with them.

My position on the field has changed as well. I was lucky enough to be given a start a first base a couple days ago, our regular first baseman was in relief that day. Although I was a two-time All State first baseman in high school, I had not really hit in a game in a while so I did not know what to expect. It could not have gone better, well that is not true but it was close. I went 2-for-4 with two RBI’s and a perfect day defensively. I do not see myself playing the field often, but whenever coach Blomberg asks for it I will be there, for sure.

Another difference is the way games are being played. Guys are really starting to turn it on, on both sides of the ball. We have had two no-hitters in the first three weeks of the league several guys are still batting over .400 and a rivalry has even begin to spring up between the Blue Sox, my team, and the Tel Aviv Lightning. We are 1-2 in the standings and our games have gotten pretty heated.

Last time we played we had our catcher get taken out twice at the plate, he held on both times, guys being thrown behind and benches not clear, but close. I am looking forward to every game we have against them. Not only because of what is happening between the teams, but two of my roommates are on that team. Talk about an interesting dinner conversation.

My final and probably my favorite change is my living situation. The league had all the players living together in a dorm like setting, which was fine, but I personally wanted to spend a majority of my free time immersing myself in a new culture. So I, along with four other players, looked for and found an apartment right in the heart of Tel-Aviv. It is such a different experience; picture Manhattan with a nice beach. When we are not at the field, my roommates and I go out to dinner, go out to concerts, including Live Earth earlier this week and basically do the things that make us feel like we are not just visitors here.

Israel is an amazing country. It is beautiful, interesting and surprisingly friendly. It is such a young country yet it has thousands of years worth of history.

All-in-all, Israel is treating me well and I having a blast. I can only hope the rest of the season goes as well as it is right now, well except for my personal performance, which has to get better. Until next time, Shalom.

blog 5...
9-0. That is all I can say. Through 9 games of my first season of professional baseball season my team has lost exactly zero games. I have pitched well but two no decisions, mostly because we have this thing about late inning comebacks.

Through these first ten games without a loss we have come from behind six times, two in the last inning, including a ten-run final frame. The comeback kid’s moniker just does not cut it with this team. More like the incredibly ridiculous comeback kids.

We are a team firing on all cylinders early in the season. It is nice to be on a team like this, it is always nice to be on a team like this. Ron Blomberg, our coach and the game’s first ever designated hitter, is the kind of manager perfect for this team. He is a character on a team full of characters. He calls everyone “big guy” at least ten times a game. I think he believes our team name is the Bet Shemesh Big Guys. We have guys from Australia, Canada, the Dominican Republic and the U.S. We barely know each other, we all come from different backgrounds and somehow we have come together, early in the season, and have played “perfect” baseball. Any athlete knows that it will not always be like this, but for now, life is very good.

On a personal level, I am a bit disappointed. I have thrown well at times, however I cannot escape that one “big” inning. My college coach always described a big inning as one in which the other team scores three or more runs. I have had that inning in all three of my appearances. I am trying to keep a positive attitude and understand that I am still just getting back into it and I just need to make improvements during my days off the mound. I will get better, I have to. As I said, there is quite a bit of diversity within the players of this league. The interaction of all these guys with such a variety of backgrounds is something that is interesting to watch. It is not just where we come from, or what our baseball experience has been, it goes further than that. Guys here different on everything from their views on the world, mainly the part of it in which we currently reside, to what you call McDonald’s, the Australians call it “mackers,” something I like and have chosen to stick with for the remainder of my life.

The main difference, one that possibly is magnified because of where we are, is religion. Although I have always thought of Israel as predominantly Jewish area, this is the epicenter of more than just the Jewish religion. A perfect example of this was last week when the league organized a trip for all of us to go to Jerusalem. We went through the Jewish Quarter, the Christian Quarter, pretty much all of the areas we were allowed, which does not include the Muslim quarter. Watching the different reactions to religious sites and customs to which others, including myself, were unfamiliar was kind of a wake-up call. For one day, I saw what is special to other people and it made me wonder why I had not tried to educate myself on these things sooner. The conversations that took place on the way home between Jews, Born-Again Christians, Catholics and all the other faiths showed the true power of experience can hold. Maybe certain countries that are at odds could take a page out of that book.

In conclusion, things are going very well here on and off the field. Hopefully we can stay on the winning path as long as possible. We have gained quite a following, I am fairly certain our first basemen could be mayor of Bet Shemesh if he ran and no one wants to disappoint fans. There has been a new dynamic added to this experience, that of wanting to know things about other people’s ways of life.

