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Three “Beep” Book signing events coming to Boston area in June!

Beep Inside the Unseen World of Baseball for the Blind

Three book signings will be in the area in JuneWe are excited to announce three book signings coming to our area in June!  The World’s first ever book about the sport of beep baseball was published in April of 2018.  Author David Wancyzk found this sport and decided to check out the finals of the 2012 World Series in Ames, Iowa.  Once there, the sport caught Dave’s attention and he felt he had a story to tell.  Little did he know at this time, that he would get hooked on the sport.  His trip to Ames Iowa was just the beginning.  He traveled to Georgia, Minnesota, New York, the Dominican Republic and even Taiwan to get the scoop on the sport.

Boston Featured in the Book

As Wanczyk was trying to piece together an idea of a story, he needed to find some teams to follow.  The Austin Blackhawks and Taiwan Home Run hooked him with so many interesting back stories to dive into.  After all, these were the two teams he saw face off in that 2012 World Series.  Being born and raised in Massachusetts, he started to dig around about the Boston Renegades. and eventually adopted the Gades as one of his under dog darlings for the story.  He picked up our journey in 2013 in Georgia and spent countless hours on our bench, in our hotel and doing phone interviews.  He dug deeper during the off season and came back in 2014 in Minnesota to see the team make big improvements.  Readers will feel like they are on the Renegades bench during the games.  They will get a sense of what makes the Renegade culture unique and special.  Wanczyk takes you into the team meetings and looks at the competition from many angles that are both enjoyable and insightful to read.

Three Book Signings in Mass in June – Come Join us!

Author David Wanczyk gives a talk

Author David Wanczyk will be reading from his book at three book signings in the Massachusetts area

David Wanczyk will be in the Massachusetts area in early June doing three book signings.  Here he will read passages and answer questions about the book, the sport and his experience.  He will also be very willing to share  some fun stories about his experience with his hometown, Boston Renegades and its players & coaches.   His book tour consists of the following dates and Venues

More about the book and our spin on it

Check out who was interviewed, where to buy the book and much more in a post we wrote in April here

Here is a fun excerpt from the book showing the writers wit and sense of humor in explaining the sport

” Guy Zuccarello, whose slimness and aww-shucks grin make him seem like Captain America before the serum, scores on a three-bounce single through the left side, and the Heat are in disarray.  Gers pipes up again, and a Boston Coach-These guys are like codebreakers with their lingo—calls Zuccarello’s modest smash “a lowercase bomb with double stars.”  He draws a diagram on a scouting report…”

photos of Captain America and Guy Zuccarello

Photos of Captain America before the serum, Captain America and our leader, Guy Zuccarello

Making the Podcast and book review circuit

Beep Inside the Unseen World of Baseball for the blind was one of the top 100 books about baseball on Amazon in April.  It also has drawn interest from media around the country.  To hear Wanczyk talk about the book, listen to a few of his interviews, and read reviews of the book below:

We hope you consider coming to one of these events and/or buying a copy of the book to learn more about this amazing sport, it’s athletes and the Boston Renegades culture.

The World’s first ever book about beep baseball features the Boston Renegades!

The World’s first ever book about beep baseball features the Boston Renegades!  Author David Wanczyk published a book about beepball, which he first became interested in during the title game of the 2012 season.  He caught the fever and then decided to follow the sport intensely for the 2013, 2014 and 2015 seasons. Dave spent a lot of time with the Renegades in the hotel, on the bench, on the phone and around the World Series.  He even spent time at the McCormick household.

On the Radio

Recently, Dave hit the airwaves to promote his new book called Beep Inside the Unseen World of Baseball for the Blind.  On Friday, March 30th David appeared on BYU Radio on a show called Top of mind with Julie Rose.  Julie was a well informed interviewer and talked about the book with Dave for nearly 50 minutes.  Dave even read some passages from the book to give you a flavor of his writing style.  You can listen to that interview here

Buy it on Amazon

The book is available on Amazon for purchase in both hard cover and kindle version and can be purchased here 

Beep and the Renegades

It was an honor to share the sport with Dave.  He became part of our team and got to know many of our athletes and volunteers.   Here is a small quote from the 218 page book.

“…The Renegades spooled off stories about blindness and baseball and let me into their team jokes, their judgements of other players, and their nicknames for each other.  Larry Haile, who travels all over the world to ride on subway systems that intrigue him is “L train”.  Shayne Cantan, who is of Hawaiian descent and had gained weight since his last season, is “Hawaiian Lunch.

I asked “Lunch” and “Train” and the coaches what would constitute success in the series.

I think everyone has a different definition of winning the tournament,” coach Justin Manjourides said.

“Oh, start coaching girls’ softball, for god’s sake,” pitcher Ron Cochran said (Cochran does, it turns out, coach his daughters’ softball teams.)…”

Wanczyk and the Boston Globe

Photo by Dina Rudick/Boston GlobeIn May, 2014, Wanczyk wrote an article about our very own Joe McCormick.  That article appeared in the Globe Magazine.  This article was amazing and did a great job of promoting the book almost four years before it was published.  You can read more about that article here

Who did he talk to from the gades?

