By John Burton
Jon Bitman remembered at softball tournament
LITTLE SILVER – It was a fun day but for many of those attending the Little Silver Men’s One Pitch Tournament, it was also a day to remember their friend and neighbor.
This year’s event was in honor of Jonathan Bitman, a borough resident, borough councilman and a longtime member of the Little Silver Crocs, the over-40 softball team, who died on Sept. 4 at age 52 after battling pancreatic cancer.
The tournament, held Saturday, Sept. 29, on the sports fields behind borough hall and the public library, featured the usual softball games, cheers and shouts of players and spectators, music, laughter and conversations, along with the sizzle of grills cooking burgers and hot dogs. It was a great day for the participants, families and community members but for some, including event organizers Doug Glassmacher and Peter Roskowinski, it was a bittersweet day with Bitman’s absence felt by those who knew him.
According to Glassmacher and Roskowinski, Bitman was a member of the Crocs since the team was formed more than a decade ago.
“Jon was a catcher,” Glassmacher said. “He was like Yogi Berra back there,” joking and trash talking with teammates and to the batters.
As a catcher, Bitman was “very effective” and always batted in the same spot in the lineup – last, Roskowinski said.
During this year’s tournament there were six Little Silver teams, one from Rumson and another from Shrewsbury competing in a series of games with batters facing one pitch, which allowed for quite a few games during the day, Glassmacher said.
The day was – and has been – more than about softball. Bitman always saw it as a sort of community day, with music, food, and activities for the kids.
“Our motto is ‘there’s more to being a Croc than playing ball,’” Glassmacher said. “Like Jon, we’re very community-oriented.”
“All I can say is Jon would have been the first person setting things up” and he always spent time behind the grill, said Little Silver resident Chris Curley. “He’s still here in spirit.”
“It’s a sad day,” resident Cindy Mendoza said, “but it’s a good day.”
Mendoza has been a “Crocette,” one of the women who help out, since the beginning. “I’m one of the originals,” she said as she sold 50/50 tickets.
She acknowledged that residents of the borough are usually quick to answer the call for help when situations arise. “That’s what impressed me about this town,” she said. “People do step up.”
Rich Movelle, who lives in Tinton Falls, played for the Rumson team. About six years ago the event was dedicated to helping a member of his team who was stricken with ALS. Movelle said that while he takes his softball seriously, “the game is not as important as the money to help the family.”
“He did love the Crocs,” said Bitman’s sister, Paige Ascher of Maplewood.
“And he always enjoyed a good burger,” said Russ Ascher, Paige’s husband, jokingly recalling his brother-in-law.
“He would be the first one out here to help another person,” Paige Ascher said. “This really is a fitting tribute to him.”
The proceeds raised throughout the day and afterward will go to help Bitman’s daughter, Cori, a college sophomore, continue her education, Roskowinski said.
The fundraising had gone well and “exceeded our expectations,” Roskowinski said after the event.
People can still contribute by mail to the Jon Bitman Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 143, Little Silver, NJ 07739; or through sites.google.com/site/lscrocs/home.