The Boychiks of Summer
Baseball fan Josh Eichenstein found his field of dreams in Israel
Published in 2023 Southern California Rising Stars magazine
By Josh Karp on June 2, 2023
In the spring of 2007, Josh Eichenstein was making a nice living at a Hollywood talent agency when his father told him about an opportunity to make a lot less. Local tryouts were being held for a new baseball league that was set to begin in Israel. “Just go,” his father told him. “Have fun.”
He’d long been a fan. As a child, Eichenstein’s favorite player was Cubs first baseman Mark Grace and he remembers having a memorable argument with his brother over a Will Clark rookie card. In high school, he hit a Ted Williams-like .440 one season, but at the University of Arizona he didn’t even bother going out for the team. “There were all-state guys cut within a week,” he says.
When the Israel Baseball League opportunity came about, he was playing on weekend-warrior teams around LA and figured he had about a 200-to-1 shot of making it. “A Rudy situation,” he calls it. The tryout, he adds, “was basically a few at-bats, field a few ground balls, run some sprints, and then everyone goes home.” Despite the home run he hit, he figured that was that. Until three weeks later when he received an email: “Congratulations! You’ve been offered a player contract in the Israel Baseball League.”
The IBL had been organized by Boston businessman Larry Baras and a group that included longtime general manager Dan Duquette. The commissioner was Dan Kurtzer, former U.S. ambassador to Israel, and MLB commissioner Bud Selig served on the board. The idea was to bring a fun, minor-league vibe to a country that had just suffered through the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War. There were 120 players on six teams, three of them managed by Jewish former major leaguers: Ron Blomberg, Art Shamsky and Ken Holtzman. Each player was paid $2,000 for the eight-week, 45-game season.
“I’d do this for free anyway,” Eichenstein, then 23, told the Los Angeles Times shortly after he signed up. “Jewish Americans are raised to love two things: baseball and Israel. For a Jewish-American kid to be paid to play baseball in Israel makes perfect sense. It’s like a dream come true.”
So how did Eichenstein wind up on the Netanya Tigers rather than, say, the Tel Aviv Lightning or Bet Shemesh Blue Sox? A draft was held for college or minor league players while walk-ons like Eichenstein were assigned a team.
A lot of it was bare bones. Players lived in an empty boarding school and played in just three ballparks—one a converted softball diamond on a kibbutz with a light pole very much in play in right-center field. (A mattress was tied around it to prevent injuries.) There was a shortage of equipment. At one point, Eichenstein recalls, “We were told to stop giving balls to the fans.”
Even so, he was having the time of his life. A backup second baseman, his high point came when he started a game and went 4-for-5. His only out? Popping up a hanging curveball. “I should have nailed it,” he says. “I still see it in my dreams.”
After the game Eichenstein’s teammates gave him a Gatorade shower—but with a cooler full of water. “Gatorade was gold,” Eichenstein says, “if anyone could find it.”
When the league folded after the 2007 season—won by the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox—Eichenstein returned to the States, where he tried his hand at video editing but felt intellectually unfulfilled. With friends in law school, he bought himself an LSAT prep book—which is when everything clicked. “I felt like I was doing brain yoga,” he says.
Developing a strong interest in criminal and intellectual property law, he practiced at a small firm where the first motion he filed reversed a $1.6 million judgment. Six years later, he struck out on his own.
His full-service IP firm handles a mix of brand building, brand protection and litigation, with a notable recent success coming last November via a published opinion at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld a $20 million arbitration reward. The lessons from his baseball days, though, aren’t far behind. It’s the basics, really: “Stay humble, respect your opponent … and keep your eye on the ball.”
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