Southfield-Lathrup High School is no more.
Opened in 1967, the school closed in 2016 because of declining enrollment and financial struggles in the Southfield School District. S-L is now the district’s University High School Academy.
Memories of S-L live on in a men’s slow-pitch softball team, of all things.
The Lizards, formed in 1975 by S-L grads who wanted to stay in touch, completed their 42nd season in the Southfield Open Men’s Class D League this summer.
They went 18-0, winning 14 regular-season games and four games in the playoffs to capture their second league title in three years.
Player-coach Dennis Horwitz, 62, has been on the team since its inception. The 1972 S-L graduate is the team’s lone remaining tie to the school. Wayne Miller, another original team member, stopped playing for the Lizards after the 2015 season.
An infusion of younger and new players through the years has changed the look of the team. Horwitz thinks the team’s median age these days is probably in the late 20s.
“Experience can only take you so far in slow-pitch softball,” he said. “You need young players to be successful.”
The youngest player on the team is 22-year-old Eric Horwitz, Dennis’ son.
“I was Eric’s age when I started playing on the Lizards,” Dennis said. “Eric was the team’s batboy starting when he was 4 and he began playing with us when he was 16.”
Eric is still a batboy. He’s done that job for the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park the past six summers.
Other players on the Lizards include Matt Broder, brothers Danny and Johnny Deutsch, Barry Fishman, Jake Holoway, Matt Kash, Andrew Kaye, Garret Segal and Ryan Weiss. All live in Farmington Hills or West Bloomfield. There are no Southfield or Lathrup Village residents on the team.
Broder is the most acclaimed athlete on the Lizards’ roster. The 2008 Jewish News Male High School Athlete of the Year from Cranbrook-Kingswood went on to pitch for the University of Michigan baseball team.
“We keep playing together because we enjoy the camaraderie and we like playing ball,” Dennis Horwitz said. “We’re successful because the guys know the fundamentals of the game. They know how to play. I’ll keep playing as long as I can. It’s year to year.”
League games are played Thursday nights at Inglenook Park off 12 Mile Road between Evergreen and Lahser roads. The park is within walking distance of what used to be S-L, which also is off 12 Mile just east of Evergreen.
There’s no great story behind the Lizards team name.
“We were talking about a name one day, came up with Lizards, and it stuck,” Dennis Horwitz said.
Perhaps the most famous member of the original Lizards team was Gary Friedman, an acclaimed photojournalist at the Los Angeles Times who died in June after a 15-year battle with prostate cancer. He was 62.
Friedman covered the 9-11 terrorist attacks, presidential elections, the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, the Super Bowl and the Olympics. He won a World Press Photo award in 1981 for his photos of twin women conjoined at the head.
After beginning his professional career at age 16 at the Southfield Eccentric newspaper and graduating from Wayne State University, Friedman earned an internship in 1976 at National Geographic magazine. He worked for the Los Angeles Times from 1980 until his retirement in 2015.
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