Ismail acknowledges that he understood little about the game before launching his initiative. Mostly he just wanted to introduce a new sport to Iraq.
"It was either [baseball] or rugby -- I thought that would be good because Iraqis like violent sports like boxing or wrestling."
But rugby would have required building goal posts, he said, whereas baseball can be played with a few bags of donated equipment.
Fearful of causing a backlash by advertising a Western connection, Ismail claims not to remember who sent the bats, balls and gloves.
Some of the balls bear the name of the donor, but they're all too worn and smudged to make out much. On two balls, however, "Ogden, Utah" is legible.
(Dano Jauregui, the baseball coach at Ogden-based Weber State University, said he had no idea about any kind of equipment donation to Iraq. Dave Baggott, the co-owner of the Ogden Raptors minor league baseball team, said he vaguely recalled some sort of equipment drive organized last year by a local civic group.)
From these humble beginnings, Ismail claims the sport's appeal is spreading. Teams have sprung up in the northern cities of Kirkuk, Irbil and Mosul. In Ramadi -- in the fiercely anti-U.S. province of Al Anbar west of Baghdad -- players practice with homemade bats and modified tennis balls, Ismail said.
Inspired by the Iraqi soccer team's improbable fourth-place showing at the Athens Olympics, Ismail has high hopes.
"We want to make this a success," he said. "We want to shock the world."