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Israel baseball looks to 'barnstorm' through Olympics

A pair of Barnstormers will leave the team for a while to play for Israel's baseball team in the Olympics.

LANCASTER, Pa. — After no season in 2020, the Atlantic League is back and while gearing up for this year, a pair of Lancaster Barnstormers are also prepping for another well-known tournament.

"We're in constant contact with the team and everybody kind of works through the hardship together and we're just excited it's finally here," said pitcher Ben Wanger.

Wanger and outfielder Blake Gailen will suit up for Israel's Olympic baseball team later this month.  It's the first time the country has had a baseball team qualify for the games and it's the first Israeli national team sport to qualify since the soccer team did it in 1976.

"It's a crazy feeling thinking about the people who have played in the Olympics before and trying to qualify for that type of event is an awesome feeling," said Wanger.  "The team actually had to win all of Europe and Africa in order to qualify so it's not an easy task."

Both players have worn many jerseys in their baseball careers, but none will mean more than the ones they're about to dawn in front of the world.

"It means the world.  My family has pretty deep roots. I actually have some Holocaust survivors in my family.  So just playing with Israel on my chest is really special and special to my entire family.  I know everybody is going to be following even though they can't go. We're looking forward to it," added Wanger.

Current events in Israel are on the minds of many on the team, as is the hope that by simply doing what they love, they can build some sort of bridge or at the very least, inspire.

"I think a lot of the guys on the team have come together and talked about what's been going on in Israel.  We all have our own opinions on the topic.  But, at the end of the day, we're representing the country and we're Israeli.  You know, especially these past few months, a lot of the people who have been living in Israel have been affected by this," said Wanger.  "They're going into bomb shelters once in a while and it's just a great feeling being able to represent a people that are so special to me and all of us."

Before heading to the island of Japan, Israel will head to City Island on Friday at 10AM to take on the Cal Ripken College All-Stars.