Today's sporting news: Baseball isn't just played in North America, Central America, and Japan, though it's received slightly different receptions in other places:
By Larry Rohter, New York Times
But, yes, Brazil does have a national amateur team, and at its training center here, the squad has been preparing for months for the Pan American Games, which open July 13 in Rio de Janeiro. The team’s hope is that a strong performance in the competition, a sort of Olympics of the Americas, can help put baseball on the map in a country where the most popular sports are soccer, soccer and more soccer.
“This is a rare opportunity for us and our sport, and we want to make sure we take as much advantage of it as we possibly can,” said infielder Ronaldo Ono, 33, the team captain. “It’s a great responsibility playing at home, and that’s what motivates us. We want to win and attract Brazil’s attention, and we think we can. We respect the other teams, but we fear none.”
Though virtually ignored in the news media here, the Brazilian team has shown improvement in recent years. After failing to qualify for the 1995 Games, it finished eighth in 1999 and fifth in 2003, and in other recent tournaments has presented surprisingly strong challenges to Cuba, losing once by one run, and to Puerto Rico, losing a game in the 18th inning.
“Brazilians like rooting for their fellow countrymen, so once we get a Brazilian playing in Major League Baseball, that will help popularize the sport,” said Everaldo Marques, one of the broadcasters for the Brazilian feed of ESPN’s Sunday night game of the week. “Just look what happened with tennis when Gustavo Kuerten was doing well, or with the N.B.A. when Brazilian players like Anderson Varejão, Nenê Hilário and Leandro Barbosa showed up.”
And a doubleheader from the Middle East:
By Scott Wilson, Washington Post
Petah Tikva, Israel - "Ladies and gentlemen," the voice over the portable speakers intoned, "please rise for the singing of 'Hatikva.' " About 75 people stood up from plank-board bleachers as Israel's national anthem filled the twilight. Only a few sang the Hebrew words, though, because only a few knew the language.
Minutes later, members of the Raanana Express -- in Oakland A's green and yellow -- sprinted onto their home turf of Yarkon Field. A cheer rippled through the rooting section of American moms and dads here for the summer to watch their sons play in the inaugural 45-game season of Israel's professional baseball league. It was just before 7 p.m.
Over the next three hours on a balmy Mediterranean evening, a crowd of U.S. transplants, Israeli natives, Russian immigrants and proud visiting parents-cum-tourists watched a drama of exported Americana.
Most of the fans are transplanted Americans
By John Murphy, Baltimore Sun
The 26-year-old switch-hitter from Silver Spring took to the field last month to play in Israel's first professional baseball league
A bold new experiment to export hardball to the United States' closest Middle East ally, the Israel Baseball League is the latest evidence of the steady Americanization of the Jewish state.
But many here wonder whether the often slow-moving game with a complex, almost Talmudic set of rules will gain followers in a country raised on soccer and basketball. Most Israelis would likely have trouble finding first base, let alone know whether a ball is foul or fair.