Pitching in the Promised Land: A Story of the First and Only Season in the Israel Baseball League

Pitching in the Promised Land: A Story of the First and Only Season in the Israel Baseball League

by Aaron Pribble
     
 

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It was the first (and last) season of professional baseball in Israel. Aaron Pribble, twenty-seven, had been out of Minor League Baseball for three years while he pursued a career in education when, at his coach’s suggestion, he tried out for the newly formed Israel Baseball League (IBL). Of Jewish descent (not a requirement, but definitely a plus) and… See more details below

Overview


It was the first (and last) season of professional baseball in Israel. Aaron Pribble, twenty-seven, had been out of Minor League Baseball for three years while he pursued a career in education when, at his coach’s suggestion, he tried out for the newly formed Israel Baseball League (IBL). Of Jewish descent (not a requirement, but definitely a plus) and former pro, Pribble was the ideal candidate for the upstart league. In many ways the league resembled the ultimate baseball fantasy camp with its unforgettable cast of characters: the DJ/street artist third baseman from the Bronx, the wildman catcher from Australia, the journeymen Dominicans who were much older than they claimed to be, and, of course, seventy-one-year-old Sandy Koufax, drafted in a symbolic gesture as the last player.

After falling in love with a beautiful Yemenite Jew, enduring an alleged terrorist attack on opening day, witnessing a career-ending brain injury caused by improper field equipment, participating in a strike, and venturing into the West Bank despite being strongly advised against it, Pribble must decide whether to forgo a teaching career in order to become the first player from the IBL to sign a pro contract in the United States. His is a story of coming of age spiritually and athletically in one short season in the throes of romance, Middle Eastern politics, and the dreams of America’s pastime far, far afield from home.

Learn about Holy Land Hardball, a documentary on the Israel Baseball League.

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Editorial Reviews

Jewish Book World

"With a writing style that is approachable, warm, effective, and engrossing, Pitching in the Promised Land will likely appeal to both Jewish seamheads and casual fans."—Joshua Platt, Jewish Book World

— Joshua Platt

Shofar

"[Pribble's] is a story of coming of age spiritually and athletically in one short season in the throes of romance, Middle Eastern politics, and the dreams of America's pastime far from home."—Shofar
NY Journal of Books - Dorothy Seymour Mills

"Mr. Pribble makes his adventure into a fascinating tale, full of both difficulties and thrills. Pitching in the Promised Land makes good reading."—Dorothy Seymour Mills, NY Journal of Books
Jewish Daily Forward - Jonathan Papernick

"Aaron Pribble, a former professional baseball player turned schoolteacher, who starred for the Tel Aviv Lightning in the Israel Baseball League's only season, provides readers with a front row seat and his own unvarnished take on the upstart league."—Jonathan Papernick, Jewish Daily Forward
Jewish Book World - Joshua Platt

"With a writing style that is approachable, warm, effective, and engrossing, Pitching in the Promised Land will likely appeal to both Jewish seamheads and casual fans."—Joshua Platt, Jewish Book World
Booklist - Jay Freeman

"This is, of course, much more than a baseball story. Pribble relates his romantic involvement, developing bonds of comradeship, and his efforts to consider his own Jewish identity within an Israeli society still striving to resolve its own contradictions. Pribble consistently hits the right notes, conveying his experiences with humor, irony, and a sense of novelty."—Jay Freeman, Booklist
Baseball America - James Bailey

"Pribble tells his story with wit, a little self-deprecating humor, and an eye for detail. . . . It's hard to imagine a better introduction to a far-off land and its age-old conflicts."—James Bailey, Baseball America
San Diego Jewish World - Donald H. Harrison

"[Pitching in the Promised Land] takes us on an interesting and enjoyable jaunt through a unique moment in Israeli and baseball history."—Donald H. Harrison, San Diego Jewish World
Robert Elias

“A touching and enlightening tale of political and cultural awakening, conveyed through the vehicle of baseball. . . . [A] unique voyage of discovery, both on and off the diamond, and populated by a rich cast of characters, from Pribble’s Yemeni girlfriend to his Canadian guide in Palestine to his Australian, Dominican, and Israeli teammates.”—Robert Elias, author of The Empire Strikes Out

