Players find fun and friendship playing in the J’s summer softball league

This past weekend, more than 425 softball players began the month-long playoff series of the J’s co-ed summer softball league – one of the longest running co-ed softball leagues in the state.

 The league started in the mid-1980s, originally playing games in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, before becoming an official program of the Stroum Jewish Community Center in 1984.

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Since then, hundreds of sluggers in the Seattle area have come out for competition and camaraderie on the South Mercer Island playfields every Sunday, from May through July. As SJCC Program Director Zach Duitch describes it, “It really is a highlight of the summer. Not only is it a great excuse to be outside and get some exercise, it also really brings people together from all parts of the community to make new friends, reconnect with old ones. It’s kind of an extended family. There are a lot of local leagues to play in, but there’s something special about this one.”

With 28 teams in the SJCC summer softball league – including those with creative names like “Empty Pitchers,” “Who’s On 1st?” and “Meshuggenah Ballers,” – it takes a lot of coordination (and a bit of magic) to get everything lined up and in order.

Fortunately, there’s Tiger Budbill, Softball Coordinator Extraordinaire. A softball veteran in his 8th year of SJCC softball and captain of the “Bar Hitzvahs,” Tiger is the fearless leader who courageously agreed to run the J’s softball league in partnership with a host of volunteers and J staff members this summer. Among his responsibilities: scheduling more than 450 games this season, partnering with Mercer Island Parks and Rec to make sure fields aren’t double-booked, coordinating rainouts with captains, hiring umpires to officiate the games, and even serving as an umpire himself.

When asked about his experience managing the league, Tiger notes, “It’s been so much fun. Admittedly, I was somewhat unprepared for all the various moving parts of the job. I don’t know how my predecessors managed it all, on top of their simultaneous responsibilities with SJCC Summer Camp. Thankfully though, I’ve had some great support from the folks at the J to help make this one of the best seasons yet.”

When he’s not playing, umping, or coordinating softball, Tiger works full time as a Seattle-area DJ and entertainer. He also runs Cat Daddy Entertainment, a full service DJ, Karaoke, and MC company specializing in weddings, auctions and corporate events.

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Tiger Budbill as the Mariners Moose with Tom Hanks.

Some would say he’s also a mini-celebrity. In 2011, Tiger was featured in Season 1 of Simon Cowell’s X Factor (he made it all the way to the Top 32), he was the original moose mascot for the Seattle Mariners, his R&B group got signed by a recording label in the early ‘90s, and he sings an impressive acoustic rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”

As Tiger describes his journey to stardom, “I’ve been almost famous since I was 19 years old.”

Luckily, for Tiger, he has a very pliable schedule that lets him do it all.

Before his foray into softball league management, Tiger served on the SJCC Softball Committee for a few years, providing him insight into the multitude of personalities and opinions that make up the league, as well as ideas for potential areas of improvement: “I saw an opportunity to put the league on a better, more consistent path,” says Tiger.

One of the improvements Tiger introduced to the SJCC Softball League this year was an incentive to get teams to register all their players for the league before the season started  –  a struggle many organizations experience. Tiger announced that the first team to get their team registered would be awarded a pizza party as a special thank you. The incentive worked; so well in fact, that two teams completed the registration challenge on the exact same day. Tiger kept his promise, throwing both teams – plus their families – a pizza party a couple weeks ago: “I think they really appreciated it – a small token to thank them for being part of it.”

Three-time A League champs, The Bitewings.

Three-time A League champs, The Bitewings.

But the real highlight of the summer will be Sunday, July 27, the date of the B, C, and D championship games when the top two teams in each of those divisions will battle – or bat, rather – it out for the title (the A League championships occurred on Sunday, July 22, with repeat-champs The Bitewings snagging the title). Tiger even noted he’ll bring his audio and sound equipment to broadcast real-time announcements and stats like a true game announcer.

“Even though it’s had its share of challenges in terms of juggling a lot of moving parts, I’ve loved having the opportunity to run the league,” says Tiger. “It’s been really cool getting to know a lot of people a little more deeply – as far as the different players and teams – and getting to be around them more. It’s been nice to get to know people here at the J. I like being part of a community. This feels like what my community is going to be now.”

Don’t miss out!

Whether you’re a competitive veteran after the title or a rookie just looking to relax and have some fun in the sun, we’ve got a place for you. There are four divisions (A, B, C, D); ranging from most competitive (A) to least competitive (D). You can assemble your own team of friends and coworkers or join up with some new friends. There is a 14-player minimum roster limit and no maximum roster limit.

If interested, please contact Tiger Budbill at tiger@sjccsoftball.com.

Next season is right around the corner!