On Sunday June 16, Stamford Mayor David Martin delighted the players and families of the Fairfield County Connecticut Jewish Baseball League (FCCJBL) by attending the games on the grounds of Stamford’s Newfield Elementary School and throwing out a ceremonial first pitch.
Wearing an FCCJBL Prophets team jersey, Mayor Martin informed the group that as Mayor he has the right to appoint people to important positions. He had injured his shoulder two days earlier, so he asked the players “Who would you like to be appointed to be the pitcher?” Ten year old Yechiel Siegel was selected. As Stamford straddles both New England and New York, the Mayor diplomatically asked Siegel, “Do you like the Yankees, Mets or Red Sox?” Siegel surprised the Mayor and proudly stated the Dodgers! Siegel’s pitch cleared home plate. The mayor then posed for pictures with the teams, signed a few baseballs and then the regularly scheduled games were played.
After 20 years, FCCJBL 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. This inaugural season of the reborn league had 80 participants.
League Commissioner Ari Goldstein explained, “When the league existed in the past, usually for the last games of the season, we would have a special opening ceremony. We would invite someone to throw out the first pitch. After the games, we would have a reception and an award ceremony, where both kids and coaches received medals. I called the Mayor’s office but he was unavailable to attend our final games of the season. However, he was happy to come on the 16th, our second to last game day.”
“This whole league is just one big community,” Goldstein commented. “Everyone comes down on a Sunday; they bring their whole family. All the parents are so appreciative, which speaks well of the Stamford community,”
Goldstein described, “The league is split as follows: T-Ball for pre-K—1st grade, minor league for 2nd-4th grade, and major league for 5th-8th grade,” then listed the Jewishly inspired team names: Kohanim, Levites, Angels, Prophets, Kings, and Maccabees. “We chose these names because we couldn’t choose MLB teams given where we’re located in New England and have three ‘local’ baseball teams. A Yankees fan wouldn’t want to be on the Red Sox and Mets fan wouldn’t want to be on the Yankees and so on, therefore we decided the safest bet was choosing Biblical teams.”
Ayelet Steinberg, parent of Oshri of the Angels and Nili of the Prophets, explained, “We live in Old Greenwich, but we’re happy to see Stamford’s mayor recognize the importance of youth sports and community building by throwing out the first pitch at Sunday’s game. It’s especially important for us as a community because our kids aren’t able to take part in activities that take place on Saturdays. Thanks to Ari Goldstein for resurrecting this league. Our kids are able to fully appreciate the sport. They don’t have to worry about a practice being on Shabbat or if the food that will be served at the last game is kosher.”
Stamford resident Doni Perl added, “I enjoyed spending my Sunday afternoons outside with both my kids and the broader community. Coaching in the T-ball division, I enjoyed watching the kindergarteners and first graders on my team get better and gain confidence each week. I think it was tremendously meaningful that the Mayor came out last week. Although it may have been a bit over my T-ballers’ heads, there was a heated debate on our field as to whether the Mayor was or was not the same person as President Trump.”
Perl concluded, “I think Mayor Martin’s support of the growing Jewish community in Stamford is wonderful. The city, in general, has been exceptionally gracious over the past few years, installing a crosswalk in front of the Young Israel of Stamford and working with so many of our local institutions in a variety of important ways.”
By Judy Berger