Baseball: An Institution Worth Defending & League Perspectives
Home Runs &
Team Loyalty, Lucky-Chai
and League Perspectives
So how is it that on the one hand, I fight tooth and nail to propel WC to the league championship while on the other hand, I have no qualms in playing for another team with the same vigor and intensity that I would for my own team? I believe that it comes down to my own “temporary” sense of loyalty to the host team and my passion to play baseball whenever and with whomever I can. For whatever reason, I have the ability to transcend what is in the immediate best interest of WC by assuming the “loyalties” for whichever team I am selected to play. And I believe that “loyalty” is the correct word here: completely faithful to a team for nine innings. From the moment that I step into a team’s dugout, I am there to help them win. However, at the conclusion of the game when I finally exit the dugout, my temporary transformation is over and my only concern is the standing of WC.
I believe that loyalty goes a long way towards the success or failure of a team to perform. My definition of loyalty equates simply to showing up for every game, continuously improving your hitting and fielding so that your team contribution can be felt, coordinating your athletic prowess with that of every other team player and working collectively towards a common goal of winning games. There are teams like WC where virtually every member of the team wants to get into every game, week in and week out. Each player on my team knows the strengths and weaknesses of his fellow player and he adapts and adjusts accordingly. This is knowledge gained simply by playing regularly and consistently with a group of men who share a common goal of dominating the playing field. It does not always work (e.g. our recent loss to Sterling) but more times than not, we land on our feet victorious.
Loyalty, of course, comes in all shapes and sizes. There is, for example, the player that simply wants to play recreational baseball, just for the fun of it, and if it is convenient, he will show up for the game. And then there are players like me that will attend a wedding for 30 minutes, leave promptly for a game, and return to the wedding for the dance finale. By the end of the wedding, my personal aroma after the game will fit right in nicely with the smell of the men that have been dancing for hours.
There are, of course, extenuating circumstances which prohibit your appearance at a game, or a simcha. For example, yesterday was the vort for Sam’s daughter and I really wanted to attend to show Sam my support and “loyalty” as a friend. However, as fate would have it, my family and I were saying our final goodbyes to our wonderful dog Lucky (who was put to sleep this morning) who was absolutely one of my most “loyal” and loving friends.
Lucky was also a RJSL fan. She attended many games over the years and always enjoyed the attention of the frum children who wanted to pet her beautiful, soft shiny fur. Lucky was always so delicate with the children, and at nearly 90 pounds, certainly outweighed most of them. After every inning, I would walk over to Lucky and enjoy the attention that the children were throwing at her and answer their myriad questions regarding if she bites and can they pet her.
I took Lucky to her last RJSL baseball game just a week or so ago to watch the Jada vs. Marv’les game. I knew that she was on her last leg (she was 11 years old which is a very advanced age for a large dog) and I wanted to spend as much time with her as possible before she left us. Although I made plans to sit with Lucky in the stands, chance would have it that Jada was down one player and requested my help. Although in jeans and sneakers, I played and Lucky complacently watched me assist Jada defeat Marv’les.
I’m convinced that goodness, no matter from a human or an animal, is embraced by all who wittingly or unwittingly come in contact. One of the gruffest and most aggressive players on the Jada roster suggested that I move Lucky away from the dugout entrance so that no one would inadvertently step on her. His unexpected kindness and concern had to be in reaction to Lucky’s incredible kindness and wonderful nature. I, in particular, will miss the radiance, love and loyalty of this most precious friend and as soon as this enormous hole in my heart heals, I will consider renaming my team “Lucky Chai”. Lucky 18! It may indeed have a nice ring to it. Menachem, what do you think?
So, what’s going on in the league? Talk about a close race! This is crazy!! If we were any closer together we would all be residing in a commune. This is like a horse race, with each team jockeying for position. So, let’s start with the first place team Westrock-Chai (WC). These guys have not won a game in three games, tying Merockdim, losing to Samet and then losing to Sterling. Not a good trend for a team that wants another shot at the championship title. Captain Romer better start making better use of his “A Team” if he wants to lead the competition this season.
