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Team Israel to play in Connecticut before heading to Tokyo Summer Olympics

HARTFORD—The Hartford Yard Goats Baseball Club, the Double-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, announced that Team Israel will play two exhibition games on Wednesday, July 14 and Thursday, July 15 at 10:30 a.m. at Dunkin’ Donuts Park. 

Team Israel won the 2019 European Baseball Championship and earned the right to participate in the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Team Israel, led by four-time MLB All-Star Ian Kinsler, will play a pair of exhibition games against the Bristol Blues and Ocean State Waves of the NECL (New England Collegiate Baseball League) as part of its Northeast United States tour. 

Baseball will be featured at the 2021 Summer Olympics for the first time since the 2008 Summer Games, and Team Israel is one of six national teams that will compete in the tournament. Besides Kinsler, the Team Israel current roster includes former Major League players such as C Ryan Lavarnway (Red Sox, Orioles, Braves, Athletics, Pirates, Reds, Marlins), RHP Connecticut native Josh Zeid (Astros), INF Danny Valencia (Twins & Orioles), INF/OF Ty Kelly (Mets & Phillies), LHP Jeremy Bleich (Athletics), RHP Jon Moscot (Reds), RHP Zack Weiss (Reds), and former Yard Goats infielder Scott Burcham. Team Israel will head to Tokyo, Japan on July 22, and the Opening Ceremonies will take place on July 23.

“We are excited that our fans will get the opportunity to see Team Israel compete in a game leading up to their appearance in Tokyo at the upcoming Olympics,” Yard Goats team owner Josh Solomon said. “It is a huge accomplishment for such a small country to qualify for the Olympics and we are honored to host them at Dunkin’ Donuts Park.”

Kinsler played 14 years in the Major League’s and won a World Series with the Boston Red Sox in 2018. The four-time All-Star second baseman played his first eight years with the Texas Rangers (2006-2013) before joining the Detroit Tigers (2014-2017) and then the Los Angeles Angels (2018). The two-time Gold Glove Award winner was acquired by the Red Sox at the trading deadline in 2018 and helped them win the World Series. Kinsler played his final season in the majors in 2019 for the San Diego Padres. 

“We’re delighted to be able to spend some time in Hartford during our Olympic preparations,” Team Israel General Manager Peter Kurtz said. “I want to thank Josh Solomon for helping make this happen. Josh has been a true friend of Israel Baseball and has donated generously to our cause. I know he was planning to be in Tokyo to cheer us on in person and since that can’t happen, playing two games on his turf is the next best thing.”

Lavarnway, who was an All American at Yale University, and set the Ivy League home run record before going on to play in the Major Leagues, returns to Team Israel where he was a Pool A MVP in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 2008, he has spent the last ten seasons in the Majors, and was part of the Red Sox World Series club in 2013. 

Zeid, a native of New Haven, pitched parts of two seasons for the Houston Astros in 2013 and 2014. The right-handed pitcher went to Hamden Hall Country Day School in Hamden. Originally drafted by the Phillies in the 10th round in 2009 out of Tulane University, Zeid spent time in the Philadelphia, Houston, Detroit, New York Mets and St. Louis organizations.    

Valencia played nine years in the Major Leagues with the Twins, Red Sox, Orioles, Royals, Blue Jays, Athletics, and Mariners. In 2010, the Miami native batted .311 with 18 doubles, seven home runs and 40 RBI and helped Minnesota win the American League Central Division, while finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting. The infielder played parts of two seasons in Connecticut starring for the New Britain Rock Cats in 2008 and 2009, combining to hit .287 with 32 doubles, 17 homer and 61 RBI in 126 games.

Kelly, who played parts of three seasons in the Major Leagues with the Mets and Phillies from 2016 through 2018, returns to Team Israel where he was part of the 2017 World Baseball Classic. The Baltimore Orioles selected him in the 13th round of the 2009 Major League Baseball Draft out of the University of California Davis. In college, Kelly led the Big West Conference with a .397 batting average and was a Cape Cod League All-Star for the Brewster Whitecaps in 2008.

Bleich, a left-handed pitcher and first round pick of the New York Yankees out of Stanford University, pitched for the Oakland Athletics in 2018. He spent 11 years in the minor leagues before finally reaching the big leagues and making his MLB debut on July 13, 2018 at San Francisco. 

Moscot, a right-handed pitcher, played for the Reds in 2015 and 2016. The Pepperdine University product picked up his only MLB win on June 10, 2015 as he hurled six impressive innings against the Phillies.    

Weiss, a right-handed pitcher, played for the Reds in 2018. After getting drafted by Cincinnati in the sixth round in 2013 out of UCLA, he pitched six seasons in the minors before reaching the majors. He made his MLB debut on April 12, 2018 against the St. Louis Cardinals. 

Burcham, an infielder who played for the Yard Goats in 2018 and 2019, is currently with the Rockies Triple-A affiliate, the Albuquerque Isotopes. He had played in 134 games with the Yard Goats the past two minor league seasons with 21 doubles, five home runs and 36 RBI.

All tickets to the Team Israel exhibition games are $10 and are now on sale at the Click It or Ticket Box Office at Dunkin’ Donuts Park. Tickets can also be ordered over the phone by calling (860) 246-4628, or online at www.yardgoatsbaseball.com. 

Main Photo: New Haven native Josh Zeid, who was drafted by the Phillies in in 2009 and has spent time in the Philadelphia, Houston, Detroit, New York Mets and St. Louis organizations, is a member of Team Israel.

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