Lavarnway raves about time with Team Israel

Lavarnway raves about time with Team Israel

MESA, Ariz. -- Catcher Ryan Lavarnway returned to A's camp Friday morning, hardly yet feeling the effects of jet lag following a 14-hour flight from Japan, but instead eager to share about his "life-changing" experience with Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic.

"I still think it's going to take a while for everything to sink in," Lavarnway said, "but what a great experience for us."

A ragtag collection of American Jewish players -- none of whom can be found on a Major League 40-man roster -- emerged as the Cinderella team of the tournament, winning each of its first four games to make a surprise run into the second round, before dropping its last two contests and being eliminated.

Along the way, Lavarnway and Co. rallied the Jewish community around the world while raising awareness of the sport in Israel.

"We got letters of support from Hebrew schools in different countries," Lavarnway said. "Social media connects people in the craziest way now, and people were reaching out and telling me what it meant to them. It really put what we were doing in perspective.

"As a team, I think we always believed in ourselves, and I think you have to. I don't think we really knew what to expect. You see these teams are ranked third in the world, fourth in the world, and we beat four of the Top 10 teams in the world, which is incredible. We didn't shock ourselves as much as we might have shocked the world."

Lavarnway on Israel's 4-1 win

Lavarnway, who was named MVP of the first-round games in Seoul, South Korea, was 8-for-18 (.565) with six RBIs in the Classic and said he feels "more prepared for the season right now than I have before at this point because I caught a lot of games in high-pressure situations in front of sold-out crowds."

"Talking to him today, that was fun stuff for him," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "There's an intensity there to those games that certainly probably don't apply here at times. You can't simulate that in Spring Training games."

Lavarnway's teammates in the tournament included former A's players Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman and Ike Davis, and he said he formed an especially close friendship with pitcher Josh Zeid, traveling and experiencing new foods -- including chicken feet and live squid -- together with their wives.

Lavarnway's two-run double

One of the team's trainer's, Lavarnway said, met a tuna fish distributor at a synagogue in Tokyo, leading to an invitation at a restaurant where they were served the spine and the head of a tuna fish caught that same morning.

"We used clam shells to scrape raw, fresh tuna meat right off the spine," Lavarnway said. "It was unbelievable."

The World Baseball Classic runs through Wednesday. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games in San Diego's Petco Park and the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.