They are ranked 41st in the world1. They are undefeated and have beat the number 3, 4, 5 and 9 teams in the world. Of course I am talking about the baseball team representing Israel in the World Baseball Classic for 2017.
The story is nothing short of amazing. Baseball is at best the 4th most popular sport in the country, with soccer and basketball running neck and neck for the top spot. There is no professional baseball league2 in Israel so there is no development of players in the country. The team consists of a few former players who have played Major League Baseball (like Ike Davis) but the majority of players are still playing in the Minor League system mostly at the A or AA levels.
And yet, they keep winning.
In the second round they have already beaten Cuba (ranked 5th) and will play Japan (1st) and the Netherlands (9th – that will be a rematch). If by some miracle they are one of the top 2 teams in their pool they will make it to the semi-finals in Los Angeles.
People have compared this to the famed Jamaican Bobsleigh Team from 1988. I don’t think the comparison holds up because the the JBST didn’t officially finish in Calgary3. This is more akin to Hoosiers as other people have correctly IMO) pointed out.
There are plenty of things not to like about the WBC but watching a team like Israel come out of nowhere and continue to win is one of the things the WBC has gotten right for the 2017 edition.