The COVID-19 pandemic and rule changes produced a season like no other in the Inter-Congregational Men’s Club Summer Softball League.
It was a season like no other in the Inter-Congregational Men’s Club Summer Softball League.
The major reason, of course, was the COVID-19 pandemic. There were rule changes. Players wore masks and social distanced. Using hand sanitizer was an important as catching a fly ball with two hands. There were no post-game high-fives between teams.
The rule changes weren’t universally popular. But having double-elimination playoffs for the first time in the weekly league’s 25-year history was well received.
“It would have been nice to spread the playoffs over three weeks, but two weeks were fine,” said Steve Achtman, a league director along with Michael Betman.
Also getting applause was a decision to name a recipient of the Jeff Fox Sportsmanship and Michael Yendick Good Heart awards from each of the three divisions for the first time since the league went to a divisional setup in 2017.
“It was a tough season, but I’m glad we had a season,” Achtman said.
“It was a trying season,” said umpire-in-chief Rob Landaw, one of the league’s seven umpires.
“But given what’s going on in the world, we were fortunate,” Landaw said. “Everyone in the league — players, umpires and directors — made it work.”
Jeff Sandler was manager of the Adat Shalom Synagogue No. 1 team that won the Rosen Division championship. It was Adat Shalom’s first league title since 2005, when there was only one Adat Shalom team and only one league champion.
“Everyone in the league got to play softball. We were out doing something every Sunday. That’s what was most important,” Sandler said.
The most controversial rule change was the elimination of tag plays.
A player running to a base was out if a fielder had the ball and was touching the base. No tag was needed.
“The idea was to avoid contact between players,” Achtman said.
Landaw said he saw the play in every league game he worked.
“Everyone adjusted and adopted to that rule change, players and umpires,” Landaw said. “Would I like to see that rule change continue? No. It takes the purity out of the game.”
Sandler said that rule change made games feel more like T-ball than softball.
“But if it meant being able to play, with everyone staying safe and healthy, it was worth it,” he said. “The guys on our team adjusted. We learned to not take any chances running the bases.”
Another rule change worked well.
In an effort to avoid forfeits, teams could borrow players from other league teams during the regular season and borrow similar caliber players from their division to replace missing players during the playoffs.
Rained-out games were not rescheduled because of the shortened season, which began June 21, seven weeks later than planned because diamonds at Drake Sports Park and Keith Sports Park in West Bloomfield were not open, but avoided the usual off days for Mother’s Day, Memorial Day and the July 4 weekend.
The league champions were top seeds Temple Israel No. 6 in the Greenberg Division, Temple Shir Shalom No. 2 in the Koufax Division and Adat Shalom No. 1 in the Rosen Division.
There were five teams in each division. The 15 total teams were just two less than played in the league last year.
Temple Israel No. 5 (Greenberg Division) and Bais Chabad Torah Center (Rosen Division) needed to play four playoff games in one day Aug. 30 to make it to their division championship game, which they lost.
Adat Shalom No. 1 cruised through the Rosen Division playoffs before Bais Chabad spoiled its fun, rallying late to win 14-13 and forcing another game between the teams.
Adat Shalom No. 1 won that game 13-1 and captured the division championship.
“I think they (Bais Chabad) were worn out by the time they got to their fourth game of the day,” Sandler said. “I’m a competitive guy, so I like double-elimination playoffs. If you have a bad game, you can recover.”
Sandler, in his third year managing Adat Shalom No. 1, said the team had depth and some talented young players, especially Andrew Korman.
“Andrew is one of the fastest guys I’ve played softball with,” Sandler said. “We put him in left-center field and he caught everything hit his way.”
Korman missed the playoffs, however, because he left to go to college in Maryland.
“We got some confidence early when we beat a team from the Koufax Division, then everyone settled into their spots,” Sandler said. “I didn’t have to mix and match very much.”
Also on the Adat Shalom No. 1 team were Steve Flam, Max Flam, Gary Edelson, Michael Rose, Philip Rose, Joel Bronstein, Ryan Bronstein, David Shevrin, Thomas Zak, Jason Gelsey, Eric Greenberg and Betman.
Betman was Adat Shalom No. 1’s main pitcher. He also pitched on the 2005 Adat Shalom team that won the league championship.
Betman has an autographed league championship game ball from the 2005 and 2020 Adat Shalom teams, the only teams from the synagogue that have won league titles.
“We had a nice team this year. We got along well,” Betman said. “We had fun. We didn’t get down on someone if he made a mistake.”
Betman remembers the 2005 season very well.
“We had to play three games on the final day of the playoffs in 2005 because the other team in the championship game wasn’t going to have enough players for the next week,” he said.
Betman split pitching duties on the final day with Ken Podell, Adat Shalom’s main pitcher, who has since moved to Texas. Gary Graff was the team’s manager.
Brad Silber, a former Adat Shalom player, and Betman started the league in 1996. Betman thinks he’s the only player who played in the league in 1996 and is still playing in the league today.