Israel’s national baseball team advances in early Olympic qualifying tournament


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s national baseball team advanced to the quarterfinals of the European Baseball Championship being held in Germany, an early Olympic qualifying tournament.

Israel finished second in its pool with a record of 4-1, losing only on Wednesday to the current European champion, the Netherlands, following victories over the Czech Republic, Sweden, Germany and Great Britain.

Israel will meet the France on Friday in the quarterfinals, a round-robin competition. The top five teams will advance to the World Baseball Softball Confederation Olympic Qualifier Europe-Africa tournament in Parma, Italy, which starts on Sept. 18.  The sixth team playing in that tournament will be South Africa, which won the 2019 African Baseball Championship.

The winner of the qualifier tournament will get a bid to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The runner-up will have another opportunity to qualify for Tokyo at a future qualifying event.

The Israeli team, which is packed with Jewish-American college players and some pros, had the country’s best showing in the last World Baseball Classic in 2017, surprising many by making the main tournament, where it finished sixth.

While the World Baseball Classic only requires that players be eligible for citizenship of the country they represent, for Olympic qualifying tournaments and for the actual Olympics players must be citizens of the country they represent. The majority of the national team players is Jewish Americans who received citizenship in order to play or Israelis who live in the United States. Among the former pros on the squad are Danny Valencia, 34, and Jeremy Wolf, 25.

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