Dave interviewed many of the Renegades including: Shayne Cantan, Ron Cochran, Rob Dias, Bryan Grillo, Lisa Klinkenberg, Justin Manjourides, Joe McCormick, Joey O’Neill, Joe Quintanilla, Aqil Sajjad, Sean Sweeney, Rob Thayer, Dino Vasille, Rob Weissman and Guy Zuccarello

He also spent time with some of our fans including Ashley Borders, Sarah Ellen Cochran and Dawn McCormick

Jet Blue has given back to the Renegades

Jet Blue has a program called “Jet Blue for Good” and Jet Blue has given back to the Renegades.  For the 2018 season, Jet Blue will donate six round trip airfare tickets to the Renegades helping the team get to the World Series in Eu Claire, Wisconsin.  This will save the team over $2,000 or about 15% of the World Series budget!   Perfect timing considering they just started flying direct from Boston to Minneapolis!

Jet Blue Community Connection

jet blue logo2018 will mark the second year Jet Blue has been helping the Renegades with airfare and donations.  Jet Blue is a company that believes in giving back to the community and social responsibility.  They have many programs but they also support their employees volunteering initiatives.  All of this is a tribute to the work of Aaron Proctor who has been working with Jetblue for over eight years.

Aaron returned to the Renegades as a volunteer during the 2017 season.  He was a big part of the organization from 2009-2011 and we were excited to get him back on the field this past season.  Jet Blue works with Aaron to track his volunteer time.  The more time Aaron puts in, the more they have donated to the team.  They donated $1,000 to the team in 2016 as well

Aaron – on the field

Aaron has been a huge asset to the squad in 2017 both on and off the field.  On the field, he joined our defensive calling ranks  calling in nine games from the right side in New Jersey, Woburn and the World Series.

To those who don’t know beep ball, this means he led the first base side of our defense which consists of three blind players.  His role is a combination of strategy, safety and in some ways is like an air traffic controller. Strategically he helps the players prepare for the hitter, making sure they are standing in the right spots. When a ball is hit, he quickly yells a number between one and six to designate the location of the ball.  Speed and accuracy are critical to give his team a chance to make the out on the defense.  When he does his job right, the players relax and can move freely with minimal concerns of collisions.

Boston was 9-0 with Aaron calling on the right side.  Not bad for a guy who just started calling this year!  A constant presence at our Sunday practices, Aaron became a key part of our defensive coaching team.  Never shy to give feedback and quick with a sarcastic sense of humor, Aaron fits in well with this squad.

Bring your job to help the team

The Renegades have been fortunate over the past few years to get volunteers who bring their career expertise to the team helping in that role.  We have had personal trainers, physical therapists, nurses, and doctors help us get players in shape and keep them healthy enough to play at a competitive level.  Project managers have been involved running tournaments and organizing events.  Web site administrators have helped us build our web site.  We have even had public relation experts in the fold to help the Renegades get media attention.

Aaron – off the field

Aaron has been a key player in helping the Renegades save money.  He and Justen Proctor took the reigns in organizing all of the travel for the Renegades and became our traveling secretaries.  Since travel is his job, he knows many of the ins and outs.  Aaron helped us book all of our airfare to Chicago and West Palm Beach and worked with the groups department at Jet Blue to accomplish this.

We put Aaron to the test this year and he passed with flying colors.  Arron enabled the Renegades to do something for the first time in 17 years.  We were able to shuttle people in and out of Florida during the World Series as Melissa Hoyt and Jamie Dickerson both spent a few days with the team.  Allowing more Renegades to participate at the World Series was possible because of Aaron Proctor’s hard work.  Anyone that organizes travel for 20+ people knows how much time this can take.

Beyond booking travel, Aaron helped get all of our supplies for all three trips before the team arrived.  This meant he collected funds and shopped for the team so when we landed all of our snacks, drinks and field paint was waiting for us.  Not only that, but he was at the airport with a rental van waiting to pick the team up when it arrived.  He even became the grill master at the World Series where he cooked burgers for the entire team.

Picture of Aaron Proctor and a shirt from Jet Blue that reads "Inspiring Humanity" Jet Blue for Good

Aaron and Jet Blue for good

We can’t thank Aaron enough for all he does for the team.  JetBlue should be proud of the commitment to community that Aaron has made.  Aaron volunteered countless hours organizing trips for the team, attending practices and traveling with the team.  We are grateful for this amazing donation by Jet Blue.  It will allow opportunity for us to bring more players to the World Series. It will help the team compete and grow for the future.

Corporate donations like this are very helpful to a non profit organization.  We thank Jet Blue for the generous giving.  Jet Blue is up for good!  To learn more about Jet Blue’s corporate responsibility go to their web site here

Top 10 moments of the 2017 Renegade Season

Every season is full of exciting moments but here is a list of Coach Rob’s top 10 moments of the 2017 Renegade season.  Before we get into this list, keep in mind, this is just one point of view.  There are so many great things that happen throughout the year.  I’m sure each and every Renegade has different moments they want to remember.  One key thing here is we try to focus on memorable events, overcoming adversity, funny moments and positive experiences.  Even though there were a few questionable umpire moments this year, we choose not to focus on them and instead focus on what we can control.  As we count down toward the final days of 2017 and enter 2018, we will add the top moments until we reach number one.  Check Facebook or check back on this page every few days for updates!

