Steve Romer is both a sponsor and captain of the Westrock-Refuahs.org softball team and the recipient of the 2008 and 2010 Captain of the Year award. He was also instrumental in driving his team onward to win the 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2013 RJSL championship titles. A team captain since 2003, Romer has consistently led his team to the playoffs and continues to be a force to be reckoned with. At 58 years of age, he is certainly one of the "senior" league members and his love for both the game and the RJSL makes his blog one worth reading.
Romer is a real estate entrepreneur as both an investor and for 30 years, the president of Westrock Appraisal Services, Corp., a commercial real estate appraisal provider. He has earned both an MBA and the prestigious MAI designation. Married for 34 years, Steve has three children, all who are married and grand-children running into the double digits.
2015 RJSL Early Season Predictions
Welcome to the 2015 RJSL season! There is already so much going on I’m not really sure where to start? I guess I’ll start with my beginning of the season which almost resulted in the dissolution of Team Westrock. I know that some of the captains heard the rumors that Westrock was being disbanded and the truth be told, I was seriously considering this potential eventuality in order to avoid a repeat of the previous three years of horrendous regular-season play. Many of my core players were simply getting sick and tired of the forfeits, limited player participation or a lack of consistency on who showed up for any given game. Although we were making it into the championship rounds, and sometimes even going the distance, but all the fun during the regular season was gone for three years running.
Over a seven or eight year period, it’s not unusual that our players get married, start families, and initiate challenging professional obligations. However, existing league rules do not permit championship teams (which we have qualified for the past seven years) to shore up their rosters from within the league. We are only permitted to look from outside the league which, quite frankly, is a time consuming pursuit which an active work life leaves little time to conduct. So after seven years of this, we got to the point last season where only six or seven players showed up for any given game and that for many of us was simply the last straw.
There were also other extenuating circumstances which made me question my participation this year due to 1) my sore shoulder due to a bone spur which is inflaming the muscle surrounding my rotator cuff, 2) the questionable participation of some of my core players and 3), my inability to achieve a deep enough roster to establish a competitive team. At a given point in the preseason where a majority of my players were not responding to my request for RJSL payment, I sent the following email to my team so that a collective decision regarding our future could be made:
It's now Friday...and I'm really no further along in terms of team collections then I was at the beginning of this week, or the week before that, or the month before that. This situation is forcing me to take an objective accounting of our team status at present and to consider a painful alternative...suspending team play for one season. The reason for my sudden departure from normal operations is as follows:
- Objectively, I have payment in hand for only three players (there may be a couple of more in my mailbox). I believe that a message is being sent that interest this season is waning.
- There are many core players who are simply inundated due to beautiful growing families, work demands, or simply qualify of life pursuits who cannot commit the time required to bring stability to the team.
- Binyamin Weinstein just advised me that he is attending a masters program this summer (great news!) and that he will not be available this season. That's one less player on our roster which brings us down to approximately 14 players.
- I perceive that I'm still hurt and may not be able to play this season regardless. As you probably now, I sponsor because I love to play...in particular with you guys; there is no other business benefit for me to sponsor.
- Current league rules disallow any championship team from pulling players from other teams. What is happening to us in terms of players maturing regarding work and family obligations for the past few years is normal but since we are limited to only outside talent, this makes it very difficult to pull in the requisite talent to replace our harried core players. By taking off one season, we obviously do not make it into the championship and the following season we have all options available to us if we want to come together again.
- There are some players who believe that the grass may be greener on another team, who are simply sick and tired of Westrock players not showing up during the regular season. I personally don't believe that they will achieve the same satisfaction they have on Westrock (assuming that we could all simply come together). However, sometimes you must let your players explore other options so that they appreciate what they already have.
- Last but not least, my time with you guys for the past decade or so has been a major part of my social life from the end of Passover until the High Holy Days. However, if only a few of us really want it anymore then maybe it's time to take a break? I recognize that the odds are that if we suspend team operations for one season the likelihood is that we will never come back together. However, I'm just feeling a little too tired at this juncture to shoulder this alone. If you still want it...then show me by making payment and committing to coming to a majority of the games. We need a core group of players to show up every week to make this fun. It's all about the fun...the winning will follow.
That being said, I'm going to take a final accounting by the end of the day Sunday, March 15th. If there is no appreciable change in payment status or commitment to seriously play this season, then I'm suspending play for this season. Your free agency status at that point will be further defined by the league commissioners should it come to that.
I pray that we can continue to come together as a team and enjoy the benefits of the RJSL. If possible, lets make that happen.
Have a good Shabbas.
