Grand Slam Sunday attracts 1,500 fans

These guys know who’s got their back.
Photo by Jack Hartzman Photography

Bob Bloom had just begun to accept that his Washington Nationals had lost to the New York Mets 6-5 on a close play at home plate on Sunday. But suddenly his mood changed.

“Time out. Play under review!” he said from his seat in an upper level suite of Nationals Park. But after watching the instant replay of Edwin Jackson’s slide, Bloom acknowledged that the runner was indeed out.

Bloom was one of 1,500 members of the Jewish community who attended the Aug. 27 game as part of Grand Slam Sunday, an annual event sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.

Bloom, of Potomac, has been a fan of Washington baseball all the way back to the time of the Washington Senators.

“I was at Griffith Stadium once when I was 4,” he said. “But this is great. In August? We never watched baseball in August back then. We were always in last place. This team has so much potential.”

A group of younger fans came onto the field before the game to pose for photos, meet the players and get autographs. The kids wore Nationals shirts and baseball caps with the name of the team spelled in Hebrew letters.

“I think today’s going to be really fun. Nationals versus the Mets is always a good game,” said Evan Burgess, a 10-year-old student at Rachel Carson Elementary School in Gaithersburg.

Those baseball caps caught the attention of Nationals Manager Dusty Baker during the pre-game event. As Baker signed a girl’s cap, he asked her what the word on the cap meant. She told him that it said Nationals.

“There’s such a large Jewish community here, and I think it’s great to have these ethnic days to bring everybody together,” Baker said.

Nearby, incoming Federation CEO Gil Preuss was chatting with Harvey Goodman, to whom the Federation gave the honor of throwing out the first pitch because of his service to the Jewish community.

“My strategy is to stay off [ESPN] ‘SportsCenter’ and not hit anybody I’m not supposed to,” he joked.

Goodman’s pitch was off the plate, but was caught by the Nationals’ Andrew Stevenson, at which point the Goodman smiled and raised his arms triumphantly.

Preuss called himself a “moderate” baseball fan who goes to about six games a year. He was pleased with the turnout.

“This is pretty amazing, having so many people come out for community day,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun to be here.”

Inside the stadium, members of the Jewish community mingled, and participated in games and giveaways. At the Washington Jewish Week’s table, participants signed banners thanking the Nationals for being the hometown team. (WJW was a media sponsor of the event.)

People couldn’t seem to get enough of the kosher food served for free by the Federation’s Jewish Food Experience. Emily Landsman, who helped serve, said the barbecue brisket, mashed potatoes and sesame ginger chicken were popular items.

“There were lots and lots of people coming through,” she said. “We thought we were going to finish before the game started but people kept coming through.”

Attendees included committed baseball fans Susan and Milton Goldsamt of Silver Spring. Milton Goldsamt attended Lafayette High School in Brooklyn, N.Y., one year behind Sandy Koufax, though he did not know the famous pitcher.

Susan Goldsamt said she enjoys baseball because it is a nonviolent sport.

“I mean, you don’t see people just hitting each other to get an inch like you do in football,” she said.

The couple said they think Jews are drawn to baseball because of an intellectual aspect they feel is unique to the game.

“It’s very hard to hit a baseball,” Susan Goldsamt said. “You have a round bat and a round ball and those that can hit it in the right way are the few that can succeed, and we appreciate that.”

In an upstairs conference room, Federation donors enjoyed all-beef hot dogs and other kosher foods as part of a legacy lunch meant to honor those who have given major gifts to area Jewish organizations.

One of the donors was Matthew Simon, a rabbi emeritus of B’nai Israel Congregation in Rockville. Simon, a friend of the Nationals’ owner Ted Lerner, comes from a baseball family. His father was a batboy for the minor league Newark Bears around World War I. Simon said he never wrote a High Holiday sermon that didn’t include at least one baseball reference. He has passed the baseball passion down to his kids.

“We’re all into baseball,” he said. “I taught my children how to fill out a scorecard for every game we went to.”

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