Major League baseball’s first designated hitter, Ron Blomberg, was a special guest at a barbecue on Sunday marking the conclusion of Yavneh Youth League baseball’s regular season.
The author of “Designated Hebrew” (Sports Publishing), written with Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, Blomberg was the New York Yankees first draft pick in 1967. His career ended prematurely because of injury.
“The 2009 season was dedicated to the memory of 10-year-old Miriam Avraham, z”l, a former player who tragically passed away on Sukkot of 2008,” Howard Eisenstadter, commissioner of the YYL, told The Jewish Standard at the barbecue, which had to be moved into Yavneh’s Paramus building because of the weather. “League families raised funds for the Miriam Avraham Arts and Literature Program at her school,” Solomon Schechter Day School in New Milford. “Miriam’s mother and brother, who had been involved in our league, are part of our league family.”
There was no special dedication for the season just past.
|Former N.Y. Yankee Ron Blomberg, with Yavneh Youth League player Avi Eisenstadter of the Campmor White Sox at a June 6 barbecue.|
The YYL has five divisions: a coed instructional division (first grade), junior boys and girls (grades two to four), senior boys and girls (grades five to eight). Unlike most youth leagues in the area, the YYL plays softball as opposed to baseball.
The league states, on its Website, www.yavnehyouthleague.com, “We find that playing softball makes the league more accessible to more children, and does not diminish the value of the league at all.”
In that spirit, Eisenstadter told the Standard, “We try to place a strong emphasis on the team aspect of sport. We keep the league appropriately competitive, but work hard to ensure that everyone in the league (including coaches and parents) understands that this is just a game. Coaches are constantly reminded that players will remember their coach’s attitude and the example coaches set long after they’ve forgotten the scores. That is reinforced on our Website, in our coaches’ meetings, and throughout the season.”
Michael Dworkis, director of the coed instructional division and himself a Yavneh Youth League alumnus from the late ’80s, noted that “we have kids who have played baseball, but we also have a lot of kids who have not yet. The idea of the division is that everyone becomes on the same level. Everyone will learn how to play. Everyone gets to hit. Everyone gets on base. And what I’ve seen is that the kids enjoy it a lot more.”
This year, a league-high of 60 first-graders signed up for the instructional division. “It’s a group effort,” says Dworkis. “We get the parents involved with one simple goal: to teach.”
Through a connection with Ira Stern, the sports director of Camp Nesher, the YYL invited Ron Blomberg to speak to the kids and families about his life in baseball as a Jew.
Introduced after a quick “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” played on the piano by Mark Infield, Blomberg, who has a heavy Southern accent, said, “The greatest thing in the whole world is to be able to speak to y’all a little bit about baseball. I am a proud Jew, and that was no easy thing growing up in Atlanta.”
Blomberg added, “When I grew up … half my [youth baseball] teammates were in the KKK,” the Ku Klux Klan, and he stressed that area kids are lucky to be able to play not only free of anti-Semitism but also in an entirely Jewish league that takes the Jewish calendar into account.
After his speech, the athletes lined up to get his autograph, with sponsors of the event receiving autographed copies of his book.