Please note that prior to my sending this email to my team, I shared it with Commissioner Sam Wainhaus who initially appeared very accepting for Westrock to fold. His philosophy appears to be that a good team has its run and then ultimately, fades slowly into the sunset. I don’t see it that way since in many ways, my team is an extension of my family. I spend virtually all of my free personal time, from the end of Passover to the beginning of the High Holy days, with these fine men and there is really no other place I’d rather be during this time of the year. In fact, I impatiently wait for the winter months to end so that I can rejoin my crew. We are a dynamic lot, but every new baby born, every professional achievement earned or any pain experienced by a team member is felt by all of us. You spend years building something special and with G-d’s help, you can sustain it for many years to come. It was also approximately at this time that Commissioner Marv found out our pending status and personally expressed to me that if Westrock was finished, then he was also finished after this season. It was a heartwarming gesture and maybe a recognition that an RJSL without Westrock, would certainly be a very different league.
I recognize that many of you reading this may not be able to relate to this deep sense of commitment and camaraderie that I have with these men who spend the spring and summer with me from year to year. But I look at guys who I truly believe feel similar as I do like Jason Shatkin, Shalom Schwartz, Yitz Greenbaum, Ezzy Katz, Pinny and Yakov Kahana, Shalom Mintz, men that have worked extremely hard to achieve everything in which Hashem has blessed them, and in each I see true leadership, greatness, compassion…and how blessed I am that I can call them friends.
The suddenness of my March 2015 email appeared to take many Westrock team members by surprise. All of a sudden payments started flying in and several team members who appeared to be on the fence committed themselves to a majority of the regular season games. This was good… but it wasn’t enough. Although the league permitted me to absorb Ushy Schwartz and Dovi Schreiber based on a request put into place prior to the “2014” RJSL season, we still did not have the requisite depth to field 10 players at any given time. And then we were afforded a small miracle: it appeared that the original plan to combine Mike Chasen and his merry men with the Camp Merockdim team was experiencing some bumps in the road and that under the circumstances, the commissioners would permit Mike Chasen, Vic Fein and Donnie Katz to combine with Westrock which was just what the doctor ordered. This pick up, when combined with the Schwartz and Schreiber addition, would put us over the top to field any regular-season game. And in fact, the proof is in the pudding since after three games, Westrock has a winning record of two wins and one loss which for us, at the beginning of the season, is great! But, what is so much more important is that the games are fun again. So, on behalf of the entire Westrock squad, we gratefully and appreciatively thank the league commissioners for working with us and affording us the opportunity to continue to participate in this wonderful league.
Now, there is another great story which I somehow became enmeshed in during last year’s “Fall” season which encompasses the full spectrum of passion, explosiveness, riotous sentiment and being burned in effigy on Facebook… but that is another story for another day. For now we shall let sleeping lions lay.
Okay, let’s discuss some predictions which is not something which is easy to do so early in the season. I’ve only played for or against six teams over the past week. I have no true insight into Merockdim, Bagel D’Lox (other than my discussions with Captain Eli Mann) or Rockland Window. However, that probably will not stop me from having an opinion based on historical insight and league rumors which abound.
Nothing really new on this front: a great team with tremendous talent who is already in first place. But, their Achilles’ heel are 7:10 PM weekday games and 9:15 AM Sunday morning games which is when they play at their weakest. This was witnessed in their game against Bubbas where they were shut out 3-0 for virtually the entire game until the last inning when they rallied. In today’s game against Chefman, NJAIM sustained many defensive errors due to fielders playing out of position. This will never happen during the postseason but can certainly happen during the regular season.
Prediction: NJAIM appears headed to the championship round again due to both depth of talent and sheer determination.
Westrock’s postseason core remains the same but what is different this year is a stable and reliable regular-season roster. This will afford Capt. Steve Romer and his merry appraisers much more fun than in previous years when the team was plagued with forfeits, irregular player participation and a general lack of regular-season fun. New to Westrock’s ranks are Mike Chasen, Vic Fein, Ushy Schwartz, Dovi Schreiber and Doni Katz who have helped put Westrock back on the proverbial playing field. These guys can show up for virtually every game and that makes all the difference. After only three games, Westrock is already having a winning regular season with a record of two wins and one loss. Capt. Romer believes that this is going to be a great year, with barbecues to follow!
Prediction: As in the previous seven years, Westrock should go the distance but the competition is certainly getting steeper and anything can happen.
I’ve played Newday once this season and they were tenacious. Capt. Ezzy Katz picked up some great talent during the off-season which included Shmuel Ber Robinson, all of the Beren brothers and Eliazer Kiffel who many say has the “right stuff”. Due to Newday’s tremendous second-place showing last season, they will spend the majority of their time combating both NJAIM and Westrock which will make for a very demanding regular-season schedule. However, Westrock edged out Newsday by only one run in a very exciting game (and that was without their starting pitcher Zevy Simanowitz) and if they can continue to be scrappy and push the envelope, they could really make things happen.
Prediction: If this team can keep their cool, not unravel and build on their tremendous talent, they will give the entire league a run for their money. Capt. Ezzy will absolutely have his hands full in achieving this but if he does, none of the top teams will sleep soundly at night. Newday should make it to the second round of the playoffs.
