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25th Annual Beepball Classic; or, My First Celebrity Meeting

A couple of weeks ago I had the distinct pleasure of attending the 25th Annual Beepball Classic at George M. Steinbrenner Field (home of the New York Yankees' spring training).

This annual event is a modified baseball game in which staff and client's from the Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind play against "All Stars" from the local media. To level the playing field, so to speak, the All Stars team members are all blindfolded while on the field so they do not have the advantage of sight, as the Lighthouse players are all blind or sight-impaired. Instead of relying on vision, players must rely on hearing; the ball used in the game beeps, as do the only two bases on the field--at first and third (if a player reaches one of the bases, the play is considered a home run and a point is scored). Depending on which direction the ball goes on the field, a person sitting behind home plate will switch on the base that is in the opposite direction, so the player doesn't trip over the ball.

The All Stars team consisted of several WFLA News Channel 8 personalities, most notably Chief Meteorologist Steve Jerve, whom I've admittedly had a bit of a crush on since the fourth grade, when he visited my elementary school in Casselberry, Florida (and then he followed me to Tampa! Or perhaps it was the other way around...). Also on the team were Tampa Tribune writers and local politicians. And then there was the sole New York Yankees employee (also my boyfriend), Tim Guidry.

There they were--my boyfriend and my 22-year-long crush, side by side.

The main reason this event is put on each year is to raise money for the Lighthouse, which provides free services to community members in need. Because this was the 25th annual event, Tim, on behalf of the New York Yankees Tampa Foundation, presented the Lighthouse with a $2500 check just before the game started. In an ironic moment, we were deprived of sound during the check presentation, as the mic was not turned on.

Once the game got underway, I must say I was thoroughly entertained. Watching the blindfolded players try to adapt to a setting in which they could not see a thing was rather amusing. When at bat, each player was escorted from the dugout to home plate and positioned for the best possible chance of hitting the ball.

The pitcher let the player know the ball was being released by calling "Pitch!" each time he threw the beeping ball. And then, a wide variety of things happened. Most often the ball was swung at too early or too late. Sometimes the ball was clipped and fouled. Rarely, the bat actually made full contact with the ball, but the ball had to make it past a white line on the field to be in play, and often it didn't go far enough and was considered foul. But on the few occasions that it did go far enough, the player then had to listed for which base was beeping and try to run to it and touch it (there were foam constructions at about arm height that players could reach for). Meanwhile, players in the outfield had to try to listen for the beeping ball and then recover it from the ground. Some of the more amusing moments of the game occurred in the outfield, when players (usually on the All Stars team) would hear the ball, get low to the ground, then eventually crawl on the ground and search all around with their hands, sometimes never to find it.

Tim actually hit the ball at least twice, but it fouled back both times. Oh, and instead of three strikes, batters got five. Which was a reasonable and necessary adjustment.

Nice form!

The same thing happened with Steve (yes, I took pictures of both of them):

In the end, the Lighthouse beat the All Stars five to one. I think in the history of this match-up, the All Stars have only beat the Lighthouse once. Which is pretty much how it should be.

The highlight of the game for me did not come during a play; after much ado (basically me being too shy to agree to an introduction), Tim introduced me to Steve Jerve in the dugout, and I told him about the time he visited my elementary school and how all the kids thought he should get together with our librarian, Ms. Massey. He's about as nice a guy as they come and very gracefully handled the fact that I probably made him feel old--but I must have also made him feel somewhat flattered, because I know I acted like a giddy school girl in his presence. I can now check that off the old bucket list.

Here is an actual professional write-up of the event.


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