It’s hard to imagine a true-life underdog tale more engaging than “Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel,” a winning David vs. Goliath baseball documentary that covers all the crowd-pleasing bases.
Chronicling the 2017 events that for the first time brought an Israeli team to the World Baseball Classic, the equivalent to soccer’s World Cup, directors Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller and Jeremy Newberger never hide the fact that the vast majority of the players on Team Israel are in actuality Americans of Jewish extraction.
Combine MLB’s “heritage rule” — anyone who qualifies to gain citizenship in a country can play for that country — with Israeli eligibility requirements granting citizenship to those who are Jewish or have Jewish parents or grandparents, and you get former major leaguers like Jason Marquis, Josh Zeid and Scott Burcham, as well as Ike Davis and Ty Kelly, both of whom have Jewish mothers.
First stop, en route to Seoul and, hopefully, Tokyo, is a tour of Team Israel’s supposed homeland, where, beneath their easy camaraderie players reveal previous brushes with anti-Semitism. A casual but lucid exchange with the Palestinian proprietors of a souvenir shop underscores the country’s tense political climate.
Throughout their trek, from being labeled has-beens and wannabes to being hailed as “The Oys of Summer,” Team Israel’s professional and spiritual homecoming makes for buoyant viewing.
‘Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel’
Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Royal, West L.A., Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino