FCCJBL in the News

June 1, 2006 - Jewish Ledger
Play Ball! Fairfield County Jewish Baseball League Hits a Homerun 
by Stacey Dresner 

Courtesy: The Jewish Ledger

STAMFORD -- The Fairfield County Connecticut Jewish Baseball League's (FCCJBL) baseball season last year ended on a high note - Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy threw out the first ball at the last game and Cantor Arik Wollheim of Congregation Agudath Sholom sang the National Anthem and "Hatikvah."

"All of the kids were in uniform and lined up on the first and third base lines - just like the World Series," said League Commissioner Seth Marlowe. "All kids should get this kind of feeling."

After more than five years, the Fairfield County Jewish Baseball League is growing by leaps and bounds, due to Marlowe's dedication.

Just two years ago, the league included players from just three Stamford synagogues -- Congregation Agudath Sholom, Young Israel of Stamford and Temple Beth El. While the league had 108 players last year, this year 124 kids are enrolled, including kids from 13 more congregations around Stamford, Greenwich, Westport and Norwalk.

For all of his work building the FCCJBL, Marlowe was honored last month at the United Jewish Federation's annual meeting with the UJF Ben Zinbarg Family Outstanding Adult Leadership Award.

"First off, to win an award named after Ben Zinbarg is very exciting and humbling," Marlowe said. "Ben was a cornerstone of the community building efforts in Stamford and I cannot be any more flattered. This whole league for me is so rewarding. It's like a real life fantasy Baseball League on one hand and at the same time, just to see all those kids on the field and know that they are getting exercise, fresh air and having a good time is so satisfying. I always knew we could make this into a real nice product for the kids and parents. And we are helping to build bridges across the different lower Fairfield County towns and communities. I am so proud of what's been accomplished with a little-- perhaps a lot -- of hard work."

A rebuilding year

One of Marlowe's goals has been to increase the number of players in the Jewish league, by reaching out to all of the synagogues in Fairfield County.

"2005 was a great re-building year for the league. We ended up with 108 kids in the program and a total of 6 teams - two in the majors; two in the minors and two in t-ball...We attracted many new faces to the league last year as a result of the marketing effort to the shuls around lower Fairfield County. We ended up with kids from 11 different shuls attending 12 different schools," Marlowe said.

While the League's base synagogues are still Agudath Sholom, Young Israel and Temple Beth El, the League now has kids whose families are affiliated with Congregation Shir Ami of Stamford, Temple Sinai of Stamford, Greenwich Reform Synagogue, Temple Sholom of Greenwich, Congregation Beth El of Norwalk, Beth Israel of Norwalk, Beit Chaverim of Westport, Temple Israel of Westport, Conservative Synagogue of Westport, Ahavath Achim of Fairfield, Chabad of Greenwich, Chabad of Stamford.

"We also have a number of unaffiliated families where we are perhaps the only link to the Jewish community for them," Marlowe said.

This year the league expanded out to 8th grade "to give kids through the end of middle school the chance to play," Marlowe explained. "Little League ends at age 12; then there are Babe Ruth programs. So we again provide an alternative that does not exist for kids who just want to play."

The league, which plays its games on two baseball diamonds at Newfield Elementary School on Pepper Ridge Road in Stamford, also began a new "Intro to T-Ball" division for pre-K kids. "That group, which, is comprised of 3 and 4 year-olds has been a big success," Marlowe said.

Marlowe said that having a Jewish Baseball League is important to the families of Fairfield County.

"It's an opportunity for the kids to play without the competition associated with today's city Little League programs," Marlowe explained. "Many of these kids would opt not to play for that reason, and for the kids in observant homes who do not want to deal with missing Friday evening and Saturday day games because of Shabbat.

"In addition, we have two autistic kids in the program this year who just wouldn't get this kind of opportunity. They and their parents are having a great time."

Marketing the League

Marlowe's marketing efforts for the Jewish Baseball League over the past year include enlisting David Shavrick, Creative Director at OgilvyInteractive, to design a league logo which can be seen on the players' uniforms and on the league website that Marlowe launched.

And after reaching out to rabbis in Fairfield County, Marlowe was approached by David Lipson - a player for the Minor League Nashua Pride and son of Rabbi Mark Lipson of Temple Shalom in Norwalk.

Lipson came out to conduct a pre-season clinic for the League's Major and Minor league kids this spring.

"He was just great with all the kids...We are now all Dave Lipson fans and look forward to his season with the Nashua Pride. How great would it be for our kids if Dave makes the Majors and these kids can say that they learned baseball from him?"

Marlowe also contacted representatives of the upcoming Maccabi Games to be held in Stamford this year. To show support for the Maccabis, he had the Stamford Maccabi Games logo imprinted on all of the right sleeves of the teams' shirts.

"I thought it was very important to provide a link with the Games," he said. "We are working on a program for our pre-game for this year's Championship Games that recognizes both the coordinators of the Games as well as a few of our players who are all Maccabi Games athletes."

Copyright 2006, The Jewish Ledger/ NRG Connecticut LLC

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