(JTA) — With just one month to go until the 2023 World Baseball Classic, Team Israel announced its full roster on Thursday.
Thanks to a recruitment effort led by Peter Kurz, president of the Israel Association of Baseball and Team Israel’s general manager, along with the team’s former-star-turned-manager, Ian Kinsler, Israel will arrive in Miami next month with a roster laden with talent — including an unprecedented 15 players with Major League Baseball experience.
Here is the full 30-man roster, with their current playing level:
- Starting pitchers: Brandon Gold (Triple A), Colton Gordon (Single A), Dean Kremer (Baltimore Orioles), Robert Stock (Triple A)
- Relief pitchers: Jake Bird (Colorado Rockies), Richard Bleier (Boston Red Sox), Daniel Federman (Single A), Jake Fishman (Triple A), Andrew Gross (Double A), Rob Kaminsky (free agent), Evan Kravetz (Double A), Kyle Molnar (free agent), Bubby Rosman (free agent), Jacob Steinmetz (Arizona Diamondbacks organization), Joey Wagman (free agent), Zack Weiss (Los Angeles Angels), Josh Wolf (Single A)
- Outfielders: Alex Dickerson (free agent), Jakob Goldfarb (free agent), Spencer Horwitz (Triple A), Joc Pederson (San Francisco Giants),
- Infielders: Zack Gelof (Triple A), Ty Kelly (free agent), Assaf Lowengart (college), Noah Mendlinger (Single A), Matt Mervis (Triple A), Danny Valencia (retired), Michael Wielansky (free agent)
- Catchers: Ryan Lavarnway (free agent), Garrett Stubbs (Philadelphia Phillies)
Kurz told the Jewish Baseball News site that the current roster is Israel’s strongest ever. “We’ve come a long way since our international debut at the 2012 WBC qualifiers,” he said.
Big leaguers Scott Effross and Harrison Bader, both members of the New York Yankees, had planned to play for Israel but dropped out due to injuries. Outfielder Kevin Pillar was previously rumored to be on the team but did not appear on the final roster.
Israel also has an additional group of relievers it can add to the roster if it advances past the first round: Jake Kalish (AAA), Alex Katz (free agent), Adam Kolarek (Los Angeles Dodgers organization), Jake Miednik (Single A), and Israeli Shlomo Lipetz.
Israel will be playing in Pool D in Miami, along with Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.
With half of the MLB based in Florida for Spring Training — which overlaps with the WBC — the proximity helped entice players to participate.
“Team Israel has shown well,” Kinsler told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in October. “Being in Miami makes [players’] decisions easier. All of those things led to more opportunities for more players. I think we get more accomplished players.”
Kinsler added that Pederson, perhaps the team’s most famous MLB player, has helped with recruitment. Pederson is a two-time World Champion and was an All-Star in 2022.
“Joc’s making phone calls and sending texts and is doing his best,” Kinsler said. “He wants to play on a competitive team.”
Another element is Israel’s continued success on the international stage. The team reached seventh place at the 2017 WBC and was one of just six teams to qualify for the 2020 Olympics.
Previous success aside, Israel is set to face its toughest competition yet. The Dominican team is headlined by MLB stars Juan Soto, Manny Machado and Sandy Alcantara.
Pool D begins action Saturday, March 11, and two teams from each pool advance to the second round. Israel’s first game is March 12 against Nicaragua. The team will also face the Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals in exhibition games before the WBC starts.