For past top 10 moments articles see these posts

#10 Soto makes his first ever stop on defense

Ben Coiner escorts Luis Soto into the field against New Jersey

Ben Coiner (Spotter) escorts Luis Soto out into the field against the New Jersey Lightning in Woburn where Soto would make his first ever defensive stop

We always celebrate firsts on the Renegades.  For most players, earning their first defensive stop is harder than scoring their first run.  Luis Soto has been playing with the Renegades since 2015.  At this point in his career he had played in 16 games.  Soto had a tough year in 2016 as he was plagued with doubt and a lack of confidence in his game.  That was erased late in that season but 2017 brought other physical challenges for him.  The entire year he was plagued with an issue that caused him to be either dizzy or light headed whenever he dropped his chin.  This made practicing and playing very hard for him.  Despite this challenge, he really improved his game and would have his best year ever as a Renegade.  So many practices, we would see him making plays on defense in our deep rover position.  He even came close to making some plays earlier in the year in Chicago.  Our number 10 moment would come against the New Jersey Lightning.  With two out in the top of the 6th inning and a 15-2 lead, Dan Johnson of the Lightning hit a ball into left center field.  For the Lightning, this looked to be their 3rd run of the game and a back-to-back scoring opportunity for the first time all day.  As Johnson sprinted to the base, Soto backed up Joe Quintanilla and laid out.  He picked up the ball for the out and ended the contest.  His first ever put out ended the game.  Seeing him get this out after all of the emotional and physical battles he had over the past two seasons was a great coaching joy.

#9 Devenish is not just a DH

Second year player, Shawn Devenish saw some action in the field in his rookie campaign of 2016.  Sadly, most of it consisted of him turning his back to home plate running after deep drives into left field during the World Series. In beep baseball, this often spells out “run” for the offense.

A shot of Devenish from the outfield during his game against the NJ Lightning

A picture of Shawn playing defense against the NJ Lightning a few innings before he made his first stop on defense

Shawn plays with tenacity and he works hard at his craft.  He is not afraid to throw his body to the ground and he has shown some skills on defense.  He played some innings this year in the field at the corners.  As with our number 10 memorable moment of 2017, this is about celebrating Shawn’s first defensive out. Heck, this could have been the first time since 2002 we had two players make their first defensive stop on the same day.

Shawn saw his action in the last game of the Beast of the East as he was playing third base against the Long Island Bombers.  It was the top of the second inning and Boston was ahead 3-2 with two outs.  Long Island brought their lead off hitter to the plate in Joe Dejesus.  Our defense went into an over shift for this hitter, a shift we actually call the “Dejesus shift”.  Devenish found himself (the third baseman) playing in right field.  The scouting report paid off and Dejesus laced a ball down the first base line past the diving stop of Christian Thaxton.  Devenish laid out in a modified superman just as he has been taught.  The ball hit him near his ankles but since he was in a slight cup shape, the ball rolled right up his body and into his hands.  This was no small feat as Dejesus is one of the fastest players on the East coast.  Shawn’s sure hands picked the ball clean and Joe was out as the Renegades ended the threat.  Boston fed off this play and the momentum it provided helped carry over to the offense as the Renegades plated 9 runs in the bottom of the 2nd inning to build a 10 run lead.  It was great to see Shawn make a big play in a big moment.  It was better to see him make the play in a shift with perfect mechanics.  As we always say to players…you won’t forget your first.

Joe Yee is pictured here after the game with ice on his broken finger

#8 Yee – haw redeems himself against Austin

In Bolingbrook, the Renegades were playing for 5th place against the Austin Blackhawks.  After coming off a championship run in 2016, much of the league was surprised to hear the team was playing this poorly.  However, many of them did not know that short of coach Weissman, all of the Renegade volunteer staff was green.  We had our number two pitcher and our number 4 and 6 callers on the field.  Heck, Joe Bourque was calling his first set of games, ever.  In addition to this, Boston had three starters not make the trip as Joe McCormick, Guy Zuccarello and Rob Dias were unavailable.  Knowing this, it was great for the team to be competing at this level.

We faced the Austin Blackhawks who were also 1-2 on the weekend.  In the first inning of this game Boston jumped ahead 2-0 when Joe yee laced a hard grounder up the middle that looked like a sure third run of the inning, but he ran by third base and missed it to end the rally. Yee was upset as he put on the pink blind fold. After 4 innings, Boston clung to a 5-4 lead and that missed base was haunting the Renegades like a missed extra point often haunts a football team.

