Discovering a Passion
MJCCA softball fosters lifelong connections
It’s hard to believe that when I throw the first pitch to open the spring softball season in March 2020, it will be my 50th year,” Gene Benator shares, referring to his incredible modified fast pitch softball career played through the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta. The one season he missed was because he didn’t want to leave his wife, Patty, at home every Sunday with their toddler, Brian, and newborn daughter, Jaime. “Oy! Had I known that was going to be the only season I’d miss in 50 years, I would’ve hired a nanny,” he jests.
To say that the MJCCA and its many wonderful programs have made an impact on my life would be an understatement.Gene Benator
Gene’s inaugural athletic season was during the summer of 1971, and “the rest is history,” he says. “From that summer onward, I have been involved with the JCC on a weekly basis.” Through five decades, he has been a fixture in several of the MJCCA’s youth and adult sports leagues, having served in formal and informal roles as a player, team captain, volunteer, coach, mentor, referee, recruiter, cheerleader, umpire, organizer, commissioner, and enthusiast — but the softball program has had his heart. “Besides being with my family and friends, playing in the league with 109 other players and friends is the thing I most enjoy doing, win or lose (of course, I prefer winning),” he beams.
Ten years ago, Gene’s former teammate, Marcus Katz, suggested an ‘Old-Timer’s Game’ and asked Gene to make it happen. Gene recruited past players from the 1971 to 1992 leagues. “That first year we had four teams, 45 players, and a smattering of family and friends spectating, Gene relays. “The 2019 game saw six teams, 90 players, and 45+ friends and family. The now nicknamed ‘Alta Cocker Game’ is one not to be missed. “The camaraderie, laughter, smiles, and shrewd playing make for a great event!” Gene insists.
“To say that the MJCCA and its many wonderful programs have made an impact on my life would be an understatement,” Gene exclaims. After all, he met Patty, coached his kids in various athletics, played softball and basketball with Brian and his son-in-law, David – all through the JCC. “It doesn’t get any better than that! The MJCCA and its members and staff have played, and will continue to play, a pivotal role in my life and my family’s life.”
92% of parents said that their child learned about good sportsmanship through MJCCA youth sports.