Past winners of the Michael Yendick “Pure Heart” Award and members of Yendick’s family at this year’s award presentation
Past winners of the Michael Yendick “Pure Heart” Award and members of Yendick’s family at this year’s award presentation

All the umpires in the Inter-Congregational Men’s Club Summer Softball League know Jeff Diskin.

But that’s not a bad thing.

“Jeff is a good soul,” said longtime league umpire-in-chief Rob Landaw. “He fits the name of the award 100 percent.”

The award is the Michael Yendick “Pure Heart” Award.

Above: Past winners of the Michael Yendick “Pure Heart” Award and members of Yendick’s family at this year’s award presentation

Originally presented in the B’nai B’rith softball league, the award became part of the Inter-Congregational league in 2017 after the B’nai B’rith league folded and several ex-B’nai B’rith league players joined the Inter-Congregational league.

The Inter-Congregational league’s umpires now determine the winner of the Yendick Award.

Yendick was a longtime B’nai B’rith softball league player who died from colon cancer in 2000. The award in his name is presented annually to a player “who exhibits the strength of character, effort, competitive spirit and heart that defined Michael Yendick,” according to the award plaque.

“A mentsh always, Michael was an unyielding competitor who maximized his physical attributes and encouraged others to do the same. The recipients of the award share these qualities and ensure that his legacy will continue to inspire others,” the plaque reads.

Landaw said Diskin’s sportsmanship and good nature are well known to the Inter-Congregational league’s seven umpires.

“When Jeff’s name came up in our discussions about the Yendick Award, everybody knew who he was,” Landaw said.

There’s another reason why Diskin is known by the umpires in a league with 18 teams.

“I’m a catcher, so I talk to the umps all the time. I’m in their face,” Diskin said, obviously joking. “It’s just friendly banter. I’ve never argued a call, and I never will.”

Landaw has been a part of that banter.

“Jeff is always kibitzing with us,” he said.

Diskin, a Commerce Township resident, has played in the Inter-Congregational league for at least 10 years. Now a member of the Adat Shalom Synagogue No. 1 team, he played when Adat Shalom had only one team.

He said he was shocked when he learned he won the Yendick Award.

“I didn’t even know I was in contention,” he said. “I don’t do what I do for recognition. It’s a way of life for me. Somehow recognition keeps popping up.”

Diskin also won the Inter-Congregational league’s Jeff Fox Sportsmanship Award a few years ago. That award is named for a Temple Shir Shalom softball player who died in 2011.

It’s probably no surprise that Diskin loves playing in the Inter-Congregational league for reasons that have nothing to do with the standings.

“It’s the camaraderie and seeing guys every week who you grew up with,” he said. “I think our league is more about getting some exercise and having fun than being competitive. I know I’m not out there worrying about wins and losses.”

After being a stay-at-home father for 12 years for three daughters — now ages 16-20, including twin 16-year-olds — Diskin was a school bus driver for Northville Public Schools for three years. He’s been a charter bus driver for Southfield-based National Trails for about three months.

Landaw said the Inter-Congregational league’s umpires enjoy selecting the Yendick Award winner because the award is based on sportsmanship, not necessarily athletic ability.

“We had about five candidates this year. All nice guys, all mentshes,” Landaw said.

Landaw also is an award winner.

Earlier this year, he was honored by the USA Softball of Metro Detroit organization for 40 years of service.

He was a Pillars of Excellence award winner in 2016. Pillars of Excellence awards are presented at the annual Michigan Jewish Sports Hall of Fame induction banquet.

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