Needless to say, I plan on coming home with much more than an Israel Baseball League Championship ring, however I certainly do plan on coming home with that All I know is, right now, life is very, very good.

“Go Ben! Go Devil Rays,” was the cheer from the little boy sitting down the right field line wearing his yarmulke. This is an odd thing to hear considering one, I do not play for the Devil Rays and two were are playing on a field in the middle of the desert 5000 miles away from Tropicana Field. These were just some of my thoughts as we arrived at Gezer Field in Bet Shemesh for my first game as a professional baseball player.
In many ways it was just like before. The nerves, the anticipation, the constant talking to myself with my glove in front of my face. However, this was much different than my baseball experience in the past 5 years. Nothing hurt, ached or throbbed. I was not nervous if something on my body was going detach itself from its point of origin. I was excited and concentrated on nothing but making my first professional start a good one. Well, that and the displaced Devil Rays fan.

Standing on the mound I do not think I could have been more nervous, and it showed. I walk the first two hitters I face and before it is over I have let two runs in the first inning. I am able to settle down and go 1-2-3 the next two innings, all I am supposed to throw that day. But the first inning slip up is going to stick with me until I am able to get back on the mound.

But the more I think about it as I sit and watch the rest of the game, a 8-2 win en route to our 5-0 start, I begin to understand what this experience was really about. It was about realizing a dream. Making something that seemed impossible, possible. I analyze the game and my start as much as I can and start to really enjoy myself. The field itself, with a pole in deep right and second base right in front of the outfield grass, is something out of a comedy about minor league baseball and takes some adjusting to for the players. For as different as it is, ethnically or otherwise, it is still baseball. I look around at the over 900 fans that showed up to watch us and I smile.
Baseball in Israel is something that can grow to be something truly special and enjoyable to the people of this country. It is one of those things that can become culturally relevant anywhere. All you need are people who are interested in the game and people who want to play the game the way it is supposed to be played. If the inaugural season of the Israel Baseball League has anything it is potential to become a legitimate member of the baseball community. I hope, for the people of Israel as well as the 119 other guys in this league with me, that it becomes a reality.

After the game we are mobbed by little kids asking for autographs. I sign hats, old balls, t-shirts and even a little girl’s arm. I know it is nothing like what actual Major Leaguers deal with, but fellas I cannot see how that gets old. We all sign for about 30 minutes and, in a daze, get back on the bus to head back to Kfar Hayarok, where all the players are living, and get some rest. Tomorrow, we get to do it all over again. Hopefully, that Devil Ray fan will keep showing up because I could always use the support.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Trip to Israel

Hey guys I am back and coming to you live from John F. Kennedy airport in New York,where we are currently waiting for our flight to leave here for Israel. I say we because I am sitting with ten other players all of whom I met today. We have been hanging out getting to know each other since around 7:30 this morning and we are allvery excited to finally be heading to Eretz Yisrael and begin the historic journeythat will be the inaugural year of Israeli baseball.

It is always interesting to me how whenever you meet someone where baseball is a constant between you, a relationship forms instantly. We had never met but withinminutes we were joking around and talking like we had known one another for years. The dynamic formed by baseball players is one the can only be understood bysomeone who has experienced it for themselves. As a side note, I would like to put forth a challenge to anyone who is or willsoon be a Blue Sox Fan. I want to see the formation of “Blue Sox Nation.” Yes itmay be somewhat of a copy of the “Red Sox Nation” currently residing in Boston. However, “Blue Sox Nation” should have its own flavor and be distinctly different. It is always interesting to me how whenever you meet someone where baseball is aconstant between you, a relationship forms instantly. We had never met but within minutes we were joking around and talking like we had known one another for years. The dynamic formed by baseball players is one the can only be understood bysomeone who has experienced it for themselves. As for me personally, life has been good. I had been coaching a high schoolsummer team with my father, a very interesting experience and one that I reallyenjoyed. Recently I made a visit to a Jewish day camp in my area. I got to talkto about 50 five to 8-year-olds about baseball and the IBL. I think little kids are amazing and I swear I kept their interest for at least seven or eight minutes.

Also, if you looking at the website you saw that I was asked to throw out the first pitch at the Tampa Bay Devil Rays game last week. This honestly was one of the coolest experiences I have ever had. From getting to be on the field forbatting practice and being around all the players and coaches, to having my nameand baseball career announced in front of 13,000 people was something I willnever forget. I was lucky enough to have a lot of my family and friends there, thanks to all of you who came. Oh, and if you are wondering, it was a strike onthe inside corner.

