Israel struck out at World Baseball Classic, but team’s Twitter account was a hit
JTA — Many fans were in despair because Team Israel beat Puerto Rico 6-0 in the World Baseball Classic last week, but the team’s Twitter account had a different message.
“We will never give up,” the account tweeted. “After all, Moses was once a basket case.”
While the quip couldn’t end the team’s 10-0 final loss, it came during the win for Avi Miller, the 30-year-old marketing maven who runs the @ILBaseball account. For Miller – who tweeted the competition from 3,000 miles away – the World Baseball Classic was a special moment, almost doubling the fans of the Israel Team on social media and exposing countless basketball fans to jokes straight out of Hebrew school.
Miller told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that his ambition was to do for Team Israel what the World Baseball Classic, an international Olympic-style baseball tournament, aims to do for baseball itself: the sum of the deepening fans.
“Of course virality is nice, because it creates more of a following. But then when you have a following, what are you doing with it?” Miller said. “So for me, and it continues even today, and will be tomorrow and so on, is to create relationships with people, create interest in it, help create and raise fundraising efforts, help create awareness of these programs.”
Team Israel won their first game but dropped the next three to exit the tournament early. Some of those games were brutal: Over 15 innings on March 13 and 14, Israel allowed just one base runner against its opponent.
But on the team’s Twitter account, the hits kept coming. One separate post, which has been viewed more than 100,000 times, showed a photo of an apoplectic-looking Jakob Goldfarb (who was actually celebrating, despite what he suggests). Miller’s caption reflected contemporary meme culture: “When she says a latke is just a hash brown.”
when she says a latke is just hash brown ???????????? pic.twitter.com/K0jkVNHfeN
— Baseball Israel (@ILBaseball) March 12, 2023
In another popular position, the account outlined her “bubbie ranking,” using the Yiddish word for grandmother used in some Jewish families – and a common name for the first name of one of the team’s pitchers. The list: “1) my bubbie 2) Bubby Rossman 3) other bubbies.”
Oh kidding storing a cooler of Manischewitz in the dugout to leaning into the staff’s “pretty Jewish boy” cheerswhich was composed almost entirely of American Jewish baseball players, seemed to have a sense of the humor of the account.
Bill Shaikin, an award-winning baseball writer for the Los Angeles Times and a member of the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, called Israel’s Twitter “the best social media account in the league.”
“I thought the account was a great mix of baseball information and humorous nods to what your Jewish mother might say,” Shaikin told JTA. “If you know, you know. But, if you didn’t know, it still worked.”
The USA doesn’t need the World Baseball Classic to make baseball famous in its country.
Other countries do. Here’s a thread from one (from the best social media account in the competition): https://t.co/fyifV9H1lF
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) March 15, 2023
Miller was well placed to tell the story of Team Israel. A marketing consultant based in San Diego, he worked in communications for sports teams and the NCAA before expanding his portfolio to include technology clients. He has also been involved with the Israel Baseball Association in various capacities for a few years, mostly helping with social media and video editing. A native of Baltimore, a Jewish day school graduate, he founded the Moishe House in San Francisco.
“These two worlds have hit me,” Miller said. “I have a strong emotional connection to baseball in my life, and then I have a connection to Judaism, from my whole upbringing. And for me as a passionate storyteller, my goal over the years and in this World Baseball Classic is to help tell that story.”
That story, which included a late-game comeback win over Nicaragua and an impressive performance from Orthodox prospect Jacob Steinmetz, took place entirely in South Florida — a few thousand miles from Miller’s hometown of San Diego. Miller was planning to attend the tournament but was unable to – although no one would have been able to tell from the tweets.
Paging r/mademesmile – see Jacob’s face light up here in the dugout after his first outing.
— Baseball Israel (@ILBaseball) March 14, 2023
“I think it’s like what any great YouTuber or videographer would tell you, that to make the best video you don’t need the best camera ever made,” Miller said. “What I needed was the passion and the storytelling ideas behind it. Between that and then connecting with almost every guy on the team and people on the ground, it gave me a lot of ideas to work with them in terms of telling that story in a fun way.”
Miller said the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive — and has come from all levels of basketball fans, from those who know little about Israel, or even baseball, to die-hard fans.
“That’s the best answer for me, making it something that was accessible to everybody, but then still getting signs of respect from the baseball world,” Miller said.
He also said that there were, predictably, some negative responses. Miller said he made a conscious effort to shy away from politics, including keeping his own personal views out of the mix. Not everyone followed that tack.
“Could I contact everyone who wrote in on any platform and was sending us messages about ‘Free Palestine,’ and [said], ‘Oh, you respect our boundaries now, because you don’t like the strike zone,’ all these different things?” Miller said. “Sure, I could be sassy and answer within those spaces, one hundred percent. I could easily talk to anyone smack any day. But at the end of the day, that wasn’t the goal.”
Part of that restraint, Miller said, had to do with guiding the team’s own voice and priorities.
“If you talk to Ryan Lavarnway, if you talk to Josh Zeid, any of those guys about their views on Israeli football, I can’t imagine that the Palestinian conflict comes up as part of it because it’s not,” said he, referring to a player and coach of the Israel Team, respectively. “It doesn’t make that not an important thing to talk about, but in this case, the story was beside the point.”
In general, Miller said he has been working to build relationships with players and other members of the Israeli baseball organization, to help craft an authentic presence on the team’s social media accounts — from the underdog attitude to the emphasis on team camaraderie.
And for that matter, it was the tweets that showcased the players’ talents that Miller said made him most proud. Not only were the players’ families appreciative of the content, but so were some of their agents — with one pitcher even asking Miller for video highlights that he could send to teams considering signing him. face. Miller declined to share who it was, but at least one Team Israel pitcher landed an MLB contract after the tournament, Rossman with the Mets.
“The ones I mean are the ones where I can put out content that shows an individual or multiple individuals and then know that that person is impacted in some way,” Miller said.