Austin would tie the game up 7-7 in the 5th inning.  Joe Yee would find himself leading off the 6th with one thing on his mind.  That thing had nothing to do with hitting and had everything to do with running.  Despite striking out on 9 pitches in his previous two at-bats, he was focused.  On the first pitch from pitcher, Jamie Dickerson, he hit a grounder up the middle and raced toward third again.  This ball was not hit as well as the one in the first inning and he needed speed to score.  It was going to be a bang bang play and Yee plowed straight into the bag scoring the go-ahead run to pull the team ahead 8-7.  The Renegade bench erupted as we knew we had all star, Christian Thaxton coming up to help cushion the lead.  The problem was Weissman knew the way Yee landed was not a good sign.  He was slow in getting up and the medic was called to look at him.  As the inning progressed, Yee was observed and it was determined he had injured a finger on his hand.  Joe was determined and with the aid of tape, took the field for the bottom of the 6th inning at 3rd base.

Boston would go on to win this game 9-7 in a dog fight against one of the best teams in the country.  The mental toughness of Joe Yee would be a big reason this happened.  We would later find upon our return to Boston that he had a fracture in his hand.  This fracture would slow him down for much of the next month as he tried to heal and get ready for the World series.  Scoring that go ahead run after missing a base showed mental toughness.  Going into the field with a broken finger showed his heart and passion and helped propel the team to victory.

#7 Justen makes the World Series all star team

Justen gets some work at practice on his defense (Photo by Ginger DeShaney)

The Boston Renegades have climbed the ranks from the doormat of the league in 2002 to one of the top teams in the league over the past three years.  No other team has done this with 100% home grown talent.  Clearly, we have gotten some great players and athletes which helps.  What people don’t see is the hardwork that our players and coaches put in from February till July every year. Justen is hands down one of the best defenders in team history.  He owns our team record for most stops in a season (77) and even made the league all- star team in 2011.  After losing the title game in 2016, Justen was convinced he could do better.  At one point in the season, he made an effort to thank Bryan Grillo for the drills that were making him better moving to his right and left.  Getting better is what the Renegades are about, always looking to improve in the finer details of the sport.

All of that paid off, sort of.  What makes this memorable was all of the hard work that went into it…both with Justen and the league.  The league has very basic scoring habits. These habits initially robbed Justen of his all star status.  For game one of the World Series against Seattle, Justen was the Designated hitter and never saw time in the field.  When it came time to name the top defenders, Justen’s name was not mentioned because the league initially counted that as a defensive game played.  I jumped into action and after about a month of talks and discussions, the league recognized Justen with an award, placing him 6th in the league with 4.17 stops per game.  To date, the league has not made any announcement about this or even added Justen’s name as an all star on the web site.  We are grateful they un-officialy added him to the team, but they need to fix this officially as well.  This moment was memorable for so many reasons and we credit the hard work of the coaching staff and the dedication and willingness for Justen to work harder even though he is at the top of the league in his craft.

to read more on this achievement, see our post from the fall here:

#6 Indy knocks out Yee

Boston would face off against the Indy Thunder in the losers bracket on Friday of the World Series as both teams who made the title game in 2016 had been knocked into the loser’s bracket. Boston was beat by colorado and Indy had been upset by San Antonio.  The loser of this game would be eliminated, so it was a huge game for both teams whom had title hopes.  In the 3rd inning of this contest, Joe Yee was playing third base as the Renegades had just let up 4 runs and Indy led 9-3.  With 4 in and 2 outs, Eric Rodriguez tagged a fly ball to third base that hit Joe Yee on the side of the head on the fly. Yee wobbled but the run scored.  After a short break, he stayed in the game. Gerald Dycus then scored again on a ball hit inside 100 feet  six runs were in for Indy.  Zach Buhler then hit a bomb and things looked bad for Boston as the Indy Thunder were on a roll.

Corey White stepped up next and put the ball in play on the ground.  This time Joe yee laid out and had the ball lined up.  Sadly, the ball hit him square in the face and the run scored. Bryan Grillo quickly called for help as blood was streaming from Yee’s face. He was hit twice in the head within just 4 batters.  This time, he was taken out on a golf cart to be tended to.  By the time the inning ended, Boston had let up 12 runs.  It was 19-5.

Joe was in the trainers room and when he came out he had ice on his head and gauze shoved up his nostrils.  He had passed concussion protocol.  Though he could not breathe, he badly wanted back in the game.  His cries were ignored by the coach and his Series was claimed “over”.  We could probably count on one hand the amount of times a Renegade player has been hit in the head during a game and poor Joe had it happen twice within 5 minutes.

On Saturday night at the banquet, things got scary.  Joe became suddenly very quiet and as we were boarding our vans, his speech became slurred and he could not move.  We rushed him to the hospital and he was admitted for the night to be watched.  Coach Peg Bailey (registered nurse)  and Mike Marciello (MD) stayed with him to expedite his treatment and make sure he was ok.  He was released the next morning, right before we left the hotels for the airport.  To this day, the doctors don’t truly know why this happened.  For the 3rd time in the team’s 17 year history a player was taken to the hospital during the World Series.  Staying up all night worrying about his health and what to do if he missed the flight was a challenge and something no coach of a baseball team for the blind would ever forget.

