Corey Vyner wants your bats, gloves, softballs and baseballs. The 47-year-old Toronto salesman and softball enthusiast is making aliyah with his wife at the end of the month to teach baseball and softball to children in the Menashe region, just north of Netanya.
Corey Vyner hits one out in a Maccabiah game against the United States last year.
Vyner has been licensed as a softball coach by Israel’s Wingate Institute for Physical Education and Sport.
A veteran of the Canadian Maccabi softball team – he’s played in three Maccabiah Games – Vyner told The CJN last week that his passion for softball has led him back to Israel, where he hopes to instruct a new generation of players.
“It’s all about grassroots education of a wonderful sport,” he said.
Last week, Vyner launched a website, www.softballis.org, dedicated to helping Israeli children learn the sport and, perhaps more importantly, to ask for donations of used balls, gloves, bats or any other baseball-related equipment, to be sent along to Israel for use by children there.
His “Israel Ball and Glove donation drive” ends Aug. 21.
“We have 2-1/2 weeks to obtain as many softball items as we can,” he said. “In the next couple of days, we will be announcing the locations of our drop-off depots in both Toronto and Thornhill. All donated items, whether new or used, will be sent in a container to Israel on a ship departing on Aug. 25.”
According to the website, the Menashe Softball Project aims to “help develop the sport of softball through various after school programs at the grassroots level. Nurture the sport by including softball as part of a weekly gym class [and] convert eight local soccer fields into softball diamonds,” the site states.
Additionally, Vyner said he’s on a mission to put Israel on the world softball map.
“I am also part of a group called ‘Friends of the Field.’ In conjunction with JNF USA, we are looking to build Israel’s first professional softball and baseball complex. This state-of-the-art facility will be home to future Maccabi softball events. More importantly, this new stadium will help Israel’s four national teams – three softball, one baseball – become much better. They would now have a home to practise and play in.”
Vyner said that at last year’s Maccabiah Games in Israel, he and fellow administrators of the Israeli, U.S. and Canadian teams were dismayed to learn that Israel had no national field for the sport. Instead, it relied on a field owned by the Baptist Village in Petah Tikva for its games.
He said problems obtaining permits and prohibitive costs to rent the field have caused consternation for Israeli players and the Israel Softball Association (ISA) for years.
After discussions with Ami Baran, the association’s executive director, Vyner said he was convinced to make the move to Israel to lend his knowledge to the country’s burgeoning softball community.
Vyner will be employed by the ISA as its premier import coach from North America.
Baran, he said, wants to raise the profile of the ISA and eventually construct a national field that will be ready for the 2013 Maccabiah Games.
While the ISA is looking for a firm agreement for land on which to build the stadium – they’re eyeing Menashe, Vyner said – JNF has jumped on board to lend its influence and advice on the matter.
“JNF USA has been to the Menashe area and has met with the regional councillors. Has the JNF signed on the dotted line? The answer is no. Are they very interested in seeing this project take place? Yes. They have mentioned to Baran that they would be interested in putting $100,000 toward the project,” Vyner said, adding that JNF Canada had indicated to him that it might also put up some money.
Asked whether JNF Canada is involved in the project, national president Frank A. Wilson said his organization is not part of it.
In an ISA statement after last year’s Maccabiah Games, Baran said it was his “dream” to have a softball stadium built in Israel.
He said that thanks to the philanthropists in Friends of the Field, Israel now has “the chance to move our program forward. The expansion of the Maccabiah Games to include women’s open, men’s open, youth and men’s senior’s competitions, and the growth of the Israel Softball Association highlight the need for Israel to have a first-class facility for softball and baseball, for kids from around the Jewish world.”
Speaking to The CJN from Israel last week, Baran said talks with regional authorities to erect a stadium could be finalized by the end of August.
“There are close to 1,000 people playing softball and baseball in Israel now,” Baran said, adding that the ISA recently put together its first softball “peace camp,” which brought together children from moshavim, kibbutzim and Arab villages from around the Menashe area to bond over the sport.
He said Vyner’s ball and glove donation drive is an “important” project. “We can always use more equipment for the children.”
Softball was introduced to the Maccabiah Games in 1981 when Kibbutz Gezer built a softball facility with support from North America and hosted the games through 1997.
Maccabiah softball games eventually moved to the Baptist Village facility in Petah Tikva, where competition took place in 2001, 2005 and 2009.