Lions defeat local celebrities 7-6 in beepball game
On Friday, June 22nd, the St. Paul Midway Lions beepball team defeated a team of local celebrities 7-6 at Midway Stadium. Marilyn Highland scored the winning run by hitting a ball over the pitcher’s mound that rolled between the legs of U.S. Senate candidate Bob Olson. By the time Olson got to the ball, Highland had gotten to first base.
Olson wasn’t the only celebrity player to miss a play. Later in the game, Greg Lutowsky stepped up to the plate and hit the ball. When racing down the first base line, however, he missed the base “by 20 feet. By the time he ran back to the first base, Jennifer Dubbin picked up the ball for the out,” said coach Dennis Stern.
Celebrity player Tom Heinl had better luck than Olson in the field. Standing even with third base, Heinl waited for the sound of the bat driving the ball in his direction. The spotter shouted out, “Three!” Heinl took that cue and dove to his left, with his body stretched out on the ground, on his side, to stop the ball rolling towards him. “Got it!” Heinl shouted. Just in time, the umpire called, “Out!” Heinl’s defense prevented two points from scoring! (See How Beepball Works, below.)
Besides winning the game, Lions players were excited just to play at the home field of the St. Paul Saints. “All of our players got to bat at the home plate where Jack Morris pitched over a few years ago,” said Stern. Even though these are exhibition games, the excitement and intensity is high. In fact, most of the games this season have been decided by two runs or less. The next celebrity donor game will be on July 28th at the Rice Street Festival (11:00 a.m.).
Kevin Moldenhauer, a beepball celebrity of previous World Series games and an original beepball player from the 1970s, continues to celebrate and promote the sport. “Now I play mainly to get out and run a little,” he said. “I also believe that beepball is a fun game and that we can keep it going in the Twin Cities. The teacher in me also believes that my experiences in playing the game might be something that I can give back to the game that was so great for me to play.”
All players wear sleep shades, covers over the eyes that block any residual vision. The ability to hit the ball under sleep shades is a skill that takes concentration and perseverance. With practice, players may improve not only their ability to consistently hit the ball, but also field it.
Unlike traditional baseball, the beepball pitcher is on the same team as the batter. Standing at a distance of 20 feet, the pitcher throws the ball where he knows the batter will make a connection. The success rate between pitcher and batter is contingent upon the consistency of the pitch and the swing of the bat.
Part of the skill of the game is to become as comfortable as possible playing a sport once thought impossible for somebody who’s blind. Like any sport, friendly competition helps to draw out the talent in people who may not otherwise realize their full potential. Nancy Schadegg, long-time beepball player, stated, “It’s a great summer sport for blind people. It’s a way for blind people to play baseball, a game they’d otherwise not be able to play.” According to Suzanne Glidden, Beepball volunteer, “The thing that I find most compelling is the enthusiasm. There’s so much positive energy at the games. It’s fun to watch.”
To learn more about beepball, and/or to become a celebrity donor, contact Coach Dennis Stern, 1837 Victoria Rd., Mendota Hts., MN 55118, 651-452-5324, Dennisstern@comcast.net
How Beepball Works
All players wear sleep shades to block out any vision. The batter stands at home plate and waits for the pitch of a beeping ball. Swinging his arm back, the pitcher calls out, “Go, Set, Ready, Pitch.” On the pitch, the batter swings. After three strikes, the batter is allowed to hit off a tee.
When the ball is hit, the batter runs to the beeping base set one hundred feet from home plate. Meanwhile, the beeping ball flies through the air, and the fielders race to where they hear the sound. The spotter helps the fielders by telling the direction the ball is going (e.g. “Six” is straight toward center field) and how far it its hit (Loud high voice means a long ball, soft low voice means a short ball). If the fielder reaches the ball and holds it up over their head before the batter reaches the base, the batter is out. If the batter reaches the base first, points are scored. It’s two points if the ball is pitched and hit, and one point if hit off a tee.