#5 Thaxton sets league record for highest Batting Average at a World Series

Weissman, Thaxton and Cochran pose with Christian’s MVP award

Christian played junior college baseball and knows more about a baseball swing than anyone on the Renegade coaching staff.  That said, after the 2016 season, we spoke about one small thing to make him a better hitter for 2017.  That small thing was to trust the pitcher and stop tinkering with his mechanics in game.  The result of this was the best World Series batting Average of any player in league history.

It did not come this easy.  Thaxton got off to a slow start this year as he was not abailable for our trip to New Jersey and in Chicago, he struggled a bit against number two pitcher, Jamie Dickerson.    One funny thing was in Chicago, Eric Rodriguez of Indy batted a perfect 1.000 for the tournament going 21-21.  The entire league marveled at this feat.

Things started to gel for him in Woburn in July at the Home tournament when Cochran and he started to connect.  In fact, Thaxton got red hot.  Starting in our home tournament he was perfect and was 10-10 against the Titans, Lightning and Long Island Bombers.  That hot streak carried over to Wellington, Florida.  He scored 8 more times on the first two days of the series against Seattle, The Titans and Long Island before he struck out.  If you tack on the two runs he scored in his last two at bats vs Austin in Chicago it all added up to  20 straight plate appearances with a run scored, one shy of Rodriguez’s feat in June.

Thaxton was not done.  As the competition heated up he would put another streak together of scoring 11 straight times against Long Island, Austin and Colorado.  That included a tying his own team record of a  6 run game vs the Austin Blackhawks, one of the better defensive teams in the league.  Thaxton would then finish 7-8 vs the Indy thunder and Indy edge.  That made him 27-29 at the World Series which earned him the top hitter award award at the banquet.  I was so wrapped up in trying to determine if he set a league record, that the moment escaped me that he became the 2nd Renegade to ever earn a league MVP award. Guy Zuccarello earned this in defense in Iowa in 2012. Through my own research, I found that John Parker held the league record since 1996.  What a fun ride this was which also earned Christian an interview on a National radio show on NPR called “Its only a game”.

Read more about how he broke the record here

Hear Christian on NPR Radio tell is story

#4 Renegades throw out the first pitch at Fenway


In the winter during a bowlathon, it was suggested to us by Woburn Lion, Bryan Murphy that we should talk to David D’Arcangelo,Rob Dias’ boss at the Massachusetts Office on Disability, who was there supporting the event.  Over a short period of time, the Red Sox reached out to us and invited the team to throw out the first pitch during disability awareness day at Fenway Park.  We needed a fair way to determine who would throw out the first pitch.  The funny thing is throwing is not part of beep baseball and many of our players don’t have the most accurate arms.

After putting names into a hat, James “Thanh” Huynh was selected to throw.  There were two requirements.  The person had to want to do this and the person had to be able to prove they could throw it with some level of accuracy.   After James proved he could throw a strike (video here), he told the team he changed his mind and did not want to attend the event, so he could be with his sick fiance who was in the hospital.  Melissa Hoyt would become the “chosen one”.

Melissa Hoyt holds the ball she threw out for the first pitch at FenwayShe passed her throwing test and was ready for Fenway (video here).  It’s a very cool opportunity to be on the field at Fenway.  We had a great turn out and it was amazing to see everyone’s faces as they stood on the field before the game.  Everyone was having a blast taking in the sights, the feel, the crowd energy and the opportunity.  For me, it was such an awesome way to thank the volunteers for their hard work over the years.  Jamie Dickerson even caught our experience in a live video feed from our facebook page which was memorable and kicked off our facebook live events.

Melissa and I had a talk before the pitch.  We spoke about the fact it was better for her to take something off the throw then throw it hard.  She was more accurate this way.  Throwing is not part of beep baseball.  We drew from a hat and Bryan Grillo and Peg Bailey were chosen to assist her with the throw.  All of these people had a chance to meet Brock Holt on the field.  Brock was pretty amazing and even called Melissa by her name when he gave her the ball for a keeps sake.

It was such an honor for me to give back to the volunteers.  It was also so awesome for us to give Melissa a chance to throw the pitch.  She may not have the beepball stats but she gives it her all and she works hard.  She is an inspiration for people and her story eventually caught fire and ended up in a journal called Mitoaction which can be read here:.  Seeing this player get some love and attention from the media and throwing out the pitch may have made one of her most memorable moments of her 11 year career.  I was so happy to have helped make that happen for her.

#3 Cooperstown here we come

Being a coach of a baseball team for the blind requires a passion for helping others and a passion for baseball.  I have both of these passions.  Working with Christian has been amazing.  He has made everyone on our team better.  When we figured out he had broken the record for highest batting average in league history (modern rules), I wanted to get this some attention.  In moment #5 of this countdown, we quickly discussed his interview on NPR.  That was amazing.  I had the fortune of going to the studio with him.

