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Pribble’s Pitching Gives Different Look of Israel

Pitching in the Promised Land
Aaron Pribble
University of Nebraska Press (April 2011)

Sports can change lives, change cultures. It happens all the time, every day in countries around the world. And for one year, Aaron Pribble and his team of international leaguers brought the game of baseball to Israel.

In Pitching in the Promised Land, Pribble, who played baseball at the University of Hawaii, in France and for the Western and Central leagues, took the summer of 2007 off, in between teaching high school history, to return to his childhood dream of playing baseball in a country that probably wasn’t part of his dream as a child.

Unbeknownst to him at the time, the Israel Baseball League would only last season, but it would be memorialized in Pribble’s journals, which were then transformed into the amazing book.

Pribble enters the airport labeled a half Jew, and he returns empowered by his trip and with a difficult decision to make: whether to pursue his baseball dream or leave the summer for what it was and return to his teaching life.

But Pitching in the Promised Land is so much more than one man’s summer. It is not a “man’s journey to find himself through baseball” kind of story or even a “man’s journey to discover his heritage through baseball” story. Pribble incorporates many aspects of his trip into one book, mingling with Jewish women, jaunts to sometimes dangerous, but ultimately exciting places, bonding with teammates and, of course, playing baseball.

In addition to learning a little more about the country of Israel, Pribble learns, and teaches the reader, about the life of his Dominican teammates, the family he eats Shabbat with every Friday, the culture of Israel and the importance baseball could have in the country.

The teams all lived in the same place and mingled with each other, then played six games a week against each other on shoddy fields to not-nearly sold-out crowds. They played together, lived together, went out together. The teams were made up of players of various ages and backgrounds and they all learned something about each other. Whether it was how one played baseball differently than the other or why one didn’t go out as much as the other (because one had to feed a family back home with their measly paycheck), it was a learning experience.

The Israel Baseball League may not have been successful on the business end, but the impact it made on the culture, for even one summer, made a difference, both in the lives of the citizens of Israel and in the lives of the players.

Though it is clear the problems between Israel and Palestine will still take even more years to figure out, the politics and government have issues to resolve and the internal warfare continues to effect the citizens, Pitching in the Promised Land shows a different side of Israel.

Baseball with an Israeli twist was a fascinating read and a different look into a world everyone thinks they already know. And again, a look at how sports can change cultures, change lives.


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