The Temple Israel No. 6 team celebrates its Inter-Congregational Men’s Club Summer Softball League Greenberg Division championship last season.
The Temple Israel No. 6 team celebrates its Inter-Congregational Men’s Club Summer Softball League Greenberg Division championship last season. (Carolyn Klinger)

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t gone away, but neither has the league.

A year ago, nobody knew if there would be an Inter-Congregational Men’s Club Summer Softball League season.

The COVID-19 pandemic had shut down activities across the country. The 25th anniversary season of one of the Metro Detroit Jewish community’s jewels was in jeopardy.

But the West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Department reopened its diamonds in June, opening the door for a league season.

The league took advantage of the opportunity.

Games in the weekly league began June 21, nearly two months later than usual, and continued right on through to the playoffs in August. Rained-out games were not made up because of the condensed schedule.

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Fifteen teams competed, just two fewer than the “normal” 2019 league season.

Fast forward to 2021. The pandemic hasn’t gone away, but neither has the league.

Opening day for the league’s 26th season was Sunday, April 25. Fifteen teams are playing in the league once again. They’ll compete each Sunday once again on two diamonds at Drake Sports Park and three diamonds at Keith Sports Park in West Bloomfield.

Each team will play 20 regular-season games (weather permitting) and qualify for the double-elimination playoffs, scheduled to begin Aug. 8 and conclude Aug. 15.

The prestigious Jeff Fox Sportsmanship and Michael Yendick “Pure Heart” awards will be presented once again at the end of the season.

No games are scheduled for the Memorial Day and July 4 weekends, but league organizer Steve Achtman is hoping a charity game can be played on either or both weekends.

“Hopefully, someone will step up to the plate and put something together,” he said.

An average of about 13 to 14 players are on each league team, so there are about 200 players.

As for the league rules this season, “the special COVID rules we put in place last season have been eliminated,” Achtman said. “Most of the guys didn’t like them.”

But social distancing and masks are recommended. Also recommended is for the catcher to stand farther behind the batter than usual, and for the umpire to call balls and strikes from the side of the batter and catcher.

Three league teams opted not to play last season, but Temple Shir Shalom added a third team.

Congregation Shaarey Zedek has returned this season, but Shir Shalom No. 1 has dropped out.

“Looking at the rosters, a handful of guys who didn’t play last year are back this year,” Achtman said. “I hope that means they feel comfortable about playing.”

Grateful for Last Year

The importance of having a league season last year isn’t lost on Achtman. Many recreational sports programs are struggling to get back up and running this year after being shut down last year.

“If our league had skipped a year, things could have fallen apart,” Achtman said. “It was great to be able to play last year, to have a sense of normalcy. I know I was going stir crazy last year at this time. Life still isn’t the same now, so once again having a league season is so important.”

Achtman and Michael Betman have been running the league as a tag team for several years. They have a new partner this year in Mitch Klein.

League teams once again are divided into three divisions. Each division has its own playoffs.

In the Greenberg Division this season are defending division champion Temple Israel No. 6, along with Temple Israel No. 2, No. 4, No. 5 and 2020 Koufax Division champion Shir Shalom No. 2.

In the Koufax Division are 2020 Rosen Division champion Adat Shalom Synagogue No. 1, along with Shaarey Zedek, Temple Beth El and Temple Israel No. 1 and No. 3.

In the Rosen Division are Adat Shalom No. 2, Shir Shalom No. 3, Bais Chabad Torah Center, Congregation Beth Ahm and Congregation Shir Tikvah.

Shir Shalom No. 2 and Adat Shalom No. 1 each moved up a division and two teams moved down a division based on last year’s results.

Players and fans can find league results and other features on the league’s website, mensclubsoftball.org.