Mazel Tov! You’re reading the the 100th post on KING OF JEWISH BASEBALL, the greatest blog of all time, the blog responsible for ending all racism and all hunger. In 2 years, I, King of All Jewish Baseball, literary genius, baseball deity, have composed 100 of the finest blog posts on this, or any other, Earth, using only the combined resources of the scientific community, including all human knowledge and technology, dinosaur magic, and the internet, of course.
It is only appropriate that for this monumentous occasion, this centennial, that I share one of the great secrets of Israel Baseball with you. If you recall, faithful reader, which I am almost sure you do, I have mentioned, many times, “Baptist Village”. But what, you have wondered, laying sleepless, reading by the light of your cell phone in bed, is a Baptist Village? – And what does it have to do with baseball? – In Israel? – Is it like an Ewok Village, but instead of Ewoks, there are Southern Baptists living in trees, communicating with a series of unintelligible chirps and gutteral clicks, walking from tree house to tree house on rope ladders? Well, yes, that is exactly what it is like, except far, far stranger.
Welcome to Baptist Village. The Baptists are high in the treetops. SSSSHHHH.
Baptist Village is located in Petach Tikvah, 25 minutes from Tel Aviv, near the internationally-known Green Line. As you pull off the highway to the Village, in the background are the dotted, dry hills of West Bank. In the Village are a few fields of crops, a train runs along the boundary of the property, and, of course, inside the inner fence, deep into the village, through a winding path that goes around the crops, there is one softball field, and one baseball field, at night, the lights glowing like a spaceship. Around the softball and baseball fields are small white cotttages with red roofs, modest 1 or 2 story buildings. For years, Baptist people from America and from around the world have come to visit Israel and stay at the Village. But, why, exactly, did a group of Baptists build a baseball field in Israel, a place where, by appearances, no one played baseball? To answer your question as consicely and vigorously as possible, I DON’T KNOW. It defies logic. But no one here thinks it’s strange. Like anything strong enough to simply exist, it seems normal. But, that answer is not enough for an immigrant like me, so, as is my habit, I investigated.
There is a plaque behind the softball field with some of the history of Baptist Village. It says the Village has been there since 1955. It used to be an orphanage. That is where the cottages come from. For decades, the village was just open space, fields for farming, or nothing at all. It wasn’t an orphanage anymore, and not a baseball facility yet. In 2002, after the 2nd intifada, saftey fences went up around the Village, fences to protect, well, nothing. But the Baptists had to do something with the land. Let’s say you’re the Baptist Church, in Tenessee, or Kentucky, and you have this land in Israel, you have to do something with the land, but not something too disruptive, this is, after all, a quiet place, a place for people to stay for a couple weeks when they’re visiting the Holy Land. You want to build something, but something no one will really use. So you build a baseball field, a nice one, even, lights and all.
At the time the Baptists built the field, I don’t think they knew if anyone played baseball here. But Peter, or Haim, or someone, heard about it, and went to see what was happening. And it has been headquarters for the Israel Association of Baseball.
All Premier League and many Junior League games are played at the Village. All 5 of our national teams practice there. Our umpire training course takes place there. We have a “clubhouse” there, one of the old orphanage cottages turned part storage, part Israel Baseball Museum, with memorabiliah from Maccabi Games past, and jerseys hanging on the walls. We store our uniforms there, and much of our equipment. There is no alcohol allowed on the premise. We are asked to not swear, and, if we must, to be discreet when we change into or out of uniform by the dugouts. We use the field at Baptist Village 5 days a week. On my phone, on my GPS, I have the location listed as “work”, it is my office, our office. It is still the only legitimate full-sized baseball field in the country.
And so we have a partnership that was never intended to be, the Baptist Church and the Israel Association of Baseball, living in perfect harmony, taking batting practice a few kilometers from the West Bank, almost in range of a long foul ball.
On this historical 1ooth blog post, the King of Jewish Baseball would like to thank the Baptist Churh for building a baseball field where no one needed one, for whatever reason. We’re making good use of it.
The field at Baptist Village. Petach Tikvah, Israel.