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 RJSL Initiatives & Pre-Season Dynamics
The 2018 RJSL season may be getting off to a slow and “wet” start but there has been plenty of league dynamics percolating behind the scenes. And many of these dynamics played out during the off-season. For starters, during the 2017 season, Westrock maintained a post-season policy that all team players that contributed during the regular season would get equal playing time during the post season. This policy worked great until we made it into the championship round and then lost the first game of the series. A total reversal in attitude transpired whereby the team overwhelmingly voted to select the best eleven players to participate in Game 2 of the championship round. This unfortunate team decision, and misjudgment on my part to not enforce the original equitable post-season protocol, led to an array of bad feelings and ultimately, our defeat in the championship. But most damaging of all, loyal and extremely effective members of our team felt betrayed and disillusioned and decided to become free agents due to our last minute and hasty team decisions.
I must admit that I was initially caught up in the “heat” of the moment, maintaining a grudge and announcing to the league captains during the off-season that various members of my team were either leaving or not being invited back. However, I soon regained my senses and advised the league commissioners that I would be making strong reconciliatory concessions to these disillusioned players in order to simply do the “right” thing (as well as maintain our competitive position). By this time, however, various captains had already recruited these players, only to be told that the players would not be leaving Westrock. This started an outcry by many captains who felt that Westrock had forfeited their rights to these players. I argued that these senior players no longer wanted to leave the team and in fact, immensely enjoyed playing for Westrock (other than the last game of the championship). In the end, we lost two talented players and kept two players who are pillars of the team…and I humbly apologized to those captains impacted by this debacle. I also paid a steep price for my misjudgment by not being permitted to sign an extremely talented player from outside the league who was placed on one of the teams negatively impacted by the foregoing. However, that ultimately seemed fair to me under the circumstances.
Another issue ensued during the off-season surrounding an extremely talented player who I met during the Friday pick-up games who is a real game-changer. I spoke to Sam about this guy months earlier, trying to lay the ground-work to pick him up plus a friend of his who was one hell of a first basemen. There was one small wrinkle in my plans: Pinny Kahana had signed this player to Chefman which meant that I could not recruit him since he would be placed on a team that needed his God given talents. Suddenly, one of the top teams in the league announces that they have signed this player and that he is considered an “average” player. The Commissioners, not knowing who the player is nor his level of talent, authorized the signing of this player. I immediately go to work and educate the Commissioners who this player is, that he is by far one of the best players in the league, and that it made absolutely no sense that he would be permitted to join a great team while being denied to Westrock. Fortunately, the Commissioners saw things my way and Merockdim, who desperately needed a great short-stop due to the loss of Yitzy Wainhaus, was assigned this player.
Now, while all of this is happening, Sam Wainhaus is very busy getting the new league web site set-up. After 15 years of using old technology, we have finally embraced 21st Century Teamsnap which has all the bells and whistles required to help us manage the RJSL. Once Sam completed the initial set-up, Yakov Kahana and I dug in and started to lay the ground-work to provide, at a minimum, the functionality and information provided by the original web site. This has now been accomplished (through various levels of frustration and a massive learning curve) and we are now at the point where we are attempting to explore and understand the massive strengths of the program so that we can maximize its use. Yakov and I have attempted to invite creative ideas from the league captains, the players from the Replacement Players Group as well as my own team but few responses have resulted. The program is certainly much more user friendly and less time consuming to update than the previous platform but I feel that we are just touching the tip of the iceberg and that the best is yet to come.
One of the ideas that we are pursuing which is being worked on by Mordy Kahana is the possibility of streaming our games live via the new web site. At present, Teamsnap does not have the technological capability to stream video, but there appears to be other venues such as Youtube or other processes that would allow live streaming. As soon as Mordy pulls the information together we will assess the merits of this pursuit.