Samet, on the other hand, has won four straight and is right there in the running. Their next game against Marv’les will be their strongest challenge in four games, if Captain Sam shows up with his “A” Team. I’m not sure yet if Samet has what it takes or has their recent success simply been a string of good luck. The proof will be in the pudding next Sunday at 11:15 a.m. I, for one, intend to be a spectator (unless, of course, I’m needed to play!) at this game.
If you are reading this blog, then you probably already know that Marv’les is in 2nd place (tied with Jada). What more is there to say? These guys are working it and making it happen. I happened to play for Jada when they defeated Marv’les on Tuesday evening, May 19th. As Captain Sam aptly encapsulated in his game summary, both teams played incredibly sloppy baseball and that Jada just happened to end up on top was as much of a freak accident as if Marv’les had prevailed. I look forward to witnessing a Marv’les victory with no holds barred so that I can personally discern the true guts of this team as they battle their way to 1st place.
That brings me to Jada, also tied for 2nd place. I happen to have a personal affinity for this team since I either played on the same team with or against many of these men in the recently defunct synagogue league such as pitcher Vic Fein, center fielder Mike Chassen, left fielder Jeff Astor, catcher Stephen Gruenebaum, short stop Larry Stern and third baseman Avi Stern. These are all tried and true warriors who blend seamlessly with the talents of an Aaron Cohen or a Yakkov Speath (if we can ever get him to stop working and show up for a game). Since I have history with these men, I know their talent level and when I tell you that they recently perpetrated the “Perfect Storm” against an RJSL team, I am not exaggerating. I don’t believe that any natural disaster could have wrecked more havoc and devastation than Jada recently committed against the Framers. Jada pitcher Vic Fein pitched a brilliant game and his supporting defensive team was on the money all night long. And boy did they all hit, everywhere, with impunity! There were lots of long faces on the Framer’s team that evening and I couldn’t help but to feel badly for them, and their captain, my good friend, Avi Katz. Interestingly enough, neither of the team captains were present for this game and maybe there is a lesson here to be learned. Captain Avi, I strongly recommend that you think twice before missing a future game because you are the soul of your team. A team without its soul is like a vampire without his fangs. And Captain Yechiel Rubin, here is a little food for thought. You have a great team on your hands with all of the potential to go the distance. However, work closely and cooperatively with team members Vic Fein and Larry Stern and you will have a USS Enterprise on your hands, capable of sinking all ships on the horizon.
So, what about Merockdim? They are currently in 6th place, although that does not mean anything since they are within two points of first place! Merockdim, like WC, has lost some steam of late and needs to recapture their momentum from earlier in the season. Captain Effy has been noticeably quiet over the past week or two and I haven’t heard even a blip from him via the captains email network. Maybe silence is golden, or else still water runs deep. What I am sure of is that we have not heard the last from the campers who are probably out right now looking for their second wind. I am confident that they will find it.
Sterling, like Samet, has had a very rough start this season but the sleeping giant appears to be awakening! They definitively defeated WC last Sunday 11-6 and showed both competence and determination at both bat and in the field. A week earlier, Sterling demolished the campers 15-2, although they subsequently lost to the Framers on Monday night, May 18th, 9-5. As I write this blog, I am watching the Monday night Sterling vs. Bubbas game from my car. It’s quite wet out there but both teams are slugging it out. With Sterling taking an early 4-0 lead, Bubbas is attempting a come-back but still trails at the end of two innings 6-3. Tonight, both Avi Baren and Benzie Raice are vacuuming up every ball that is hit anywhere near them. However, I was just informed that at the end of nine innings, Bubbas defeated Sterling 9-8. What a surprise! I certainly did not see that one coming. So, Sterling remains in 7th place just ahead of Bubbas, who is still bringing up the rear.
Well, Bubbas win tonight further proves the great potential of this young team. These guys live on the edge, stealing third base time and again while they force opportunities like the Sterling of bygone days. My problem is that I simply do not understand the fabric of this team, yet. I can never figure out if they are coming or going. I’m hoping that with a little team discipline and “loyalty”, and well directed leadership from Captain Yaakov, Bubbas will make a successful run for the pennant.