By Deb Silverthorn
The Temple Shalom Brotherhood Softball League has rounded the bases for another season, and its team members, friends, families, fans and the community will celebrate its 44th season from 9:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9, at Temple Shalom.
The Shalom League Softball awards banquet, featuring guest speaker Dale Hansen, the WFAA sports anchor, will celebrate the league’s spring and fall Season division winners, championship teams, most valuable players, rookies of the year, fan of the year, and recipient of the Mr. Shalom Brotherhood award.
“The Shalom League has been a huge part of my life, for more than half my life and that’s a long time,” said Bob Weinfeld, 92, one of the league’s founders who has captained his beloved Pittsburgh Pirates for all 44 years. The league, with 387 players participating for five years or more, grew out of a crew of teams gathering for pickup games over the six years previous. “I’ve kept years’ worth of logs, a real history, and now another year, literally, is in the books.” The Shalom League, open to all adult males, began in 1975 with six teams on two fields at Churchill Park. Heritage Yards in North Plano has been the league’s home field for the past 20 years. This year, 240 players on 20 teams made up the spring 2018 roster, and 168 players on 14 teams played this fall.
Honors will be given to the 2018 spring division winners, the Emeralds led by Sean Greeley, and spring champions, the Astros, captained by John Hauf; and the fall division winners, the Thunder, captained by John Miller, and the Rockhounds, led by Tyler Samsel, and fall champions, the Lake Monsters, captained by Scott Lawrence.
The 2018 rookie of the year and spring finals MVP Jorge Quintero, spring batting champion Max Henry and spring Gold Glove winners Brian Ortega and Darius Wu will be recognized. Wu will also receive honors as fall batting champion and home run champion for both the spring and fall seasons.
The recipient of the 16th Annual Phyllis Unell Scholarship — with this year’s scholarship money reaching $8,000 — 2018 inductees to the league’s Hall of Fame, captain’s MVP and Commissioner’s Awards also will be announced.
“For more than 20 years the league has been a huge part of my life and the friendships made, and the experiences shared, make everyone family,” said Wayne Casper, eight years the league’s commissioner, volunteering almost fulltime hours to coordinate 40 games each Sunday in the spring and 28 during the fall. “There are a lot of talented players, and lots with ‘less’ talent. But out on the fields, it’s nothing but camaraderie and goodness.”
Hansen, the 10 p.m. weeknight sports anchor and host of the Sunday night Dale Hansen’s Sports Special on Channel 8, has been with WFAA for 35 years. Beginning his career as a radio disc jockey and operations manager, then sports reporter at KMTV in Omaha, Nebraska, it was there, as part of a softball league, that Hansen met his future wife.
“Sports is a metaphor for life and all I believe and try to be is based on the lessons of the field,” said Hansen, who has enjoyed playing football, baseball, basketball, volleyball and bowling, golf his mainstay, since he was 12. “I’m honored to be asked to be a part of this event and I appreciate the invitation. I promise it’ll be fun, it’ll be exciting — it might even be a bit controversial, but it’ll be a great way to spend part of a Sunday.”
At the awards brunch, filmmaker Randy Kamen, a former Shalom League catcher and right-fielder, will share parts of his “Temple Shalom Softball” documentary, now covering the Fretz Park years of 1982-1992 and featuring Jay Lifshen, who died earlier this year.
“Jay, who was one of the winningest captains, a fierce competitor, and a friend to all who knew him, is such a central figure to the Fretz Park years of the league,” said Kamen. The filmmaker has completed production on the documentary’s “The First Inning,” spanning 1975-1977, and “The Second Inning,” covering 1978-1981, and continues to raise funds to complete the project. “A Temple Shalom Hall-of-Famer and die-hard Yankees fan, Jay is one of the legendary figures forever remembered for his play on the field and his brotherhood off the field.”
The spring draft begins each February (applications for spring 2019 now posted at shalomleague.org) and games run from March through August. A quick turnaround finds the fall draft in August with games played through November.
“The friends from all walks of life, the fellowship, and the brotherhood are something I don’t think can be found anywhere else,” said Weinfeld. Casper echoed the sentiments. “There’s a lot of ‘special’ out there, but the Shalom League — it’s its own kind of special. We hope the community will come see what we’re all about, maybe sign on, but for sure have a great day.”
Breakfast is free for spring and fall season players and all Shalom Brotherhood members in good standing, and $5 for all others. For more information or to RSVP, call Weinfeld at 972-814-6214 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To donate to the Temple Shalom Softball documentary series, email email@example.com.