Team Is­rael’s base­ball jour­ney a stir­ring story of sports, pa­tri­o­tism

The Jerusalem Post - - SPORTS - R +FSVTBMFN 1PTU 4QPSUT 4UBGG

Head­ing Home: The Tale of Team Is­rael is the David-and-Go­liath story of Is­rael’s na­tional base­ball team as it com­peted for the first time in the World Base­ball Clas­sic.

The doc­u­men­tary pre­miered in Is­rael last week and will screen in Jerusalem on June 4.

Af­ter years of crush­ing de­feats, Is­rael fi­nally ranked among the world’s best in 2017. Its ros­ter in­cluded many Jewish-Amer­i­can ma­jor lea­guers, most with a ten­u­ous re­la­tion­ship to Ju­daism, barely any ever hav­ing set foot in Is­rael.

Their odyssey took them from the Holy Land, where they were hailed as mod­ern-day Mac­cabees, to the tour­na­ment in South Korea, where they had to de­bunk their rep­u­ta­tions as has-beens and wannabes. The con­nec­tion to Is­rael that the play­ers forged pushed them to un­ex­pected heights as they rep­re­sented the coun­try on the world stage.

Per­haps the Hol­ly­wood script writ­ers would have pre­ferred to fin­ish the story with a trip to, well, Hol­ly­wood, with this rag-tag group of scrappy Mi­nor Lea­guers some­how will­ing its way to Los Angeles for the semi­fi­nal.

Put aside the fact that such terms mis­rep­re­sented how good this ros­ter ac­tu­ally was, thus kind of negat­ing the Cin­derella sto­ry­line for a minute. The more im­por­tant point is that this team was al­ways about more than just try­ing to win the tour­na­ment. It was about rais­ing awareness of the sport in Is­rael (and fund­ing for it).

It was about ral­ly­ing the Jewish com­mu­nity in the United States around them. It was about over­achiev­ing and show­ing the world that Jewish base­ball play­ers can com­pete at this level.

“Maybe there will be kids who want to be the next Sam Fuld or the next Ryan Lavarn­way,” said Is­rael man­ager Jerry We­in­stein. “It gives them role mod­els. The play­ers were put on a pedestal world­wide. That will in­spire all kids, but es­pe­cially Is­raeli and US Jewish kids.”

In the base­ball world, Is­rael’s sur­pris­ing first­place Pool A and over­all 4-2 record will likely be­come a dis­tant mem­ory. But rest as­sured it will not be for­got­ten by the Amer­i­can Jewish com­mu­nity, by a new gen­er­a­tion of Jewish kids in­spired by this team, by Is­raelis who per­haps had never watched base­ball be­fore and by the Is­rael As­so­ci­a­tion of Base­ball, which hopes to take this spark and build it into a fire for the sport back home.


WITH ITS Men­sch on the Bench mas­cot by their side, Team Is­rael dis­cov­ered the pride of rep­re­sent­ing the blue-and-white on the world stage.

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