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.
2018 Postseason Predictions and Final Comments
The 2017 RJSL season was euphoric and ended surprisingly with a championship round between “Old Money”(Westrock) and “New Money” (Ticket Professor). After years of building, team name changes and frustrations, Ticket Professor not only dominated the 2017 season but swept the championship round becoming the new “King of the Hill”. 2018 was supposed to bring in a new era of TP dominance as older teams such as Merockdim were rebuilt and newer teams (Meridian and Prime) joined the ranks. But the 2018 season was anything but conventional and ultimately became “wet” and fraught with surprises.
There was no surprise in regards to the performance of MJ Dragons who provided the 2018 Most Valuable Player, Shumy Reichman. AER 8 also performed exceptionally well. However, both these teams had in previous years beefed up their rosters with old money players from Westrock and Medicine Men and concluded the regular season in first place and third’s place, respectively. Merockdim also took off in 2018 after being enhanced with exceptional talent and the brilliance of the 2018 Cy Young pitcher Shragi Lazarus who ended the season with both second-place and a bye.
Teams who did not live up to expectations this season include Ticket Professor (ended the regular season in fourth place and was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs), Westrock and Consumer Lighting, former champions who did not even qualify for the playoffs. Meridian, one of the new teams this season, struggled like most new teams to the league, while Prime seemed to infuse much stronger and needed talent during the course of the regular season. In fact, Prime and Westrock actually started a winning streak towards the end of the season, but it was too little too late.
But, the biggest surprise this season was Valuclean and their 2018 Captain of the Year, Mordy Kahana. After starting the 2018 season with a string of losses, Valuclean concluded the regular season eliminating Westrock from playoff contention and then during the first round of the playoffs eliminated big brother Yakov Kahana from a repeat championship performance. When the vote for Captain of the Year this season was considered, there was only one name that was advanced by every team captain: Mordy Kahana. How this young Captain led his team through the trials and tribulations of the 2018 season was nothing short of remarkable and we all wait with baited breath to see what this young team can accomplish during the second round of the playoffs.
An additional unexpected and remarkable dynamic this season was the rain. In 15 years of play, the league has never witnessed as wet a season as 2018. We are potentially making RJSL history if the championship series is scheduled after the holidays. Getting the second and championship rounds in prior to Rosh Hashanah would be remarkable… but I wouldn’t bet on it. With the first round being decided today, Sunday September 2, the second round could potentially be settled by Tuesday night, weather permitting, or Wednesday at the latest. That would mean Thursday would be the first day for the championship round with a potential doubleheader Sunday morning, again weather permitting.
Outside of the rain-outs and the unpredictability of this year’s playoff contenders, there has been a myriad of RJSL improvements which deserve mentioning. The new RJSL web site has been huge in both managing and distributing league information as well as hosting a variety of videoed games. Yehuda Gilbert help pioneer this effort and Jeremy Doberman is compiling a video history of games for applicable teams. Another remarkable effort this season was the revamping and execution of the RJSL Replacement players group which culminated in three groups consisting of pitchers, catchers and general replacement players. The critical success of this effort, supervised by Steve Romer and expertly managed by Yehuda Gilbert, kept forfeits to a minimum during the regular season and afforded many of our replacement players much more bang for their buck in terms of regular season play. Although the goal is for teams to always play with a full roster (without replacement players), the reality is that most teams experience a periodic dearth of players and the replacement players group has proved to be invaluable at these times. Lastly, a new generation of leaders (e.g. Yakov Kahana, Yehuda Gilbert and Jeremy Doberman) are working altruistically in the background, enhancing every aspect of league operations and play.
I know only too well what goes into managing a great team since great teams, without the right leadership, can fail dismally. So I emphatically congratulate Captains Ushy Schwartz, Effy Weissmandl and Yitz Greenbaum in regards to their deft leadership and management ability which resulted in spectacular regular-season standings. I would like to include more captains within this commentary but I sense that too many teams simply did not show up this season, leaving their captains both frustrated and underachieving. God willing, we can successfully address this issue during the off-season in order to promote a more competitive and fulfilling season.
