GREECE

9 Jul

Greece is melting, so we thought it would be a good time to go there.  That’s right, Ladies and Geetles, just last week, the same week, in fact, that the country defaulted on its loans t0 the European Union, the Israel Under 21 National Team won the Acropolis Cup in Athens with a perfect record of 6 and 0.  Only 3 teams attended.  Team Israel, Team Australia (made up completely of players from Germany), and the Alimos Lions, the local club team and our hosts. We duked it out for SUPREME INTERGALACTIC CONTROL of the Under-21 Baseball Universe as economies collapsed like sundowns in the background, and in the end, Team Israel stood alone.

2015 Israel U21 National Team. Acropolis Cup champs.

2015 Israel U21 National Team. Acropolis Cup champs.

Originally, there were supposed to be 8 teams, 2 divisions, sponsors, groupies, mascot races, an event worthy of its own name.  Then, 6 weeks before the tournament, the Greek Baseball Federation dissolved and combined with the gymnastics federation.  That is not a joke.  And only 3 of us were crazy enough to continue on, head first, into the economic and baseball wasteland known as Greece.  There were 2 ways to look at the tournament, and maybe at the country, as an amazing failure because it was not as big or as good as we hoped, or as an amazing success because the fact that it even existed was a small miracle.

The games were played at one of the old practice fields from the 2004 Athens Olympics that has not been touched in 11 years, a modern ruin, a recent relic, frozen in time like the Acropolis itself, without the crowd, grass growing over the dugouts and around turtle screens left on the field.  There was no running water or electricity at the stadium.  There were buckets of water in the clubhouse to rinse the toilets with and Spyros, who you will meet shortly, bought a generator and a wireless microphone so we could have walk-up songs and to announce the starting line-ups before slipping down his mask to umpire the games.

A practice field from the 2004 Olympics.

A practice field from the 2004 Olympics.

International baseball is carried on the shoulders of individuals who, for whatever reason, make superhuman efforts to play the game, in Greece, in Moldova, in Israel. With no baseball federation and no support, one man made the tournament happen, our friend Spyros, the announcer and ump, founder and head coach of the Alimos Lions, tournament organizer and janitor who spent his precious euros on bus rides and water bottles for us, despite everything, held a barbeque for the teams at the stadium, traditional Greek food called Souvlaki, traditional Greek dance also called Souvlaki, if I remember correctly, shooting fireworks off in center field, lighting the dark Greek sky for a moment.

Spyros.

Spyros.

But the crisis in Greece hasn’t hit anyone, not the banks, not even Spyros, as hard as it’s hit the non-human community.  That’s right, Ladies and Geetles, I, King of Jewish Baseball, sadly report, there seem to be abandoned, depressed, bear-sized dogs all over Athens, and by “seem to be”, I mean that there are definitely without a doubt gigantic dogs laying around the streets of the capitol, panting, people stepping over them, hardly noticing they’re there.  So, as is my habit, using the new technology known as a camera, I sprung into action and started photographing these pets turned punks. Apparently, in Greece, when faced with tough times, kick your dog out of the house, first thing, then, once that ungrateful beast is gone, try to figure out how to find gainful employment and rebuild the country.  Meet them, the Bear Dogs of Athens.

Hey Buddies. What you doin' out here?

Hey Buddies. What you doin’ out here?

 

Hey. What's going on? Why are there so many dogs around here?

Hey. What’s going on? Why are there so many dogs around here?

 

No really, what's going on? Why are there so many dogs.

No really, what’s going on? Why are there so many dogs.

 

Not cool.

OK. This is not cool. What the hell is going on?

 

Is anyone else seeing this?

Is anyone else seeing this?

 

Don't worry about me, Guys. I'm fine.

Don’t worry about me, Guys. I’m fine.

 

Help me!

Help me!

 

I blame this dog for everything.

I blame this dog for everything.

 

The last dog in Greece with the courage to stand on his own four paws.

The last dog in Greece with the courage to stand on his own four paws. The Spyros of the dog world.

 

A happy dog. Thank god.

A happy dog. Thank god.


And now, after a strange week in Greece, we’re back in Israel, working summer camp every day, and preparing for the B-Pool European Championships, July 27-August 3 in Vienna, Austria. That’s right, Israel Baseball fans, it’s almost time for the Greatest Jewish Baseball Show on Earth, the Israel Senior National Team, to pack our bags and hit the roads of Europe, again, this time for our biggest, baddest tournament yet, winner moves up to the A-Pool next year.  So get your blue and white face paint and your games face on and check #roadtovienna on all social media to follow the team on our journey.

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