After that I took a trip to Milwaukee to watch my cousin become a Bar Mitzvah. I think it was the first one I have been to in ten years. Being with all my familyright before I leave them for a couple of months was a really nice send off. Now to the present, I could not be more excited about getting things started. I am beginning to really understand how amazing this is going to be and how lucky I am to have this opportunity. I cannot wait to meet my team, coach the camps, enjoy the culture and take in everything the country of Israel has to offer. But mostly, I just wanna play some baseball.

Now it is time for “My Biggest Fan at This Moment.” This one goes out to someone who is very special to me. She is the love of my life, sheis my girlfriend Rebecca. Having her support while I am away andknowing how thrilled she is for me to have this opportunity makes this whole experience that much better. So this is for you Bex, because I love you. Thanks for all that you are and for being, “My Biggest Fan at This Moment.” Now that I am going to be in Israel and games are starting, I will be on the lookout for my next, “Biggest Fan.” I will be looking for fans at the games and, after I get to know them, will decide if they are worthy of the honor, ha-ha. So show up, show some support and maybeyou can be that person to start Blue Sox Nation.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Bet Shemesh Blue Sox select…

The next three words out of Mr. Larry Baras’ mouth, “pitcher Ben Pincus,” still seem a little unbelievable. Just to get drafted would have been an honor, but to be a top ten pick was as unexpected as it was exciting. Considering last year at this time I was pretty sure that I was done playing baseball, being drafted by at professional baseball league was an indescribable experience. If you do not believe me watch the video of the draft and try and catch my reaction after my name is called, it’s kind of hilarious. The whole night was a great experience and I would like to thank all of those who put it together. From Martin Berger and Dan Duquette to the great group of students at Cardozo, Emily Posner and Bella Belsky, you guys truly made it a night to remember for the rest of my life.

Now as for my life since then I have moved back to sunny Treasure Island, Florida and am enjoying the ability to wear shorts and see the sun on a daily basis. I am going to help my father coach his high school summer team until I leave for Israel. I have been working out and throwing on a regular basis and have started throwing bullpens. In the meantime I am going to the beach and playing as much golf as I can. After being in New York and hearing the constant pale jokes (is this what you northerners deal with) from all my friends I decided I would take it upon myself to make the necessary changes, even if they included being painfully sun burnt for a few days.

I am getting more and more excited about going over to Israel and getting this league started. All my friends and family are very interested and I have been getting a lot of phone calls and e-mails with questions, congratulations and a few smartass remarks. On a recent trip to the University of North Florida, where I went to college, as I entered the baseball field to go workout I received a terrific reaction from all my old teammates and coaches. Even my old head coach had words of encouragement. After making the three hour trip to school and seeing him for the first time in months he knew exactly what to say, “You sure don’t dress like a second round pick.” Trust my coach is a great guy and this I would not expect anything less.

Now it is time for my second installment of, “My Biggest Fan at This Moment.” My first,”biggest fan,” was more humorous, this one is more from the heart. My biggest fans have always been my family. Baseball is a big deal in my family and I know how happy my family is for me to have this opportunity. While my whole family could make my list, I want to recognize my big brother, Loren, as, “My Biggest Fan of This Moment.” He was an amazing baseball player who also played in college. I have no doubt he could have played with me in the IBL, we have actually never played on the same team, but minute details like a wonderful wife and a job as a lawyer kept him from trying out. I know no one wants me to do well more than my brother. So thanks, Lor, for being, “My Biggest Fan at This Moment.”

That is all for now. Thank you to everyone who is reading and leaving me your comments, I hope I can keep you interested all season long.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

From The Big Apple to the Big Orange

Hey guys, I’m back. My life has been crazy these past two weeks thanks in large part to working the NCAA basketball tournament for CBS (congratulations to those of you who got to watch it like normal human beings). Working 15 hour days, even when watching every sport you can imagine on 12 different TV’s, makes you realize that the television business is not as glamorous as one may think. New York is the number media market in the United States and the insanity that ensued coupled with the mass amounts of people involved to make it run so smoothly was proof positive of why. You truly have no idea how much goes into a major television production until you have taken part in it. One day I’ll look back from in front of the camera and laugh, I hope.

In all honesty, after living basically my whole life in Florida, moving to New York has been one of the best experiences of my life. The “Big Apple” is unlike any place on earth, and it can change you. Not all for the better, but most.

