Friday, October 07, 2022

Who’s on first? I don’t know at second, but a rebbe on third?

In the ’90s, the B’nai Brith Softball League Rambammers were once dominant. But the 21st century has seen some hard times for the team, with past stars Oren Hiller and David LaPoff having moved on.

Still, Captain Jerry Schranz was left with the task of rebuilding the team to its past greatness. And so, Schranz left no stone unturned; no potential ball players were turned away. The only requirement was a desire to play and the willingness to commit to games every Sunday between April and September.

Over the years the Rambammers have fielded teams of lawyers, doctors and dentists.  One season they had an ER physician at catcher. This only became an issue when in the middle of one game he got paged and took off without telling anyone. According to Schranz, one of the most difficult aspects of finding players is that the games require players to rush out of Shachris to make a 9 a.m. start.

Two years ago Shranz had the great fortune to cross paths with Rabbi Jeremy Donath. At the time, Rabbi Donath was the newly hired Rav of Congregation Darchei Noam and rebbe at the Torah Academy of Bergen County. Rabbi Donath is well known around Bergen County as an accomplished athlete and rebbe.  But the Rambammers had to be concerned that the rabbi could not give his 8:15 Mishnah shiur and make it to the 9 a.m. games. All doubters were quickly proved wrong. Not only did the rabbi make it to almost every game, he played a solid third base. Most of the guys in the league didn’t even know he was a rabbi.

As it happened, Rabbi Donath became a big draw for the Rambammers and the league. Fans of the game and fans of the man (who knew very little about the sport) follow him to the fields to check on him and perhaps also to ask a shyla between innings or find a reason to bond with him.

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