Certificate from the National Baseball Hall of fame with the lifetime passes for Christian and Coach Rob

I had worked with the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014 to get some Memorabilia from our league into Cooperstown.  They ended up taking the shirt of Austin Blackhawk, Brandon Cheeser along with his fielding gloves and the ball that made the final out of the World Series.  I was so excited to see our league get some recognition at this time.  I felt it was an awesome way to tell the story of our sport by showing the World Champion Austin Blackhawks.

After Thaxton broke the record, I reached out to the Hall of Fame again and asked them if they may be interested in this story.  They jumped at the opportunity and asked me to start filling out some paperwork (see our story here for more details on this wonderful accomplishment).  As a baseball fan, it was so cool to offer and have our idea accepted by the baseball hall of fame.  They took the bat he used to get this streak and all of our score cards along with a photo of him using the bat in Florida.  I had the joy and honor of delivering the bat and paperwork to Cooperstown where it will reside forever.  Yes, Christian Thaxton has memorabilia in the baseball hall of fame!  I just love that he is in there in Renegade colors representing our team.  I have heard from countless other Renegades about how cool it is to have our scoresheets there as each and every player is listed on those sheets. It makes some of our players feel like they have a small piece of Cooperstown as well.

This fall, I had the joy of giving Christian is hall of fame certificate and a lifetime pass to the hall.  I truly hope we will be able to see his bat on display in the future!

#2 The Renegades became media darlings

At the start of the season, we set a goal to get the media to give us some attention especially with the home tournament we had scheduled in june.  We felt this was a great year to get some media and we played with some different ways of pitching stories.  A small group of three of us got together to work on this plan.

We always have four goals with anything we do.  Recruit players, recruit volunteers,raise aweness and raise money to help us with travel expenses and equipment.  We planned to pitch all of this to the media.

The season started and a few things fell into our lap early.  Coach, Ben Coiner had an article written about his role on the team…with a goal of helping us recruit volunteers for our home game.  Then we got some press for Melissa Hoyt for her journey in battling mitochondrial disease.  Those articles were just the beginning

Before our home tournament, we reached out to the Watertown tab.  Scott Souza of the tab came out and wrote an awesome article about our team.  What was even better was this article was picked up by so many local papers in the wicked local circuit.  We saw variations of the article in Bedford, Maynard, Stow, Westfod and Waltham…the word was getting out!

Jonathan Choe of NBC Boston preps us for going Live on Tv

Approaching the home tournament, we knew the Boston Globe would be joining and had interest in doing a piece on the team. This was very exciting to have such a presence at our game.  This was also just the beginning

The morning of our game one of our volunteers started calling the media desks.  The result of his work was probably the best media attention the sport of beep baseball has ever seen in our 17 year existence.  Let me emphasize this, it was the best coverage the sport has ever seen, not just our city.

When game time starts, my focus is on our players and our competition.  All I wanted to do was get players playing time in these games and put players in a position to succeed.  I have to admit, it was hard to ignore what was going on around our bench. Reporters, cameras, microphones, notepads all swarming around our fields.

Thaxton is Mic’ed up while he plays

Yes, the Globe was there as expected.  What we had unexpected was every major TV station in the area and WBZ radio station came to catch the story.  Our volunteer media team was busy at work connecting players to the media, helping conduct interviews mid game.  Microphones were slotted in behind home plate to pick up the action.  Heck, Christian Thaxton even played with a microphone on his belt for a few innings.  Honestly, we could not have drew this up any better.

As the day came to the last game, the skies would open up with torrential rain.  This did not deter the media.  In fact, Guy Zuccarello was interviewed in the rain by Fox25.  NBC Boston also came back to report live from the fields.

I was so proud of our volunteer staff for pulling this together.  It did not stop here.  Scott Souza who helped start the media frenzy, did a follow up article on the squad after the games.  Again, his article was picked up by some of the wicked local press.  We even ended up on the front page of the Daily times Chronicle in Woburn!

After the World Series was over, we achieved something we had pitched for years.  Only a Game is a radio show on NPR.  We had always thought our story would be a good fit for them.  We changed our pitch to them and they loved the story line.  This sent Christian Thaxton to the studio to tell his story in national radio.

To say we got our story out this year is not doing justice to the accomplishment.  We got more media coverage in 2017 than the entire league did for the year.  We got more media coverage than our team has had in the past 16 years combined!  We achieved our goal of awareness…We are hoping it helps us pay dividends for recruiting and fundraising in the 2018 season.  I’m truly grateful for the two guys who made this happen (Bryan Grillo and a volunteer who wants to remain anonymous).

To see a more complete list of the media we got in 2017 see our media page

#1 Woburn Host Lions amaze everyone

Members of all of the teams take a picture with the Woburn Host Lions after getting their checks

Members of the six teams and Lions pose after the Woburn Host Lions gave out shirts and $1,000 checks

This year, we asked the Woburn Host lions if they would be willing to host our 3rd ever beep baseball tournament in New England history.  The kicker was we wanted to expand to 6 teams which we had never done before.  This meant more fields and more volunteers which normally means an expanded level of commitment.

