Home Runs & Season Perspectives
For Love of the Game and League Perspectives
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Sometimes, just before the beginning of a game, when my team has taken the field and is ready to rock and roll, I walk out onto the pitchers mound and I announce at the top of my lungs: “Do you know what we get to do today? We get to play baseball!” My “unusual” display of energy and excitement always seems to promote a sense of unity and competitiveness amongst the Westrock-Chai (WC) players, which we have capitalized on time and time again.
But what is it about this game that makes it so addictive? What is the draw? The fact is, baseball is a great game and an even better cathartic endeavor. When I was a kid, all of my troubles living in the gang infested inner city of Washington Heights disappeared when I was in the batters box swinging for the fences. For that short period of time, I no longer concerned myself with the gangs, the guns, and the drugs that surrounded me. For nine blissful innings, all I cared about was defending my team and batting in runs.
In a sense, I get to do the same thing today. The gangs and the guns and the drugs have all been replaced by different (healthier) pressures like paying the mortgage, the tuition for yeshiva and seminary and taking care of my family. For nine invigorating innings, I get to forget about my myriad responsibilities and play baseball with the 16 wonderful individuals that make up the WC roster. Most of us playing in the RJSL have very time consuming, full time jobs, support a demanding wife and children, have tremendous pressures to meet the financial burdens of a frum way of life, and yet, week in and week out, show up to play baseball. I personally think that it is a blessing that we get to do this. I know for myself, if I did not have this “escape”, I would implode.
What’s particularly great about my position as catcher is that I get to play “catch” up with many of my friends and acquaintances when they step up to the plate to bat. I inquire about their health and the health of their families, or I comment on a great play they may have made during the course of the game, or maybe we will just toss a joke or two at one another. Another advantage of being catcher is that I get to personally meet all of t he new recruits, the young guys who I would otherwise never come in contact or some of the new older guys who turn out to be wonderful individuals. The truth be told, virtually everyone I know or care about in Monsey has been introduced to me through local sports, particularly baseball.
OK, so what’s going on in the league? Samet just can’t seem to get their act together. After four straight losses, they are in last place. I played with Marv’les last Sunday as a reserve player when they beat Samet 5-2. In an email today, I wrote David Samet the following message: “One other thing: you have a bunch of home run hitters on your team who should be hitting hard line drives for base hits. That's how you did it last year and that's what it's going to take to win this year. You have to shove t his fact down their throats until they get it. Once they get it, you will be a force which will be very difficult to reckon with.” Well, that’s all I have to say on that issue.
Marv’les, on the other hand, simply made it happen. They kept the ball out of the air, avoided unnecessary pop-ups and played solid defense. A few clutch hits and the game was theirs for the taking. What I particularly appreciated was that Marv’les played as a solid unit, maintained a good mental attitude and had “fun”. It was a pleasure to be around those guys and I hope that I have the opportunity again soon.
Sterling has finally won their first game. Sterling always reminds me of the analogy of the sleeping giant who is very quiet when asleep but acrimonious when awakened. I personally prefer that Sterling sleep deeply this season but those guys have quite a strong mind of their own and I’m certain that we will be feeling the effects of the Sterling onslaught before long.
Bubbas: no change there. Maybe they have to change their diet? Too many bagels can exhaust the best of men. Maybe a higher protein diet will rectify their competitive woes. Something has to give to get this young team on a winning streak. What ever magic Bubbas captain, Yaakov Katsof, initiated at the end of last season, he better find it again, fast, if he wants to keep his team out of the doldrums.
Jada put up one heck of a fight last Sunday against WC. This team has been afforded a radical infusion of new talent from the former synagogue league including former commissioner and center fielder Mike Chassen, lefty hitter Jeff Astor, veteran pitcher Victor "Vic" Fein, and the father/son Stern team, Larry and Avi. Add lefty catcher Stephen Gruenbaum, the maniacal hitting of Aaron Cohen coupled with a strong, focused outfield and you have a lethal weapon on your hands. To say that they gave us a hard time would be an understatement. Between the rain and the mud and the small lake which was forming on home base, I’m surprised that the game wasn’t played sloppily. In fact, considering the adverse physical environment, the game was competitive, well fought and at any time, could have gone the other way in terms of who would be the last man standing.
At this juncture, Framing has only played two games, one strong win against Samet and one game stolen from WC. As far as I’m concerned, Avi’s Framers could give many of us a headache this year with the likes of Shmuel Ber Robinson, the Tenembaum family, my old friends Eli Gelb and David Hoffman and a new, young, incredibly talented third basemen, Mendy Halpert. This kid has hands of gold; almost nothing gets past his glove and his throwing arm is without exaggeration, deadly. Avi has the opportunity to do something exceptional this year if he can consistently marshal his pool of talent during the course of the season (particularly the summertime when certain key players become less available).
Last, but not least, Effi and his band of Merockdims are still sitting pretty in first place with three wins. Personally, I predicted that Merockdim would lose tonight to Marv’les but due to a rain-out, Effi was able to escape unscathed. Just so you can discern some of the behind the scenes dynamics between competitive RJSL captains, the following is an email dialogue that transpired today between Effi and me:
Captain Effy: Your making a party?
Captain Steve: Yes, that's why you are being invited.
Captain Effy: I don’t need food but I will try to stop by. So you could see who is going to win this year
Captain Steve: Well, you will certainly be able to put your money where your mouth is. Let's see what you can do with Sam tonight and then I will introduce you to my A team on Sunday (If I can get them out of bed!)
Captain Effy: Its supposed to rain and I have my c team tonight
Captain Steve: Well, we just beat Jada in the rain yesterday, so I have no problem doing the same thing next Sunday.
Captain Effy: Were playing Sunday!!!!
Captain Steve: Sounds like a plan. See you Sunday.
Well, boys will be boys. I think that is part of what makes baseball great. The game keeps us young and vivacious and serves as a median of fun and entertainment. If you guys were ever privy to the captain’s email forum, you “certainly” would be entertained. But, that’s another story for another day.