“People get their start with the Blue Jays, both on the field and in the Jewish community.”
Marc Brafman and his son, Jacob, have found lifelong friendships through the Mayerson JCC Blue Jays, through coaching and competing against other teams. When it comes to programs at the JCC, one of the best avenues for getting involved is by joining the Blue Jays—whether that’s basketball, soccer, or baseball.
“Sometimes when you make a decision to get involved, you don’t realize the journey you’re actually taking,” Marc said. It’s not only about getting involved in the programs at the J, it’s about the relationships and friendships you build while playing. These connections last a lifetime, and former players and coaches still feel these connections years later.
When Sports & Recreation Director Mike Creemer started with the Blue Jays 20 years ago, he didn’t know the impact he would see. Over the years, he has watched his players grow—some from a very young age to high school. He says there is a sense of connection among the players when kids from many different schools play together at the J.
“The kids feel like they’re part of a family,” he said. “Although they span a wide range of ages and play on different teams, they’re all connected through a common purpose and interest—something that stays with them long after they play their last game.”
When playing for the Blue Jays, the kids know they are part of a community. That community is what connects everyone to the broader Jewish community in Cincinnati. Winning games is important, but the kids know that they’re in this together, something Mike and the parents see transpire every day on the field.
While developing strong relationships, Mike focuses on building confidence in the players and fueling their drive to compete. Although the Blue Jays are a recreational team, they are competitive with select teams in the city.
“To me, the winning and losing isn’t as important as learning the game and the fundamentals,” Marc said. “Mike does a great job, and he teaches the love of the game and how to be a good teammate. All the kids try to emulate that. The kids learn how to celebrate successes together and to cope with the losses. All in all, the kids are in this together through the good times and the bad times. It really reinforces life lessons while playing together!”
Of course, winning games is still an exciting feat for the players, and it validates their hard work. The team felt that validation when the Class B Senior Athletic Division in the Cincinnati Knothole Association completed this season with a 20-0 record.
“It was a buzzsaw!” Mike said about the team’s season. “It took every player to contribute somehow. These kids can play against the best teams and win. That’s something that they’ll have forever.”
Beyond winning games, the Blue Jays program allows families to participate in athletics in a way that supports their religious traditions. The Blue Jays are the perfect fit for most Jewish families because they do not play or practice on Shabbat or the Jewish holidays.
“The kids come ready to play, and they don’t have to worry about navigating the tension between being committed to the team and to their values,” Marc said.
Marc has been a coach for the Blue Jays and is involved with the adult softball program. He also mentions that through the Blue Jays, he was able to meet other parents, who have formed friendships in the community. Outside of the games, they find time to have pool parties and other events that reinforce that sense of camaraderie found so often at the J.
Because of that, he and his wife, Shana Brafman, are serving this year as the co-chairs for the Oy Vey 5K. The Oy Vey 5K is on Sunday, November 7 at 10am. Proceeds from the race will support the Blue Jays this year. When they were approached to chair the event, they couldn’t wait to help out and hope others participate, too.
“Come out and participate in the Oy Vey 5K! We’re excited to be together in-person this year and show our support for the Mayerson JCC. The Blue Jays are so near and dear to our hearts—and important for our Jewish community. Our kids love being a part of the teams and have grown so much, we are proud to be part of the event.”