From the RedHawks to the Olympics; Penprase to play for Israeli baseball team in Tokyo

Zach Penprase still holds the franchise record for hits, stolen bases and runs scored

Former Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks shortstop Zach Penprase will play for Israel at the Tokyo Olympics later this month/Israel Association of Baseball

FARGO - Zach Penprase thought his baseball playing days were done.

He had officially retired after eight seasons with the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks where he still holds the franchise record for hits, runs scored and stole bases.

"I don't know if there's a word in the English language to describe what Fargo means to me." Penprase said from a New Jersey hotel room. "Everyday I hear from a Fargo fan, it was a huge impact on my life."

Penprase moved on from baseball. He got married and had two daughters. He was working construction with his father and coaching. But baseball never really left. In 2019 Penprase received an email from Peter Kurz, the director of the Israeli Association of Baseball, which had a simple question.

"Would you like an opportunity to play in the Olympics?" is what the email read.


High praise from one of the RedHawks favorites. Zach Penprase played eight years for the team, he still holds the franchise record for hits, runs scored and stolen bases.

"I was like, "I don't know." My wife was like, what are you talking about? After that things snapped, and I called him everyday until we figured it out."

Penprase, who's mom is Jewish was back in the batter's box.. He was in the starting lineup, playing shortstop for the baseball shocker as Israel beat South Africa in September of 2019 to qualify Israel for the Tokyo Olympics.

"It's a whirlwind of emotions and I think we're starting to get excited. I think we know it's going to hit during the Opening Ceremonies when we're walking into the stadium, even if there are not any fans."

Penprase has kept his skills sharp by returning to the Independent Leagues. He's been playing with the New York Boulders in the Frontier League. That came about thanks to two former RedHawk teammates, TJ Stanton and Kole Zimmerman.

"I knew I needed about 30 games to get the kinks out and get my body in shape. I reached out to my old buddy TJ and initially he said they couldn't work it out. But at the last minute, he said 'Hey we can make this work.' It just worked out perfectly."


Penprase has played in 34 games for the Boulders, he has a .254 batting average with 15 RBI and 14 stolen bases.

In a beyond bizarre coincidence, the Boulders played Team Israel Monday night. The Israelis won 7-1 in five innings on a team that has a few former major leaguers like Ian Kinsler and former Minnesota Twin Danny Valencia. They leave for Tokyo next week and already looking ahead to a matchup with Team USA on July 30th.

"It's like David vs Goliath. We look at ourselves as American Israelis, and we truly have nothing to lose."

That saying couldn't hold more meaning for Penprase, who envisions this is truly his last time around the bases with the game he loves.

"It's been a tough month for me and my wife being away from one another. You can't raise a family on a Independent League salary. I've been doing this two years longer than I thought so I think I'm going to hang it up."

"I think it be cool to have that picture with my cleats hanging up in my locker in Tokyo and say 'I'm out.'


Penprase and Team Israel open play at the Olympics July 29th against South Korea. His fandom with the RedHawks isn't over either, the Zach Penprase bobblehead will be unveiled August 21st when the Hawks host the Houston Apollos.

David Samson / The Forum Former RedHawks shortstop Zach Penprase batted .303 with 23 doubles, 56 RBIs, 72 runs and 30 stolen bases in 97 games last season.

Dom Izzo is the Sports Director at WDAY-TV. He began working for WDAY in 2006 as the weekend sports anchor and was promoted to Sports Director in 2010.
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