Also in this vain are the game recordings inspired by Yitz Greenbaum and Yehuda Gilbert. Since I was away in Florida for the first few weeks of the RJSL season, both Yitz and Yehuda were kind enough to share their game videos with me regarding the Westrock-AER 8 game. I was enthralled with both the entertainment value plus the management assessment I was able to render of my player’s performance. Yitz was also creatively experimenting with recording from the pitcher’s mound which I thought was a very cool idea, but that seemed to create some issues with the batters due to the blinking red light emanating from the camera. Although live streaming would certainly be the ultimate goal, I wonder if we could present game recordings on the new web site as an alternative? We would have to purchase a league camera which would record the entire game but this could be fun either for family members or for managers and players to assess their performance.
One of the unexpected offshoots of the Westrock-AER 8 game surrounded the potential dangers of using “Gold” clinchers which have a much harder core than the softballs traditionally used. Many of the captains were outraged that these type of balls were being utilized and a debate raged whether the Gold clinchers should be returned and replaced with conventional clinchers while the alternative would result in a radically change RJSL bat policy which would eliminate the use of all composite bats and any other bats which could transform a Gold clincher into a lethal weapon. I remember a number of years ago the Gold clinchers were inadvertently purchased by the RJSL and I personally felt very threatened by the destructive powers of these balls and the potential pain-and-suffering that could result if a player were hit by one. In the end, all of the Gold clinchers were returned and a delivery of conventional clinchers is projected to be delivered to the league by May 18.
Another very positive development this season is the new rotation policy incorporated within the RJSL Replacement Players Group which currently includes 12 average players representing many of our teams. During our first year of operation last season, I managed this group on a first-come first-served policy basis. This approach afforded certain players a significant advantage to dominate the playing opportunities due to their ability to respond within seconds of an invitation while other players, due to their work dynamics, could not respond for an hour or two. This led many replacement players to contend that a new equitable distribution system be employed so that everyone on the Replacement Player’s Group would be afforded an equal opportunity to play. Thanks to the creative work and management of both Yehuda Gilbert and Ezzy Katz, along with the insightful assistance of Jeremy Doberman and Mordy Kahana (among others), a new Replacement Player selection process has been put in place which appears to be working seamlessly. This group has personally been a proverbial lifesaver to Westrock who required the use of replacement players for our first two games without which the game outcomes could have been potentially very different.
New to the 2018 season is a separate list of Replacement Player pitchers which teams can utilize during the “regular” season if neither of their two designated team pitchers are available to play. We presently have four pitchers who qualify to be in this group which includes Ushy Schwartz, Eli Gelb, Vic Fein and Lazer Unger. Between the Replacement Players group and the Replace Pitchers group all regular-season games are anticipated to be played with a full roster, an experience pitcher and a low probability that a forfeit will ensue. Please note that it is RJSL policy that a minimum of seven team players must be available to play in order to request Replacement Player support.
Speaking about Lazer Unger, Lazer was able to help the league negotiate the use of an additional baseball field at the Sloatsburg Community Fields. This great field is perfect for night games and is available to the league Monday nights. In time, we hope to expand our use of this field which will help us better manage makeup games due to rainouts. Thank you Lazer Unger!
To date, there have only been a handful of games played due to the inclement weather but probably the most exciting game of the season, thus far, was the MJ Dragon-AER 8 game. The Dragons maintained a very strong lead going into the ninth inning but AER 8 was able to rally at the bottom of the ninth inning to bring in four runs and win the game. I was provided the game video and it was very exciting to watch.
New teams to the league include the Meridian Capital Group captained by Tzvi Halpert and Prime by Ari captained by Avi Schwebel. The Meridian team appears to incorporate many of the former Chefman players while Prime has gathered some formidable talent. Other teams have made some sound pick-ups during the off-season and the impression that I have is that the top teams remain strong while the mid-level teams have become more competitive.
I believe that we are positioned for a great season for 2018. While I will not comment on any team dynamics or forecasted eventualities within this blog until a greater number of games have been played, I will say that with all of the collective work, planning and innovation which has gone behind the scenes this season, the dynamics on the field are expected to be truly fun and competitive…with “Fun” being the operative word. So, with this in mind…lets…