The Commish Speaks: An Incredible Season
Thursday, September 21, 2016

I have not written one of these in quite some time but these playoffs have been so incredible that I had to chime in. I’m not going to try to steal Steve’s thunder or make any predictions. I just want to state the obvious. We have all created a wonderful league and the modifications, planning and hard work by everyone involved is very much appreciated. The goal is for players to show up to a beautiful pristine field isolated from the madness of our daily lives and interact with our friends and family while playing this wonderful game.

Unfortunately, things got away from us over the last few years as we settled into an ultra-competitive environment where only two teams had a realistic shot of winning the championship. We quickly realized that the talent pool was not sufficient to allow for eight to ten competitive teams so Marv and I got to work over the winter along with the captains and came up with various paradigms which were eventually abandoned. Our final attempt was the “Talent Cap”, an idea I had bouncing around in my head for quite some time. It was a radical approach but Marv and I felt if properly implemented could bring the league back on track and continue to operate successfully for years to come. The basic mechanics are similar to the “Salary Cap”. Each player was ranked and teams were allowed to have an average player ranking of no more than 6.5 (out of 10). Additionally, no team was allowed to have more than five players ranked 8 or above. Finally, new players were ranked as a 5 given the need to incentivize captains to recruit new players for the league. The results speak for themselves. We had one of the most enjoyable and competitive regular seasons in recent memory. We have a 5 and 6 seed competing for the championship. We have watched The Merockdim Campers and RWC Warriors develop into amazing teams over the last month. Merockdim took down superpowers Westrock and PSONJ in successive series. This prompted Marv to joke that they deserve the trophy regardless of whether or not they win it all or not. The defense has been amazing. Players are stepping up and making great plays in pressure situations. It’s really amazing to watch and I encourage everyone to come out and watch Game 2 of this series on Sunday.

It’s hard to believe that this is our 15th season as the RJSL. Our first year was 2002 and we had 22 players and two teams. Marv had a pickup league going on and although we played on the same field our paths did not cross unless after the 2003 season when we agreed to merge for the 2004 season. Prior to 2002 and the development of Eugen Levy Park, we played a Sunday morning pickup game at Colton School on Grandview where the left field fence was only 150 ft from home plate. Hitting it over the fence was a double. The field was awful and all of us dreamed of playing on a beautiful field with lights. I had played in the Jerusalem Softball League for two years, 1997-1998, on a beautiful field in Kibbutz Gezer. The players were an eclectic bunch from all walks of life (very different than the homogenous flavor that exists today). I dreamed of establishing a similar league in Chicago but in 1999 we continued our Sunday morning and Wednesday evening pick-up games. It was great getting together with friends twice a week and I started imagining a league that was a synthesis of the Jerusalem Softball League and our Chicago game. Back in 2000, which was my first softball experience in Monsey, the Colton field was not exactly the dream. No field, no commitment and no time produced a game that eventually fizzled out until….. One Friday in the early summer of 2002 when Scotty Dembitzer twisted my arm to play some basketball at this new park on route 45. After the first game, I decided to look around and walked up to the top of the hill. I could not believe my eyes. The plans immediately started forming in my mind and I started moving through the process; players, insurance, permits, umpires, planning. I was insistent that we establish two teams and not have a choose-up. Most people thought I was nuts but we needed to start the right way. Sadly, my father passed away the evening/morning of our inaugural game and Yonah Rothman thankfully acted as interim commissioner to make sure everything ran smoothly. He made sure everything got done according to my specifications even dealing with Harold the umpire. Since those days the league has exploded with wonderful people and players. The RJSL has spun off other leagues including the RJFL, RJFL junior and RJBL. I know many relationships and friendships have blossomed over the years including mine and Marv’s. So for that we owe all of you who play the games and entertain us a big thank you. We will continue to make improvements so this league can continue to grow and flourish.

Wishing everyone and their families a ksiva v’chasima tova and a gut and gebenched yur.

Sam Wainhaus


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