Lions roared and also taught a valuable lesson

The Minnesota Fighting Lions represented Minnesota at the 2010 Beep Baseball World Series in Rochester, August 2-7. The Lions finished with a 1(W)-6 (L) record. Although the Lions didn’t finish among the top teams, the tournament was an incredible learning experience for everyone on the squad. Teams were from all over the world, with the West Coast Dawgs winning the title.

An incredibly competitive group of ball players played hard in all seven of our games. Beepball is a sport much like baseball, except it involves a special ball that makes a noise. The sport is enjoyed by many athletes with visual impairments.

The competitive team was Matt Mitchell, Evan Van Duyne, Ryan Quast, James Mastro, Ben Goodrich, Matt McCoy, Robert Moore, Steven Guerra, catcher Zach Hahnen and pitcher Brett Scott.

But for many the tournament began with frustration. We had practiced for more than a year. Our speed and batting ability were comparable to others on the field. Why many of us were blocked from playing was a mystery. Even more confusing, was why none of us were rotated in to relieve tired athletes.

For four days, we sat on the sidelines with our active supporters Marilynn Highland, Jerry Lindau, Jeffrey Katz, Gary Boettcher, Jennifer Dubbin and Nancy Schadegg.

Not getting to play was frustrating. We wanted to field the beep balls hit by opposing players. We wanted to be at bat or take right field to get the feeling of the game on the World Series field. We all wanted to be a player who was part of a team.

One of our captains saw the tournament as more competitive and less a chance for recreation and fun. While respect and inclusion of all players is one of the most important elements for a successful team, to have fun is far more important than winning, for most beepball players.

In retrospect, a better way for us to have felt and to have expressed what we felt was for us to not focus on what we felt but on what was best for the team as a whole.

I had a wonderful vantage point on the sidelines to observe our coaches, ball players and visitors. Gary, Marilynn, Nancy, Jennifer, Jeff and Jerry never stopped rallying our team. One of our team captains would lead a cheer from the field, L-I-O-N-S, LIONS! And the bench responded LIONS!

The entire team learned about the spiritual gift of grace amidst competition that older and younger ball players shared so well day after day, year after year.

One of our two team captains had his heart set on winning. The other tried hard to get players into the games. Most of our team just had our hearts set on playing together. The team that had practiced together for more than a year had a better record to show than the team that played in the World Series.

A team cannot expect to play just to win. We have to have fun as top priority. Winning is nice, but it is not an end in itself.

After each game, we’d line up and shake hands with the players of the opposing team, congratulating each other for a game well played. Sportsmanship is an important part of beepball.

The Minnesota Fighting Lions’ weekly practices are held at the Cretin-Derham Hall High School Field in St. Paul. Come out and watch us play sometime. Maybe you will join our team too and share in the excitement of this fantastic sport called beepball.

Contact Coach Dennis Stern for more details at 651-452-5324; dennisstern@comcast.net