The arrival of spring marks the beginning of the 2019 baseball season. The Fairfield County Connecticut Jewish Baseball League (FCCJBL) existed for 20 years, but closed in 2015 due to lack of participation. However, the influx of young Jewish families into Stamford over the past few years has brought the league back.
Ari Goldstein, FCCJBL’s commissioner, explained, “With the help of Seth Marlowe, who was the previous commissioner, and Jeremy and Alisa Weisser, who helped re-create the website and marketed the league throughout Connecticut and Westchester, we were able to bring the league back online.”
The league’s season this year will run from May 5 through June 16. It is open to both boys and girls ranging in age from 4-14. “It is about skill building, team building and competition,” added Goldstein, “Given the age of the children, we don’t expect to have that many skilled players. Many parents reached out to me prior to signing up and told me their child has never played, can he play in the league? The answer was of course he/she can, this league is for everyone.”
Goldstein described, “the league is split as follows: T-Ball for pre-K and 1st grade, minor league for 2nd-4th grade, and major league for 5th-8th grade. Since this is the first year, we plan on only having T-Ball and minor league.” To date, 45 kids have signed up to be part of the league.
Goldstein continued, “We want each child to learn how to be a team player and to learn that everyone plays a role in making the team successful. This is the first year back and we’re not sure what to expect. A lot of people in the community are excited about the league making a comeback and people remember when their kids used to play. We even have some alumni kids playing. We hope to have a very successful first year and will want to build on that.”
Ezra, age 6, of Stamford, explained, “I love to play baseball because my dad is a coach.” Nine-year old Charlie of Stamford added, “I really like the game and love playing. I have never played little league. My dad played when he was a kid and he was good, so I wanted to see what being in little league would be like.”
SAR Academy also runs a Little League program. “The league is officially run through SAR and played on their Riverdale field but includes students from a variety of Jewish Day Schools in the New York area,” explained Jonathan Martin, SAR’s Little League commissioner, “There are about 70-80 participants with eight teams. There are two or three coaches per team. The entire league is run by volunteer parents with the help of SAR.”
“Our goal is for each player to have fun while gaining knowledge of the game. The intention is to provide all kids with an experience that fosters positive exposure to the sport, positive self-esteem, sportsmanship and individual growth through personal achievement and team play,” added Martin. “Being a league of 1st and 2nd graders, we get a pretty wide range of skill among the players. While most are beginners, some of the older kids are very strong players. In fact, one of the highlights is watching the seasoned players cheering on the beginners and encouraging them. It is incredible how kids often internalize the lessons they get from each other more than those they get from the adults that surround them.”
Martin revealed, “Unlike most other softball leagues, the technical game rules are often relaxed to ensure kids have the chance to get on base and get a feel of the game. Talk of scorekeeping is generally muted so that the coaches can impress on the players that they’re engaging in a game and it’s meant to be fun! The chance to step on the diamond and play a game is a great opportunity that should be cherished. We hope to provide the kids with their first experience with this great sport while they develop self-confidence and joy for the game in a fun, exciting and positive environment.”
Returning SAR player, Esther, who is a SAR second grader, summarized, “I really liked softball last year, and I can’t wait to play again this year.”
A League of Our Own is a girls-only softball league that caters to grades 3-8 and is run by the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. Pamela Moskowitz, the league’s commissioner explained, “The season opener for the Senior League (grades 6-8) starts Wednesday night, April 3, and the Junior League for third, fourth and fifth graders is April 7. The season runs until the middle of June, ending with a world series for the two best teams of both the Junior and Senior Leagues.” Moskowitz also noted, “There are girls who have never played a softball game before and girls who are highly skilled. We have amazing parents, who volunteer to coach and teach the girls in a fun competitive environment. Our main focus is skill-building and good sportsmanship.”
Third grader Alyssa stated, “I can’t wait to start A League of Her Own! I love playing baseball and I just want to get better at playing.” Emma, also in third grade, added, “I’m excited to be on a team with my friends, hit and play in the outfield.” Emma’s personal goal is to hit home runs this season. Fifth grader Ava added, “I just have fun hanging out with my friends. You do get the real experience of playing softball.” So, play ball!
By Judy Berger