by Kevin Burton
The USA Legends scored six in the top of the first, then held on to beat Bayou City 11-10 Friday.
The win earned the team 11th place in the 2021 National Beep Baseball Association World Series. The grand experiment in AARP beepball netted four wins and four losses against younger teams, and a measure of respect and affection from the beepball world.
The Legends led 9-2 going into the home half of the fourth inning, but then the Heat warmed up the bats the way they always have. It was 11-4 Legends in the fifth but the game was far from over.
Bayou City scored the final six runs of the game. But the Legends summoned up just enough defense to hold on.
I had four defensive putouts in the game including the final out in the bottom of the sixth. My performance in the series was as bad as one would expect after doing next to no practicing for five solid years. I scored exactly one run (it came yesterday against Bayou City) but did manage 14 putouts.
I have played a lot of beep baseball for a lot of years, but this series was unlike any in the past.
The players were worn out from the games and the long hours in the sun. That part we were happy to put behind us yesterday. But I don’t think anyone was eager to have the USA Legends thing end. There was something contagious about it.
There is a song pitcher Jon Walker created, a takeoff on “The Banana Boat Song” by Harry Belafonte. It has lyrics celebrating beep baseball. You can see and hear it on the USA Legends beepbaseball team page on Facebook. We sang it in a team huddle before every game this week.
Our home plate umpire for the Friday game was so impressed when he heard us, he requested an encore so he could film it with his phone and show it to students at the school where he is a principal.
Many have wondered about an encore for the team itself, or at least the concept of small-l legends beep baseball, showcasing the talents of older players.
This group was carefully selected for beepball ability and to eliminate drama. It worked beyond my wildest expectations. The no-drama part really showed on the field and in every aspect of the team’s organization.
The idea for the team started as a way to reunite six of the key Columbus Vipers players. For me, this accounted for much of the emotion of the week. It was one more time for all the old times.
The old times were on our minds. Being together after so many years, we see how we have aged, changed in some ways, not changed in others.
When I was a manager I told my Wichita players that if all they got out of beep baseball were wins and losses I totally have not done my job. I don’t know if any of them understood or appreciated what I was trying to get across.
This week with the Legends was the ultimate example of that. The beauty exceeds the baseball. It was an honor. It was sublime. It was family in a beep baseball setting.
Walker is a fine guitar player by the way. My beepball Friday ended with my wife and I going to the host hotel to hear Walker and Dan Greene play guitar and Dan Kelley play bass guitar and all of them sing songs into the night.
I heard them sing “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers and talk about knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep. That line sticks with me.
By the time they were doing “Take It Easy,” by the Eagles, another reason dawned on me why the Legends experience is so hard to let go of.
Going from sixteen months of lockdown to playing the sport I love with some of the best friends I have ever had was like going from black and white grainy images to technicolor in all its splendor.
It was a fleeting moment. In 24 more hours, World Series week will be over. But the Legends experience will stay with me forever.