Jun 29, 2012
By Raimundo Ortiz
On Sunday, Young Israel of North Woodmere (YINW) braved the sweltering humidity and moat-like remainders of last week’s heavy thunderstorms at Lawrence Middle School to kick off the Five Towns Shuls Softball League’s seventh season with an impressive 18-4 win over Edwards Avenue.
League commissioner Gordon Zisholtz, of YINW, arrived at Lawrence Middle School more than an hour before game time to prepare the field for the ensuing onslaught of fun and witty repartee. While plopping the bases in their proper spots, and carefully placing one foot in front of the other to form foul lines constructed by orange cones, Zisholtz expressed gratitude to the hosts of his games.
“We can’t thank the Lawrence public school system enough,” he said. “Especially Lawrence High School and Lawrence Middle School. They’re great.”
The game featured fireworks in the first inning, when YINW’s Michael Theiss swatted an inside the park home run in his first at-bat in several years with the team, plating two. Edwards Avenue responded with four runs in the bottom of the first, but that was the last time their offense made any noise.
In the second inning, the charms and quirks of recreational softball were on full display when YINW’s Alex Saje was called out at second base while a pitch was being thrown. Saje, whose company NYS-Tees sponsored YINW’s baby blue T-shirts and caps, took a step off of second base which constituted an illegal lead. After briefly protesting, Saje trudged back to the steps serving as his dugout while his teammates snickered and shook their heads. “I feel like I need to appeal that,” Saje said several innings later in a voice indicating equal parts amusement and exasperation.
After the base running gaffe, YINW’s offense turned on the jets and never looked back. The next six hitters reached base on a combination of three singles, a walk, and a double by Avi Cohen scoring for a total of five runs in the inning.
In the third and fourth innings, YINW kept the hits coming and scored another 11 runs.
Even Zisholtz proved he is far more than a softball bureaucrat. The man YINW calls “Commissioner” Gordon, both his literal title and a clever reference to Gotham City’s top cop, walked and doubled on Sunday. He also took the mound for two innings, walking two and surrendering a solitary single.
The outcome of the game was secondary, though, in the grand scheme of things. The purpose of the league was to get people together once a week to represent their Shuls, and bring the members closer together. The Five Towns Shul Softball League places no restrictions on who can play, creating a welcoming and fun environment. “It’s cool to see kids playing now who were in Little League when we first formed this league,” said Jack Aspir of YINW. “You have all ages coming together, from teenagers to men in their fifties. It brings a great sense of camaraderie to a group of people you would normally just say hello to once a week at Shul.”
That friendliness was easy to see when the teams began arriving for the game. Due to a lack of benches on Lawrence Middle School’s baseball field, a large set of stone steps served as the dugout for both sides. As they mingled the atmosphere was collegial. They all set their bags, bats, gloves and cleats down, stretched out and talked with each other about work, their kids, and the several ponds scattered on the infield that were beyond raking and shoveling.
While competition is not the emphasis of the league, that aspect is not lost on Aspir. “Nothing beats crushing the ball for a double when your eight-year-old is there to watch you and says, ‘Wow Dad, nice hit!’”
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