There has also been some discussion if the RJSL was more passionate, vibrant and competitive during the era of the “Dark Side” when Westrock and Medicine Men constantly battled to build their dynasty and dominated the championship rounds for years. Passions ran very high during this epoch but the result actually felt cancerous and destructive which seemed to bring out the worst in us. I’m proud to say that we have all worked collaboratively towards eradicating virtually any remnant of this systemic problem which has resulted in a huge expansion of competitive teams over the last three years. The championship trophy achieved by Consumer Lighting (formally Rockland Window Covering) during 2016, Ticket Professor during 2017 with the trophy up for grabs by a completely different team during 2018 is testimony to our achievement in providing an equal playing field. I think in this regard we should all be taking a bow.
Over the last week or two I’ve been asked repeatedly to write this blog and to formulate some postseason predictions. I’m somewhat fortunate to be writing this blog at the beginning of the second round of the postseason. I would never have predicted in my wildest dreams that Valuclean could eliminate both Westrock and Ticket Professor. Projecting AER8 dominance over EYG Group would have been somewhat easier. However, with MJ Dragons facing Valuclean and Merockdim competing against AER8, I will make my predictions and probably suffer the consequences.
MJ Dragons vs. Valuclean
This match-up results in a conflict between my brain and my heart. My brain dictates that first-place MJ Dragons will mop the floor with Valuclean. Solomon, as a pitcher, is a beast and Schiller, despite his great athleticism and incredible enthusiasm, will not get the best of the Dragons. Both offensively and defensively, the Dragons simply appear like a superior team. However, I have witnessed some uncanny achievements over the years such as Merockdim eliminating both Westrock and Medicine Men from the 2016 playoffs, only to be defeated by present-day Consumer Lighting. I remember destroying Sam Wainhaus’s team in a postseason game in excess of 10 years ago leading by virtually 15 runs which they subsequently came back with 18 runs of their own, destroying our momentum and eliminating us from contention. I know that on any given day the team who has the greatest passion and desire to win will frequently champion the competition and my heart tells me that Valuclean may achieve the impossible…and if so I want to be there to witness it! My wife has been telling me for years to go with my brain and not my heart and so in this case I will follow her advice and predict an MJ Dragons win during the second round of the playoffs.
Merockdim vs. AER8
This should be a great competition if both teams can produce their “A” team. These teams run deep in terms of pitching with Merockdim benefiting from Shragi Lazarus, Avi Rudman and Rabbi Rudman while AER8 yields the most awarded Cy Young pitcher in RJSL history, Yitz Greenbaum, who is further supported by replacement pitcher Yocov Bodner. This series can go either way and defense will be key in deciding who gets the upper hand. My sense is that Merockdim has the better offensive team this season while AER8 packs incredible championship experience by means of Greenbaum and Bodner and a very talented supporting defensive unit including Gilbert, Wainhus, et. al. Merockdim boasts a very extensive roster compared to a much more shallow roster maintained by AER8. That means that AER8 is much more dependent on a select few players to show up and make a difference. I also have to weigh each team’s leadership and management and in this vein AER8 appears to have the advantage. This is a very tough call but I think that this is Merockdim’s year and I predict that they will advance to the championship round.
Championship Round Prediction: MJ Dragons vs. Merockdim
I’m just going to say it: MJ Dragons will edge out Merockdim during the championship series and I’ll tell you why? Westrock played Merockdim during one of our last games of the season and we beat them decisively 8-1. Merockdim deployed what appeared to be a very competitive team with Shragi Lazaus at the realm and we simply destroyed them. Now granted, Westrock fielded a very strong team (which failed to materialize when we played Valuclean). Yet, I’m convinced that the Dragons would have been much tougher for us to beat than Merockim for the simple reason that the Dragons have consistently displayed superb defense and decisive and timely offense. Despite the improvements to Merockdim this season and regardless of the rumors that the Dragons are an “aging team”, the Dragons still present a “clear and present danger” to all comers which for the 2018 season, appears insurmountable. The Dragons will not sweep the championship series, but they will edge it out this season before being finally overtaken by younger, stronger teams.
I wish everyone good luck in the playoffs and in the meantime…LETS PLAY BALL!