Bryan Murphy and Frank DiMauro of the Lions did a lot of the early planning with us to make sure things would be good.  BJ Callahan became the point man as we got closer to make sure things went off well on game day.  They also had something cooking, other than burgers and dogs that they planned to unveil to us on game day.

As always, the Lions were in force on our big day.  They lined the fields, cooked the food, umpired the games, cleaned up the park, set up canopies, made sure we had shelter when the weather went south.  They helped get the mayor to come as well as some local woburn press.  They had T shirts made with money raised from numerous sponsors (many of them members of the Lions) for all of the teams and gave them out.  They did it all with a smile on a day that started for many near 7:00 am and lasted near 6:00 with sun and rain.

That was not enough.  They wanted to go big.  At the end of the day, with all the team’s present, they announced each team would walk away with $1,000.  They raised $6,000 to give to all of the teams who attended!  Shock was an expression on most of the player’s faces.  I am fortunate enough to have my vision.  The look on some of the out of town teams when this was announced equaled the look of  someone finding out their lottery ticket won.  The level of generosity of all the guys at the Woburn Host Lions is on another level.

I have been in this sport since 2003.  I have only seen one other city give cash to the teams. We must pay homage to the Bolingbrook Lions who have been running the best beepball tournament for years.  That tournament has been running for about 15 years and every year they give money to the 8 teams that come and play over a two day weekend.  I can honestly say that in two years of hosting a tournament, the Woburn Host Lions have proven they are amongst one of the biggest supporters of Beep baseball in the nation.

The fact woburn raised $6,000 and gave each team $1,000 was powerful.  Many of these teams spent over $2,000 to come to Boston…and they got pretty close to half their trip paid for!  The woburn Host Lions do so much for the community.  We are forever grateful for what they have done for our team and the other teams on the East Coast!

So, we have reached number one.  There was plenty of great moments we have discussed, but in my mind the support and generosity of the Woburn Host Lions stands above everything else.  The Association of Blind Citizens and the Renegades are about opportunity.  The fact we have grown this program into a winning program is a tribute to the hard work of the coaches and players. None of this is possible without support.  I am confident that for the six teams in attendance, this moment will stand out as one of their biggest fundraising moments of the year.  In the end, these funds help our athletes compete and play a sport they love.  A sport that does much more for them than just athletics.  To the guys with the Lions, thank you.  To Murph, Frank and BJ…an EXTRA THANK YOU for all the calls and prep work before the event.

We close the book on 2017…and heck its just in time..as later this week, we get to introduce our three rookies to the Renegade way and get bats in their hands.  We hope 2018 brings as good of memories that 2017 brought!  Thanks for following the countdown!

Cooperstown has come Calling for Christian Thaxton!

Cooperstown has come calling for Christian Thaxton.  Why?  He broke the league record for batting average at the World Series going 26-29 and an .897 batting average in Florida during July of 2017 (see this article for a true breakdown on that accomplishment).  His name is now going to be part of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown forever!

Christian Thaxton at the plate

Thaxton awaiting a pitch – this picture was submitted to the Baseball hall of fame. Photo by Lisa Andrews

Baseball was in his blood

Christian has had baseball in his blood for most of his life.  He lived and breathed baseball growing up in Duncan, Oklahoma.  He eventually went on to play Junior College baseball.  Sadly, baseball is where he noticed his sight was deteriorating.  His favorite pitch to hit used to be the inside fastball.  As his sight was declining, he was losing this pitch on the way to home plate.  Eventually, his baseball career would come to an end as he battled through LHON (Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy).

Many hitters who love the fastball often see them self in the dirt if the opposing pitcher wants to establish the inside part of the plate.  Any good hitter must get off the ground, dust themself off and get back in the box.   Christian found himself in the dumps when he was told of his vision loss.  However, he picked himself up quickly and dusted himself off and came to Boston to prepare himself for his new life.  Baseball was not on his mind at this point, for possibly the first time in his life.  Then magic happened.

Thax discovers Beep baseball

At an event at the Carroll Center for the Blind, Christian met two Renegades in Joe Quintanilla and Kara Peters. There he learned of beep baseball and the Association of Blind Citizen’s Boston Renegades.  In less than a few weeks, he was taking his hacks at a try-out off coach, Rob Weissman.  He just loved the feel of making contact again.  He was All-in and he was soon a Boston Renegade.

Christian Thaxton at the plate

Thaxton having some fun as he get’s into the box against the Indy Edge. Photo was submitted to Cooperstown. Photo by Lisa Andrews

Thaxton had some adjustments to make as he joined the team late in the spring part of the 2015 season.  He made a trip with the team to New Jersey where he played in his first ever beep baseball tournament.  He got off to a slow start there going just 3-10.  The talent was there. The desire was there. The work ethic was there.  Adjustments just needed to be made and he needed to learn the game of beep baseball.  Things improved as he went 5-11 a few weeks later at home in Woburn.  Then he busted on to the scene at the World Series and in his first year finished 4th in the league in hitting at the Series with a .719 batting average.

