In the old days when South Florida was the spring break capital of the world, spring training for major league baseball was a big part of our neighborhood. It was quite common to see major league ball players at local restaurants, supermarkets or bars. The Texas Rangers home stadium was Pompano Municipal Stadium. When New York Yankee legend Thurman Munson died in a plane crash in early August 1979, vandals paid tribute to the catcher by rewriting letters to read, “Thurman Munson Stadium.”
Now that spring training has relocated north of Broward County, South Florida lost a sense of generational identity that united families and friends of all ages. Unlike the fast pace of basketball, hockey and football (with the exception of last Sunday’s dull Superbowl), baseball is a slow-paced sport with much downtime. However, it is this “downtime” that invites conversation between bites of peanuts and Cracker Jacks.
Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel is a reminder how important it is for a sport to unite a community. Famous Jewish Sports Legends was a fictional leaflet that was considered “light reading” for traveler Barbara Billingsley in the 1980 classic comedy Airplane. Acknowledging this stereotype, filmmakers Jeremy Newberger, Daniel A. Miller and Seth Kramer are proud to tell the tale about Team Israel entering their first ever World Baseball Classic, which, much like the World Cup of Soccer, meets every four years and is an international event.
The most prolific player is Cody Decker, who currently plays for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Many of the players are not All Stars and some have retired from the professional game, but the honor to serve Israel is too good to pass up, especially given this historical opportunity.
This documentary follows Team Israel’s adventures in the major cities in Israel, South Korea and Japan.
With David and Goliath overtones, Team Israel is considered an underdog … until they start winning. Sometimes winning becomes humorous. When sore loser Team Cuba loses to upstart Team Israel, a Cuban reporter accuses the Israelis of being Americans in disguise.
With the use of the “Mensch on a Bench Mascot,” there is much humor in the film. The cinematography presents beautiful landscapes of Tel Aviv, the Wishing Bridge and the Dead Sea. Sadly, there are constant reminders that the beauty of the land is under siege from terrorist attacks.
This film opens this weekend at neighborhood theaters. Some theaters are planning special promotions for this film. Tomorrow morning, Feb. 8, Cody Decker and the Team Israel filmmakers will visit the David Posnack Jewish Day School, as well as the David Posnack Jewish Community Center and the Broward Baseball Academy/Hal’s Power Alley, at 5850 S. Pine Island Rd., in Davie. Have some fun and PLAY BALL!