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Team Israel has two victories in the World Baseball Classic so far: a 2-1 win over South Korea, and a 15-7 win over Chinese Taipei. So they’re obviously off to a good start in their first ever WBC tournament. And the team has a good luck charm that may be helping them.
Meet the Mensch on the Bench! This guy is the Jewish answer to the popular Christmas toy and story “Elf on the Shelf,” and he’s a special part of Israel’s WBC team. Here’s what Cody Decker, who was the designated hitter in Israel’s upset win over South Korea, said about their Mensch during a news conference (which you can see in the video above).
“He’s a mascot, he’s a friend, he’s a teammate, he’s a borderline deity to our team… He brings a lot to the table.”
What he is, is a five-foot-tall stuffed toy that Decker bought before the WBC qualifier in September from this website (marked down to $200 from $300). There is a smaller, 12-inch version of the toy, but Decker apparently chose the version that looks like a life-sized person so he’s easier to spot in the dugout. And now Moshe (the Mensch’s official name) is really part of the team, sitting on the bench during every game. And he means a lot to their team, as Decker told ESPN.
“Every team needs their Jobu,” Decker said. “He was ours. He had his own locker, and we even gave him offerings: Manischewitz, gelt and gefilte fish.”
Seems appropriate. Jobu needed rum, so the Bench Mensch needs Manischewitz. And if Israel keeps up their Cinderella journey in the WBC, who wouldn’t want to see a “Major League” type movie, starring the “Mensch on the Bench” as a newly updated Jobu? And even though the Mensch has his own stuffed toy, he’s more like Jobu than you might think. From ESPN:
“He is everywhere and nowhere all at once,” Decker said. “His actual location is irrelevant because he exists in higher metaphysical planes. But he’s always near.”
Cody Decker and Team Israel have given a lot of thought to their mascot/good luck charm, and thus far it all seems to be working. On Monday Israel beat South Korea in a stunning extra-innings upset, and on Monday night (or Tuesday in Seoul, where the games for Pool A are being played) they unleashed on Chinese Taipei, jumping out to an early 6-0 lead before eventually beating them 15-7. They’re 2-0 in the tournament, and at the top of Pool A.
Israel still has a lot of work to do, but the underdoggiest of underdogs is certainly on its way to being the surprise story of the WBC. And who do we have to thank for that? The Mensch on the Bench, of course.
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