By Gethin Coolbaugh, Wicked Local Wellesley
While competition is most often a driving force in a sport’s participants, the Men’s Shul Softball League embraces a different and more important element of the game: friendship.
“The league is about bringing the different Shuls together and hopefully expanding people’s social and personal relations with other Shuls,” said MSSL co-commissioner Rich Pomper about his league’s intention. “The mission statement of the league is to promote friendship through competitive Jewish sport.”
Pomper has worked as a co-commissioner of the league ever since its creation in 2002. The league started with a total of six teams, but has since expanded to 30 teams in and around MetroWest. The age of the participants in the league ranges from 25 to 50 years old.
Last Wednesday night, the MSSL hosted its 2009 Kiddush Cup Championship game at Oak Hill Middle School in Newton, featuring Temple Beth Avodah of Newton and the host Wellesley/Weston Chabad Shluggers.
The Chabad Shluggers of Wellesley/Weston (10-2) posted a 7-1 record in the regular season, and cruised into the championship game with three straight postseason victories for the second straight year. In 2008, the Chabad Shluggers lost to the Temple Beth Elohim 1 of Wellesley in the championship game. This time around, the Shluggers were looking for a different result.
Temple Beth Avodah jumped in front in the first inning, courtesy of a lead-off double followed by a sacrifice fly and a groundout that plated the runner, giving Temple Beth Avodah the 1-0 lead.
In the bottom of the first, Wellesley/Weston fought back score three runs. After second baseman Rabbi Moshe Bleich and left fielder Steve Black each grounded out, shortstop Ben Bressel and starting pitcher Leib Schafer both singled, setting the table for first baseman Chris Fritz. Fritz belted a bases-clearing triple to deep left field, and was singled home by center fielder Judah Cohen in the ensuing at-bat, putting the Shluggers up, 3-1.
Temple Beth Avodah cut their deficit to one in the second inning, scoring a run on a lead-off triple and a groundout that scored the run from third. In the bottom half of the inning, third baseman Tim Rappoport led the inning off with a triple, and catcher Alan Lattke singled to left to bring the run home and build his team’s lead to 4-2.
Wellesley/Weston appeared to be in good position early in the championship match, holding a 4-3 lead heading into the fourth inning. However, the Shluggers bats completely fizzled out, as they would not score another run until the bottom of the seventh inning.
Through three innings, starting pitcher Leib Schafer had held his own on the mound, allowing just three runs on six hits. Schafer’s early-game success would not carry over into the middle innings, as Temple Beth Avodah erupted for eight runs in the fifth inning, which would later prove to be the decisive inning.
The Shluggers scored one run in the top of the seventh inning, as Judah Cohen’s lead-off triple and an outfielder Adam Levine’s RBI double scored Wellesley/Weston’s final run of the game, handing Temple Beth Avodah the 12-5 win and the Kiddush Cup Championship.
Despite the disappointing loss, Bleich and team captain Adam Levine were quick to point out the positive effect that the league had on their team.
“This is the second time we made it to the championship game,” said Bleich. “Unfortunately, we lost both times. One of the reasons that we decided to make a team was initially the fact that we loved playing sports. It really brings a true sense of community to everyone, not just on our team, but on all the other teams. It brings out a very strong feeling of brotherhood amongst our community in Wellesley and Weston.”
“Unfortunately, we did lose the game,” said team captain Levine. “The game [was] played with good sportsmanship, played with good teammates, and the league also stresses good Jewish pride and Jewish unity.”
The Shluggers will finish their year by taking part in their annual charity game against the Wellesley Police to raise support for a local charity later on this summer.