Steven Travers

“Aaron Pribble has written what I call the Oy! Testament, a true, detailed accounting of his year playing ball in Israel, of all places. Chock-full of color about Jewish life in the Promised Land, it delves into the politics of new settlements in this volatile region, from the perspective of a Californian with a Jewish mother and Christian dad, all painted against the backdrop of our national pastime in the desert.”—Steven Travers, author of The 1969 Miracle Mets

Logan Miller & Noah Miller

Pitching in the Promised Land is a thrilling odyssey of sport, religion, love, and politics, of finding common ground on the baseball field in the most unlikely of places—Israel. In his debut memoir, Mr. Pribble has established himself as a gifted storyteller with extraordinary insight, observation, and humor.”—Logan Miller and Noah Miller, authors of Either You’re in or You’re in the Way

NY Journal of Books

"Mr. Pribble makes his adventure into a fascinating tale, full of both difficulties and thrills. Pitching in the Promised Land makes good reading."—Dorothy Seymour Mills, NY Journal of Books

— Dorothy Seymour Mills

San Diego Jewish World

"[Pitching in the Promised Land] takes us on an interesting and enjoyable jaunt through a unique moment in Israeli and baseball history."—Donald H. Harrison, San Diego Jewish World

— Donald H. Harrison

Jewish Daily Forward

"Aaron Pribble, a former professional baseball player turned schoolteacher, who starred for the Tel Aviv Lightning in the Israel Baseball League's only season, provides readers with a front row seat and his own unvarnished take on the upstart league."—Jonathan Papernick, Jewish Daily Forward

— Jonathan Papernick

Booklist

"This is, of course, much more than a baseball story. Pribble relates his romantic involvement, developing bonds of comradeship, and his efforts to consider his own Jewish identity within an Israeli society still striving to resolve its own contradictions. Pribble consistently hits the right notes, conveying his experiences with humor, irony, and a sense of novelty."—Jay Freeman, Booklist

— Jay Freeman

Baseball America Editors

"Pribble tells his story with wit, a little self-deprecating humor, and an eye for detail. . . . It's hard to imagine a better introduction to a far-off land and its age-old conflicts."—James Bailey, Baseball America

— James Bailey

Kirkus Reviews

Account of the unsuccessful attempt to introduce baseball in Israel.

Most Israelis have never heard of the game of baseball, writes high-school teacher Pribble. But that did not stop Boston businessman Larry Baras—famed creator of the cream-cheese–filled bagel—and others from starting the Israel Baseball League in 2007, to "bring joy" to the lives of Israeli families. Enlisting 120 players from nine countries, the league's six teams played 45 games in their first—and last—season. The two-month adventure allowed Pribble, a former minor leaguer and "sort of" Jew, to visit Israel and spend his summer break playing his favorite game as a pitcher for the Tel Aviv Lightning. Before long, he realized that the league was poorly funded and managed. Paychecks were late, bats and balls were at a premium and the league management seemed disorganized and unable to communicate with players. The teams (Netanya Tigers, Bet Shemesh Blue Sox, etc.) had to make do with rocky infields and dugouts with plastic chairs instead of benches, but "for a fleeting moment professional baseball bloomed in the desert." Besides covering game highlights, Pribble describes the bonding of disparate players from the United States, Dominican Republic, Israel, Canada and elsewhere; visits to Masada and the West Bank; and his relationship with a young Jewish girl from Yemen. The author does a nice job evoking the unlikely setting, but the story's lack of drama—and superficial renderings of fellow players—will disappoint many readers. He argues unconvincingly that the summer brought him closer to his roots.

Even a first pitch by Dr. Ruth fails to sex up this lackluster debut.

National Jewish Post & Opinion

“Pribble has managed to bring together intriguing autobiographical information with a lively record of the crack at exporting American baseball to Israel. His enjoyable book is an eminently successful merger of these two elements.”—Morton I. Teicher, National Jewish Post & Opinion

— Morton I. Teicher

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780803234727
Publisher:
University of Nebraska Press
Publication date:
04/01/2011
Pages:
280
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author


Aaron Pribble played collegiate baseball at the University of Hawaii then professionally in the Western and Central Baseball Leagues, in France, and in the Israel Baseball League. He has a master's degree in political science and teaches at Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, California. Aaron lives in San Francisco.

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