CINCINNATI -- Pitcher Jon Moscot had just packed up his car Thursday morning and begun the journey from his Southern California home to the Reds' Spring Training complex in Goodyear, Ariz. That drive came on the heels of what could be described as a transformative trip to Israel for Moscot.
Among 10 Jewish-American pro ballplayers from Team Israel's 2017 World Baseball Classic squad, Moscot enjoyed a six-day trip meant to connect the Middle Eastern country with the players who will be representing it in the March tournament.
"It was unbelievable. I didn't have much expectations going into it. I have family there. I knew I would get to see them and have a good time," Moscot said. "What it turned out to be was this incredible journey through the history of Israel and seeing Jerusalem and the Old City, going to places that have been there for thousands of years and getting immersed in the culture and religion."
The only other time Moscot had been to Israel was as an 8-year-old boy, with his father after his grandmother's death. He has an uncle and several cousins who live there now.
Moscot, 25, was to play for Team Israel in the Classic, but that wasn't possible after he suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow that required Tommy John surgery in July. Israel opens the tournament in South Korea on March 6.
"I wish I could play in it," he said. "There was such a strong bond created for the guys who were there. Everyone got to experience that magnificent cultural heritage. They took care of us so well. Even though I can't play, I still feel like I am part of the team. I will be rooting those guys on, big time."
Some of the other players on the trip included free agent Sam Fuld and Cody Decker of the Brewers. They were part of the groundbreaking for Israel's first legitimate baseball facility as they try to encourage Israeli kids to embrace and participate in baseball. The current baseball culture is mostly American expatriates and their children. But there was plenty of enthusiasm, especially during an autograph session.
"I don't think I've ever seen kids as excited as when we came out there," Moscot said. "Kids were knocking the table over as we signed because they couldn't wait."
The group also saw Tel Aviv, Jaffa and the Old City of Jerusalem. A crew from Ironbound Films captured everything on camera for a documentary about the tour and about playing for Team Israel in the 2017 Classic.
"We went to the Dead Sea, climbed Mount Masada, had dinner in a Bedouin tent and rode camels," Moscot explained. "It was a really authentic experience. We ate great food, saw outside the city and the actual country and did some really fun stuff."
While in Israel, the group learned of a terrorist attack that killed four people in Jerusalem. They were an hour away in Masada at the time.
"You get to feel the real life there," Moscot said. "It's humbling and makes you appreciate what we have here in America. At the same time, you yearn for the people who live there and go through it every day."
The end of the Israeli trip meant it was time for Moscot to resume the less pleasant journey of coming back from Tommy John surgery and getting his career back on track.
Moscot was optioned to Triple-A Louisville on June 7 after he went 0-3 with an 8.02 ERA in five starts. He injured his elbow a month later. Three starts into his big league career in 2015, he separated his left non-throwing shoulder on a freak play and needed season-ending surgery.
The elbow rehab has been tedious, but his arm feels good. A big moment will come Monday in Arizona, when Moscot is scheduled to resume throwing for the first time since his surgery.
No longer on the Reds' 40-man roster, Moscot is eager to put his two injury-filled years behind him.
"They needed the roster space, and I was clearly not going to play this year. I get it. It's a business decision," Moscot said. "But no matter what happened, I have to come back and prove myself.
"Nothing is handed to you in this game. I'm looking forward to that challenge. I have a lot to prove at the big league level that I haven't done yet. I'm confident I can get back on the map."
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.