Gary Rosen '86: If You Build It...
Gary Rosen ’86 helps launch an unlikely new sport in a country more often associated with turmoil. by Doug McInnis
Some things in this world seem out of place — professional baseball in the Middle East, for example. But in July 2007, people who tuned into public television found themselves watching a baseball game between two unexpected teams, in a most unlikely place. The Modi’in Miracle were playing the Petach Tikva Pioneers at the Yarkon Sports Complex near Tel Aviv.
It was the first game of the Israel Baseball League’s first season. An overflow crowd of more than 3,000 watched the Miracle rout the Pioneers 9-1. Among those who made this possible was Gary Rosen ’84, a television producer, entertainment agent, and executive vice president at RLR Associates in New York. He served as executive producer of the PBS opening day broadcast, which was seen by more than a million people. He also helped find sponsors to offset the costs of starting pro baseball from scratch in Israel, and remains on the team’s board of advisors.
The new league lacked everything — stadiums, equipment, managers, even players. Most of the players were eventually imported, following a global recruitment campaign to lure up-and-coming talent to Israel. The managerial corps included three former Major League Baseball players.
Before the new league, baseball was played only by a few amateurs, mostly expatriates from the United States, Gary says. That’s not surprising since Israel, like much of the world outside the United States, is mad about soccer. But there is precedent for importing an American-born sport: Israel’s number two sport is basketball.
In 2007 Gary spent six weeks in Israel to help get the league and the PBS production underway. It was his first trip to the country, where he has relatives. “I had wanted a connection to Israel,” he says. “Being part of bringing baseball to the country gave me that connection.”
To help get the league off the ground, Gary lined up businesses that would be willing to barter goods or services in return for a visible association with a professional sport. For example, Gary says, “In return for free equipment from a manufacturer, we gave advertising on ballpark signs that were seen throughout the United States during the PBS telecast.”
Gary learned to barter at Ithaca, where he founded Omega Concepts, a student-run ad agency that did promotional work for local businesses in return for goods and services. Gary, who majored in television-radio, also got college credits for the work, and says the entrepreneurial experience launched his career.
One goal of the Israel Baseball League is to show the world another side of the country. “We want people not to think about war when they think of Israel,” Gary explains. “We want them to think about families sitting down and eating kosher hot dogs while watching a game.”