Inter-congregational softball provides opportunity for summertime fun


Play ball! The new season of the Inter-congregational Softball League is well under way.

The league was the brainchild of Marcia Mermelstein, former family educator at B’nai Amoona and started with 60 players from three participating congregations more than ten years ago. Today there are more than 200 players, on 14 teams representing ten congregations. Participating congregations include: B’nai El Congregation, Bais Abraham Congregation, Central Reform Congregation, Congregation B’nai Amoona, Congregation Shaare Emeth, Congregation Temple Israel, Shaare Zedek Synagogue, Temple Emanuel, Traditional Congregation and United Hebrew Congregation.

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Ken Schwartz, United Hebrew Congregation program/membership director, has been acting as the commissioner of the league since its inception. He is delighted to see the increase in the number of players each year and has noticed the league seems to picking up younger players as well.

“Many college students who are home for the summer are playing with their parents or just for themselves,” Schwartz said. “Even though we are a recreational league we have been seeing much stronger competition among the teams.”

Travis Gossen is a senior at Tulane University majoring in marketing. He is home from college for the summer and playing on the Bais Abe Baisballs with his father Ron. Father and son are new to the area since recently moving to St. Louis from San Antonio. Travis is impressed with the league.

“I’ve never lived in a Jewish community which was large enough to support a softball league,” Travis said. “It’s great to play baseball with a bunch of tribesman. We have a lot of fun, joking with the other teams. It’s really nice.”

Umpire Randy Guber has been with the league from the beginning. The retired St. Louis City Schools special education teacher has been umpiring slow pitch softball for 28 years. He has seen great growth in the league over the years.

“When the league first began, the players were not as experienced,” Guber said. Guber has a sense of humor and employs an unusually elongated way of calling the plays which has helps enliven the game, said Schwartz.

“I try to make it entertaining and enjoyable,” Guber said. “The games are supposed to be fun and they can still be competitive and serious. Of course, some teams are more competitive than others.”

Guber said the league is kind of like a family and he always looks forward to seeing the teams and players every summer. He has taken advantage of the small windows of time to get to know the players individually when they come up to bat.

This is the second year the Baisballs have been part of the league. They are the first Orthodox congregation to have a team in the league. Stu Kalmen is their team captain.

“The league offers a wonderful opportunity for different congregations to interact,” Kalmen said. “Bais Abe and CRC combined to play in Jewish Community Center’s league in the fall. That happened because we saw each other last summer and made the connections.”

University City fourth grade teacher Andrea Ginsburg also plays on the Baisballs. Klamen asked her to play because they needed another girl for the team. The league requires at least two girls on each team.

“I joined the team as a favor for Stu but I am staying because it’s fun,” Ginsburg said. “It’s a different way to socialize with members of your congregation other than in a religious context.” One of the purposes of the league was to provide the opportunity for members of congregations to have a chance to get together in a recreational setting, said Schwartz.

“The league provides a great opportunity for members of different congregations to meet, interact and build friendships and relationships,” Greg Schwartz said. “We are hoping to introduce socializing opportunities this year to give everyone a chance just to visit and get to know each other off the field.”

Greg, a member of United Hebrew, just completed sophomore year at Maryville University where he plays on their baseball team. He started assisting with the league two years ago by aligning the fields and bringing out the equipment.

“He knows the game very well,” Schwartz said. “He started doing more of the administration and day to day operations of the league this year.”

The Inter-congregational Softball League games are played on Sundays on the baseball fields at B’nai Amoona. Spectators are welcome. For more information call 314-434-3404 or contact each congregation.