TOKYO -- Those hoping Team Israel's World Baseball Classic run would last at least one more day were disappointed by the outcome of Wednesday's game against Japan, an 8-3 loss that ended Israel's ride.
Perhaps the Hollywood script writers would have preferred to finish this story with a trip to, well, Hollywood, with this rag-tag group of scrappy Minor Leaguers, dubbed "has-beens and never will bes" by some, somehow willing its way to Los Angeles for the semifinal.
Put aside the fact that such terms misrepresented how good this roster actually was, thus kind of negating the Cinderella storyline for a minute. The more important point is that this team has always been about more than just trying to win the tournament. It's been about raising awareness of the sport in Israel (and funds for it). It's been about rallying the Jewish community in the United States around them. It was about overachieving and showing the world that Jewish baseball players can compete at this level.
:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::
"Maybe there will be kids who want to be the next Samuel Fuld or the next Ryan Lavarnway who had no idea about them before," Israel manager Jerry Weinstein said. "It gives them role models. The players were put on a pedestal worldwide. That will inspire all kids, but especially Israeli and U.S. Jewish kids."
The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games in San Diego's Petco Park and the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.
Passover is coming up soon on the Jewish calendar. For the uninformed, it's the holiday celebrating the Jews' escape from slavery in Egypt. During the traditional meal called a seder, there's a song called "Dayenu" that is sung after the telling of the story of the exodus. Loosely translated, it means, "It would have been enough."
The song says it would have been enough if God had done one thing to help the Jewish people in leaving Egypt, but not the next. Here's an example:
If God would've taken us out of Egypt and not executed judgment upon them, Dayenu.
If God would've executed judgment upon them and not upon their idols, Dayenu.
Get the concept? The song has been in my head, and not simply because the holiday is approaching. Watching this improbable Team Israel run has me thinking of all of the accomplishments of this team. It goes beyond just their success between the lines, including inspiring others and helping to grow the game of baseball in a country that is just learning to embrace it. With that in mind, here is a Team Israel version of "Dayenu."
Had Jewish professional baseball players in the United States merely embraced being known as Jewish ballplayers and not agreed to play for Team Israel in the Brooklyn Qualifier last fall, Dayenu.
Had Team Israel gone to the Brooklyn Qualifier, but not qualified, Dayenu.
Had Team Israel won the Brooklyn Qualifier, but a group not agreed to go on a life-changing tour of Israel, Dayenu.
Had a group from Team Israel gone on a life-changing tour of Israel, but not won a game in Korea in the opening round of the World Baseball Classic, Dayenu.
Had Team Israel won one game in Korea, thus qualifying for the 2021 Classic, but not advanced to the second round in Japan, capturing the attention of the entire baseball world, Dayenu.
Had Team Israel advanced to the second round in Japan and captured the attention of the entire baseball world, but not gone undefeated to win the pool, earning crucial dollars for the Israel Association of Baseball for development and continuing to serve as role models for Jewish baseball players everywhere, Dayenu.
Had Team Israel gone 3-0 in Korea to win the pool, earning crucial dollars for the Israel Association of Baseball for development and serving as role models for Jewish baseball players everywhere, but not won a game in Japan, thus allowing fans of the team to dream of trips to Los Angeles, Dayenu.
Had Team Israel won Game 1 against Cuba, giving fans fanciful dreams of heading to California, but not gone toe-to-toe with two-time Classic champion Japan for five innings before running out of pixie dust, Dayenu.
In the baseball world, Israel's surprising first-place Pool A and overall 4-2 record will likely become a distant memory as the 2017 season gets underway. But rest assured it will not be forgotten by the American Jewish community, by a new generation of Jewish kids inspired by this team, by Israelis who perhaps had never watched baseball before and by the IAB, who will hope to take this spark and build it into a fire for the sport back home.
"We can see the big picture, but in our hearts and minds, we wanted to go to Los Angeles," pitcher Josh Zeid said. "We wanted to keep it going. The eyes of the world, the support of the world, was just starting to get big. To a man, we are so proud to have represented Israel, our heritage and American Jews."
Looking at that lasting legacy, there can be no doubt in anyone's mind that what this team accomplished would certainly have been enough. Dayenu.