Although Brad Ausmus got his degree from Dartmouth College while starting his baseball career in the New York Yankees' minor league system, he never had the opportunity to take advantage of one of his alma mater's foreign study programs.
Now retired after an 18-year playing career with the San Diego Padres, Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers, Ausmus is catching up.
Ausmus, a three-time Gold Glove winner who currently serves as a special assistant with the Padres, will manage the Israeli national baseball team this November at a qualifying tournament for the 2013 World Baseball Classic. Israel is scheduled to face Spain, France and South Africa in the preliminary round.
Baseball in Israel isn't a completely foreign concept—the country was briefly home to a professional league in 2007—but native talent remains in short supply. However, since WBC rules allow players to represent countries in which they are eligible for citizenship, and not just the countries in which they live, Ausmus has access to Jewish players from the US and Canada, and he's planning on taking advantage.
"I never guarantee anything in the sport of baseball because anything can happen," Ausmus told an Associated Press reporter in Jerusalem this week, "but I'm more than comfortable with the potential of this roster."
So far, the roster is known to include former major leaguers Shawn Green and Gabe Kapler, and while Ausmus could not yet confirm any active major leaguers who will be participating, he did say that he has reached out to every Jewish player in MLB, either directly or through their agents, and that all of them are honored by the opportunity to play for the Jewish state.
It will be interesting to see how many of the players Ausmus is recruiting will wind up playing for Israel in November. In the meantime, here's a look at how they're doing now.
Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun has been on fire in the last week, going 12-for-30 at the plate (.400 batting average) with a pair of home runs and 10 runs batted in. The Brewers, however, are 3-7 in their last 10 games, and sit fifth in the National League Central division with a record of 18-26.
Arizona Diamondbacks relief pitcher Craig Breslow hasn't been his sharpest lately. The southpaw has given up a run in each of his last two outings, including a forgettable performance against the Dodgers on Tuesday that saw the former Yale star give up three hits and a run without retiring a batter. For the season, Breslow is 1-0 with a 2.01 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 20 appearances for the Diamondbacks, who are third in the NL West at 20-25.
New York Mets first baseman Ike Davis has continued to slump in the last week, getting just two hits in 17 at-bats. That's brought his season average down to .159 with five home runs and 15 RBI. The Mets are third in the NL East at 24-20.
Texas Rangers pitcher Scott Feldman got his third start of the season on Wednesday, and didn't fare well, giving up five runs in four and one-third innings of work. In eight appearances this season with three starts, Feldman is 0-2 with a 4.66 ERA.
Feldman's teammate, second baseman Ian Kinsler, has had one of his stronger weeks, going 10 for 33 at the plate with 10 RBI. For the season, Kinsler has a .280 batting average with five home runs and 18 RBI for the Rangers, who lead the AL West with a record of 27-18.
Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has spent most of the last week in a slump, with just two hits in 20 at-bats. He showed signs of life on Wednesday, going 3-for-4 and scoring a pair of runs in a 4-2 win over the Detroit Tigers. Kipner is hitting .266 this season with six homers and 24 RBI for the Indians, who lead the AL central with a 25-18 record.
Minnesota Twins pitcher Jason Marquis appears to be on his way out of the majors. Marquis was designated for assignment or release on Tuesday after a winning start gave way to a long rough stretch that didn't help the cause of the embattled Twins, who have the American League's worst record at 15-28. In seven starts for the Twins this season, Marquis is 2-4 with an 8.47 ERA and 12 strikeouts.
Boston Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis made his return to the lineup on Tuesday, playing first base for the Red Sox in a 4-1 loss against the Baltimore Orioles. Youkilis was responsible for the lone Boston run - a solo home run - and followed that up with a 2-or-3 performance in a 6-5 win. Youkilis, who had been out since April with a strained lower back, is hitting .243 this season with three home runs and 10 RBI.
J-Connection: Brad Ausmus, Ryan Braun, Craig Breslow, Ike Davis, Scott Feldman, Ian Kinsler, Jason Marquis and Kevin Youkilis are Jewish. Jason Kipnis is a practicing Roman Catholic, but his father is Jewish.