It was a successful and fun season for the men — and women — on the Temple Shir Shalom No. 3 softball team.
It’s called the Inter-Congregational Men’s Club Summer Softball League. But that hasn’t stopped a few women from playing with the guys in the league through the years.
Temple Shir Shalom No. 3 has had women on its roster all three years of the team’s existence, fulfilling its mission, said player-manager Joe Lipman, to have a diverse team.
Two women — Amy Benson and Jamie Elkins — played full-time this season for Shir Shalom No. 3 on a team that made a serious bid to win the Rosen Division championship.
Benson is a 23-year-old Royal Oak resident and research assistant in the neuroscience lab at Wayne State University who is an accomplished fast-pitch softball player.
She’s made a successful transition to slow-pitch softball in her two-plus seasons in the Inter-Congregational league, playing mostly leftfield this season for Shir Shalom No. 3.
Benson said she was convinced to join the team by her friend and team member Charlie Gertner, but said she didn’t do it to be a trailblazer.
The former Bloomfield Hills High School and Oakland Community College softball player said she originally became part of the Shir Shalom No. 3 team because she loves to play softball and thought it would be fun to be on the same team as her friend.
Benson recruited her brother and father to join the Shir Shalom No. 3 team this season, so the summer turned into a family affair for her.
Her brother Aaron Benson, 25, lives in Royal Oak. Her father Randall Benson, 63, is a West Bloomfield resident. He played this season after recovering from back surgery.
“Playing with my brother and dad was like tapping into my childhood,” Amy Benson said.
“While I didn’t join the league to make a statement, I would like to see more women play in the league. It would be nice to have sisters and daughters play together on a team.”
That would be fine with Karen Gordon, who would have been Shir Shalom No. 3’s third full-time woman player this season, but she opted out.
She said she did that mainly because she underwent knee replacement surgery in December 2021 and starting to play softball again in April wouldn’t have been advantageous for her recovery.
Plus, she needed to devote time to being the delegation head for Detroit athletes who competed in the revived JCC Maccabi Games in San Diego.
“I plan to play again (for Shir Shalom No. 3) next season,” Gordon said.
Gordon played for Shir Shalom No. 3 in 2020 and 2021 after playing for the combined Congregation B’nai Israel/Temple Kol Ami team in the Inter-Congregational league from 2017-19.
She hopes more women will play in the Inter-Congregational league. And she doesn’t want accommodations made for them.
“This probably isn’t a popular opinion, but I’m not a fan at all of co-ed softball and its different rules,” she said. “I want the competition.”
Even though Shir Shalom No. 3 lost 14-13 to Congregation Beth Ahm in the Rosen Division playoff championship game this season, a game in which it twice declined winning by a forfeit, Lipman said his team achieved all of its season goals:
— It continued to win more games than the previous season. Shir Shalom No. 3 won one game in 2020, three games in 2021 and 11 games this season, going 11-13 including the playoffs.
— It beat a team from the Koufax Division, the next highest division in the three-division league, for the first time. In fact, Shir Shalom No. 3 went 3-2 against Koufax Division teams.
— It beat a Temple Israel team for the first time. In the final week of the regular season, Shir Shalom No. 3 beat Koufax Division team Temple Israel No. 3 12-8.
“We would have lost that game by eight or nine runs last season,” Lipman said.
— And it won a game by the run rule. That was achieved thanks to a walk-off grand slam home run by Aaron Benson.
Early in the season (May 15), Shir Shalom No. 3 raised eyebrows in the league in a 13-12 loss to Temple Beth El No. 1, the eventual champion of the Greenberg Division, the league’s top division.
“They needed to score four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to beat us,” Lipman said.
Aside from its successes on the diamond, the Shir Shalom No. 3 team had fun off the diamond this season.
“We had batting practice together, we went out to lunch after games, we went to the beach, we went to a Tigers game, and we had an end-of-season pool party,” Lipman said.
The Shir Shalom No. 3 roster also included Marc Edelstein, Brian Fishman, Scott Hutten, Ryan Rabinowitz, Noah Ramnick, AJ Rich and Jordan Wohl.
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