In my early days of freelancing I wrote a column for the Jewish Telegraph Agency called “Jews in Sports.” I sure could have used a story about a victorious Israeli baseball team. Time marches on. Now there is indeed such a story captured in the uplifting new film, “Heading Home—The Tale of Team Israel.”
Three directors—Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller and Jeremy Newberger—have teamed to recount the saga of an Israeli baseball team being formed and competing internationally in the 2017 World Baseball Classic and scoring one impressive victory after another before finally being eliminated in Tokyo. It is a thrilling story.
What emerges is not only the excitement that develops along the way but the bond with Israel forged by professional American-Jewish baseball players and with each other. We get to meet various individuals and hear from them as well as see them play.
Starting out as low-ranked, the team began to surprise sports followers. First came a qualifying victory, and then we watch startling triumphs, including over teams from Korea, Formosa, and the Netherlands. (Israel also lost one to the Netherlands.) Team Israel was on a roll, and the film builds suspense along the trail. Even though finally losing to Japan in Tokyo—Japan has long been known as a source for terrific baseball players—merely getting that far was a victory and source of pride.
There is lots of enjoyable material to savor. For example, the team has a specially-made mascot, a colorfully dressed creature called “The Mensch on the Bench.” Replicas have been made and sold. There are also young cheerleaders rooting for the team and known as “Jew Crews.”
“Heading Home” arrives as a fresh and informative entertainment and shines a favorable spotlight on Israel at a time when Israel could use it in the face of the anti-Semitic attacks it has been enduring. A Menemsha Films release. Reviewed September 3, 2019.