In honor of Guitel's one year yahrzeit, a memory:
Setting: Camp Ramah, New England. The last Shabbas afternoon in Tent City, i.e. the Nivonim Kfar. The sun is shining on this late August afternoon, and I am in my standard attire (slippers and shorts with a jersey strewn on a nearby bench should I actually have to don clothing for a modest-- or more likely boss-like, passerby). My boys Alowe, Rhoda ben David Grill-Abramowitz, and I are in the mood for one of our favorite Palmer Pastimes, Wiffleball. We put out the challenge, and mow down all opponents in two straight six inning games. You gotta understand, I kind of dominate Wiffleball.
With the afternoon sun glaring on, our third and final challenging squad, led by Niv08's finest, Josh Guitelman, strolled up to the playing field (comprising of the Kfar Moadon's see-through top down tarp wall as the all encompassing backstop and a Tcan on top of a crate as a strike zone). I honestly don't remember the other two people on his team, because this quickly became a duel between Guitel and me. I call myself a pitcher and a hitter. Never until that game had someone matched me pitch for pitch, strike out for strike out. And lemme tell you, each of us was striking out everybody, including each other. Usually, other teammates take a turn hurling their best stuff (as we all know sharing is caring). I was not giving the ball to anyone but me, and neither was he. The innings passed, still no score. A stray ground ball single here, a bloop dropped double there. I think I flied out to the edge of the warning track (identified by the lady tents) once in the 10thish inning.
Every time I stepped to the plate to face him, I felt like I had a shot to win the game with one swing of the bat. And literally 95% of those at bats, he struck me out. This was intriguing to me. Guitel had this one pitch that was simply unhittable that day. I had killllled Guitel's stuff before, but he was coming at me with some seriously pro-grade shit. On the one hand, I wanted to win, and I wanted to win now. But the grimace and scowl combo I kept giving him belied the honest excitement and pride I had in the lil guy. Well, at the time the most frustrating part of that game was the fact that it had to be interrupted for the afternoon Mincha prayers. Naturally, we promised we would finish the game right after we got back from the grove. But of course, this was not to happen...some of us made it back after Mincha, others didn't. It was after all the last day of camp and campers had things to do, people to see. Our edah as a group had an agenda, each tent had their own last night programs, there was the B-side dance to prepare for, and as you know very well, the rest is history.
Fatefully, that game never did finish. But perhaps it wasn't supposed to be. I have never played such a legitimate competitor since that last Shabbas afternoon of Niv08. Indeed, Guitel was the last challenger.
As I gear up for the Columbia Intramural Wiffleball tournament coming up in a couple of weeks and as your one year anniversary has just passed over so many of us on this rainy Passover day, your spirit, your nasty wiffle pitch, and really you, Josh, are missed.