I tell you this because in about 3 months I will be moving to another place that is truly unique, Israel, specifically, Tel Aviv. The village just outside of the “Big Orange,” will give us, as players, a chance to get to know not only our roommates or our teammates but everyone that has been given the opportunity to play in the Israel Baseball League. I know that no matter what team I end up on playing in the inaugural season of the IBL and living in Israel will definitely have an affect on me. It is a country that deals with life and its daily happenings in such a different way than I do as an American. People keep asking me if I am nervous to go over there and I always reply, “absolutely not.” Obviously the widespread hatred of Israel and ever-escalating violence is in the back of my mind, but the fact that a country so war-torn can come together and bring baseball to those who have never had it says more about where this country is, and will be, than any report you see on CNN.

The league itself is starting to really take shape, which is exciting. We are starting to find out some of the particulars and opening day is coming up pretty soon. I have been doing some extensive training, although I had to take a two-week hiatus for the tournament but not to worry I am getting my work in. Next week, I am going to begin a throwing program that I got from the trainer I had in college. So Leon, if you are reading this, lets get to work man.

I would like to take some time during this special opportunity I have to write a special segment where I will recognize a different person each time I post. I am dubbing this segment “My Biggest Fan at This Moment.” My first biggest fan at this moment goes to Lon Samuelson of CBS Sports. Lon has been in charge of both making sure I get the most out of my internship as well as giving me grief every chance he gets. He is the biggest sports fan I know and will be following the IBL very closely on a day-to-day basis. So thanks Lon for being the first, “My Biggest Fan at This Moment.”

That’s all for now, but I will be back with more soon.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Hello, and thanks for stopping by IBL fans. My name is Ben Pincus and I’m from Treasure Island, Florida (yes, it is a real place), and in less than 3 months I will be pitching in the inaugural season of the Israel Baseball League. I am unbelievably excited about this opportunity as well as the chance to share it with all of you.

First, a little about me. I am 23 years old and this May I will graduate from the University of North Florida with a degree in Communications. I am currently living in New York City finishing up my last credit as an internship with CBS Sports. I have played baseball since the age of five, and have excelled at almost every level. I love all sports, but baseball is very special to me and my family. My father is a fanatic and my brother and I both played baseball in college. Even my mother knows more about the game than most teammates I have had. Needless to say, baseball was a huge part of my life growing up. During high school I was on some kind of trip almost every weekend for tournaments and camps. It may sound like a lot, but I loved every minute of it. Plus, it paid off.

During high school I was named to the All-State team during my junior and senior seasons. After I graduated I was given a scholarship to pitch at Tennessee Technological University, a mid-major Division I school in Cookeville, Tennessee. Never heard of Cookeville, do not worry, most people haven’t. After two years I decided that it was not the place for me and transferred to UNF. I enjoyed incredible team success in two years there including an overall record of 82–37, a #2 national ranking and a trip to the 2005 Division II College World Series national championship game. A year later, I participated in UNF’s first season of Division I baseball. I guess I have a thing for being part of inaugural seasons.

As I said, I had quite a bit of team success while at UNF. Personal successes however, were few and far between. After having a knee surgery the summer of my transfer I did not tell my coaches for fear of being held back and not having the chance to earn the playing time I wanted. Because of this, among other things, I was in constant pain and was never able to play to the best of my ability. Fast forward six months, it’s the middle of the season and we were playing the University of Iowa. My shoulder had been bothering me but I wrote it off as, for me, this was normal. In the sixth inning I attempted to throw a curveball that went about 45 feet and bounced past the catcher. As I ran to cover home I realized that I could not lift my arm up to run and if I tried the pain I felt was indescribable. Long story short I tore my rotator cuff and labrum and the doctors had to shave down my bone so everything would fit the way it is supposed to. Again, I attempted to come back from surgery, but it was clear that my college baseball career was over.

Now that my sob story is over lets talk about the present. 13 months had passed since surgery and with my shoulder feeling fine; I was missing playing the game. Then, my brother informed me about the IBL tryout in Miami, and I immediately started training. At the tryout I threw like I was used to throwing, pain-free and with the ability to put the ball where I wanted. At the conclusion of the tryout, I was lucky enough to be offered a contract. I will never forget going over to my father and brother, both of whom made the four-hour drive with me, and saying “I just got offered a contract to play professional baseball.” I couldn’t be more thrilled to have this chance. Being Jewish and a baseball fan, to play the sport I love in a place that means so much to me, it is a dream come true that a year ago I could never have imagined. I still do not know what to expect when I get to Israel, but you can bet I’m ready. Hopefully all of you are too.

Any comments you have or questions you would like answered I will be more than happy to respond to all of them. I look forward to talking with everyone soon.