The Kahana Brothers have combined to build a top-tier team with a middle tier game schedule. Listen to the names of some of their players: Chaim Heinemann, Pinny Kahana, Sruly Kirshblum, Daniel Peikes, Yosef Rosenberg, Aron Schwartz, Yitzy Wainhaus and Ari Weiss to name a few. These are great young players with phenomenal natural talent. Although Ticket Professor will win many games during the regular season, I sense that there should be a scattering of more seasoned talent within the roster to promote and build this wonderful young team into something really special. Maybe Yakov and Pinny Kahana can become that stable foundation that every team requires to spring to greatness. Time will tell if what has been learned over the past few years in regards to leadership can be synthesized into a well coordinated and supportive offensive and defensive unit with limited mental errors.
Prediction: Ticket Professor will excel this season on pure natural talent and will only be stopped during the second round of the postseason.
Captain Shalom Mintz appears to have taken the reins of the top middle tier team in the league (taking into account that I perceive Ticket Professor as a top-tier team). I played on Bubbas when they played NJAIM and although the champs were playing with a depleted team (It was a 7:10 pm weekday game so what do you expect), Bubba’s was relentless behind the pitching shrewdness of Shragi Lazarus. Bubbas plays to win and if Aaron Cohen, Ben Friedman, Yosse Minz, Naftoli Salomon, Betzalel Gold and Nashy Witzman (stay away from those lobbed pitches) can come alive and do some real damage, they are predicted to achieve a better than .500 average this season. It appears that Capt. Mintz is learning that in certain cases, nice guys finish last and that you must invest in strong and reliable talent in order to be truly competitive. I look forward to see how this team’s season plays out which can potentially be very favorable.
Prediction: Bubbas bagels will dominate the middle tier of the league and make it into the first round of the playoffs.
I’m sitting here looking at the Marockdim roster and names shoot out at me such as Tzviki Gottesman, Michoel Guzelgul, Mendy Halpert, Yaakov Jacobovitch, Yitzy Rosen, the Rudman family and Aaron Warum… all great talent… on paper. I can’t help but feel that this once great team lost its way a very long time ago. They were due but it never materialized. I’m hoping that Capt. Effy has discovered a radical new way to rally the troops so that new life can be breathed into this team’s nostrils. The Rudman’s are absolutely warriors and maybe they can light the fire that is so desperately needed. Otherwise, I sense that this team is on its last leg and will no longer be able to attract the type of talent who have remained so loyal for so long.
Prediction: “If” Capt. Effy can rally the troops and “If” the troops show up on a consistent basis, the campers will make it to the first round of the playoffs.
Captain Eli Mann has made it very clear that his team will win a few, and lose a few, and have a great time playing the game. I believe his prediction is spot on and he should have no problem qualifying for the playoffs. I have not witnessed this team in action yet so I’m going to keep my own counsel and keep my eyes and ears open. Otherwise, I wish them the best of luck in a fun filled season and I look forward to playing them on Monday May 4th at 8:40 p.m. to see what they can do.
Prediction: Bagel D’Lox will sustain sufficient wins to qualify for the first round of the playoffs.
Last season I royally infuriated this team by including them, possibly unfairly, with the likes of Chefman… a bottom basement team (last year). Rockland Window surprised me by making it into the playoffs last year and playing their hearts out. Captain Moshe Nussen is smart, and like the rest of us, he learns from his mistakes. He’s relatively new at the game of being an RJSL Captain but I believe that he is a quick learner and he is in the process of building a competitive team. This is not something that is achieved overnight (ask Shalom Mintz…and it took Westrock four years to piece together a competitive team). However, I suspect that Rockland Window will place eighth in the standings but then again, maybe this team will surprise all of us. I wish them good luck and I hope that they feel that this is a more auspicious sendoff than the one I gave them last year (I’ll certainly find out by the resultant email responses).
Prediction: Will place eighth in the playoffs and will be eliminated during the first round.
I played with Chefmen today against NJAIM and this is a much improved team. They are great bunch of players with a wonderful attitude and I certainly hope that they win a bunch of games. What bothers me is that I fear Chefman does not possess a competent pitching staff and for this they will pay royally. Rumor has it that Capt. Ralph Newhouse wants to pitch, which I think is a major problem if he wants to win games. If he doesn’t care about winning games than hey, have a great time! So, if this team is being put together for recreational purposes than win or lose, they should be good to go. But if Chefman ever wants to become a serious contender within this league, they better start developing a strong pitching staff…pronto!
Prediction: Inferior pitching will stop this team from making it into the playoffs and they are predicted to come in last place. Should Capt. Newhouse change his strategy, then I reserve the right to modify my prediction accordingly.
So, in the meantime, lets PLAY BALL!