by Kevin Burton
Last Friday on Page 7 we had some fun with the National Beep Baseball Association’s code of conduct policy.
I turned the clock back to a time even before my playing days and talked about brawls among Chicago teams. But the incidents weren’t limited to the Windy City.
Former teammate Debbie Brummer tells me entire teams have been thrown out of hotels in the old days when they had tournaments in South Dakota. She didn’t say what got them thrown out and it’s better that way, don’t you think?
So it was more code of the west than code of conduct. Players from our generation smile at the very thought of a conduct policy for beep baseball.
But there is a whole generation of younger beepballers, that has no knowledge of those old days and perhaps no interest in them. So for discussions of ethics and codes of conduct, maybe I should at least spend some time preaching from what Flip Wilson used to call “the church of what’s happening now.”
And isn’t it like me to invoke the name of a 60s and 70s comic in talking about the newer generations?
Anyway the newer players are surely more interested why the policy is in place and what it means for their beepball future.
For that I turned to Doug Van Duyne. He is the coach of the Minnesota Millers and also the chair of the NBBA Ethics Committee. He knows what’s happening now.
But first, a little history.
The Paralympic games were held in London in 2012. My friend who lives about 90 minutes by train southeast of London asked me at the time, “Why isn’t beep baseball in the Paralympics?”
Long story. At some point, the leaders of beep baseball and the leaders of the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA), which governs just about everything else in athletics for the blind, had some talks. The talks did not go well.
I wasn’t there for that and I don’t have those details. But I have felt first hand, the frosty cold aftermath.
I can’t recall what I was trying to accomplish, but I reached out to the man who was then leading USABA with some idea. As soon as I told him I was a beep baseball guy, that conversation essentially ended. He didn’t hang up on me but he might as well have.
That was a door closed so firmly that I never bothered knocking again.
So USABA and the NBBA have carved out separate paths in blind sports. The USABA path has been paved with a lot more sponsorship and official recognition, such as alignment with the United States Paralympic Committee.
The sport of beep baseball is being played at incredibly high levels these days. It is primed for an international market. But to get ready for that close up, it must smooth out its rougher edges, perceived or actual.
That is part of the reason behind the code of conduct policy.
Van Duyne describes it as “trying to polish up who we are and position us to be a more legitimate international presence.”
“When the board decided it wanted a code of ethics I looked, and the Paralympics had a code of ethics. Then I looked and USABA had a code of ethics,” Van Duyne said. “Wouldn’t you know it, they were exactly the same.”
So with a few wording changes, the board adopted that policy. “The things that were relevant to our group we left in and those that weren’t we took out,” he said.
Van Duyne points out that even aside from thoughts of making the game more global, having a code of conduct makes the NBBA much more attractive to sponsors.
He also makes the distinction that players are merely acknowledging that they saw the league-mandated code of conduct and are aware of it. He said they are not signing it per se.
“I was adamant about that,” he said.
The policy is “a living document” Van Duyne said, and may need to be tweaked to address ongoing issues such as bullying on social media and wording on marijuana, as more and more states legalize the drug.
The deadline to acknowledge the code of conduct policy passed June 1. But Van Duyne said teams adding new players should tell the league what players are being added and that those players will get the opportunity to acknowledge the code.