In 2016, Thaxton picked up where he left off and he had a chance to play defense for the first time.  This time he was 19-25 in Beast of the East action helping his team win the title for the 6th year in a row while he played on both sides of the ball.  It got better as his clutch hitting and leadership helped the Renegades get to the championship game in 2016 where he hit .651 at the Series, finishing 4th again in the league.

Christian Thaxton at the plate

Thaxton rips a pitch foul. Photo was submitted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Photo by Lisa Andrews

In the 2016 off season, as we always do on the Renegades, we talked about what the players can do better.  There is nothing we can teach Christian about his swing.  He knows more about swinging then all of the Renegades combined.  We did talk about his mental approach and how to tweak that.  The result?  He went off in 2017.  At one point in the season when things clicked, he scored in 20 consecutive plate appearances including going a perfect 10-10 in front of the hometown fans in Woburn.   At the World Series, he continued to make a name for himself in the league.  He was scorching hot and went 26-29.  Many of these runs came against some of the top defensive teams in the league such as Austin, Colorado, Indy Thunder and the Indy Edge.

It’s official, we had a new record

The league does not have an official database of statistics.  So after a few weeks of the World Series, Coach Rob did some research, made some calls and found out Thaxton had broken a record which had stood since 1996 by John Parker of the Kansas All-stars.  John Parker was kind enough to confirm he had held the record and even sent Christian a gift passing on the baton and a record that stood since Christian was about three years old.

Christian Thaxton at the plate

Christian makes contact on one of his 26 run scoring hits of the 2017 World Series. Photo by Lisa Andrews

Once this was determined, Cooperstown was called and alerted of the feat.  They were very excited to accept Memorabilia from Thaxton and the Renegades to tell the story of this accomplishment.  To prove he had the record, all the scoresheets were collected.  They also wanted his bat and a photo of him using the bat.  Coach, Lisa Andrews scoured through her photos and found a great shot of him with the bat being used during the last game of the World Series (in fact, all of the photos on this page with him hitting were submitted to the Hall).

The Bat has it’s own story

The funny thing about the bat was it was damaged.  We had actually had discussions with Easton about sending it back to them for a review.  This bat was used for less than one season and had bent.  We found the bend in our last game of the year against the Indy Edge.  the bat was warped and the cause was likely a combination of Christians bat speed against the one pound beep ball.  For Safety reasons, the bat was thrown out of the last game.  Easton did not want the bat…but Cooperstown did.

Rob donates a bat used by Christian Thaxton to Shirley Tyler of the National Baseball Hall of Fame to represent his record batting average at the World Series

At the Annual Baseball Hall of Fame Film festival, Coach Rob delivered the bat in person to the hall of fame and gave it to them.  It will forever reside in their archives.  Both Coach Rob and Christian received certificates for donating the bat, scoresheets and photo.  They also received lifetime passes to go to the baseball hall of fame.

An honor for Every Renegade

Not only is this an honor for Christian but there is great pride in this accomplishment from his team.  Pitcher, Ron Cochran and Catcher, Rob Weissman were with Christian for every pitch of the World Series. Ron had to lob in the pitch perfectly each time.  Weissman was responsible for being consistent with his target.  So many of the hitting coaches helped prepare him for the series by helping him take his hacks. Many of his teammates were just so excited for him and this accomplishment.  They were excited to have their names on the scorecards enter Cooperstown.  It goes beyond that though.  Thaxton helps many of the players on the team as he acts as a hitting coach providing feedback and drills for his teammates.  His “students” were proud of their “teacher”.

Certificate from the National Baseball Hall of fame with the lifetime passes for Christian and Coach Rob

A true success story

Thaxton went from a low of being told he would never play baseball again and that he was legally blind.  He picked himself up off the dirt, dusted him self off after being knocked down.  He got up, moved to Boston, started a new life and found the Boston Renegades.  Not only is his bat in the National Baseball Hall of fame, it’s a feat he would likely never have made if he did not have vision loss.  Thaxton is a model for how to handle adversity and concur it.  He is a Hall of Famer in so many ways!

 

Justen Proctor named to League All Star team

First time In team history

Justen Proctor and Christian Thaxton

201 All-stars for the Renegades – Justen Proctor and Christian Thaxton

For the first time in team history, Boston placed two players on the League All-star team.  Christian Thaxton was named the MVP of the league on offense.  He broke a 21 year record by hitting .897 at the World Series.  We recently told that story here:  and it was part of a story that played on national radio on NPR here.  Just this past week, Justen Proctor was named to the League All Star team as well.  He was named to the 2017 World Series all star team on defense and was the 6th best defender in the league making 4.2 stops per game.  It was the second time Proctor had earned this award in his career.

There was a bit of work to do here and some lobbying to get him on the team because he was not initially recognized by the league.  Thankfully, the league saw a way to give him this honor.  Here is how it went down.

Proctor’s Series

In game one of the World Series, Coach Weissman wanted to get Proctor some reps on offense because they had been working hard to teach Justen better hitting mechanics. Weissman knew Proctor would see some time during the week as a designated fielder but wanted to see if Proctor could help on offense.  A decision was made to start him as the Designated Hitter against the Seattle South King Sluggers.  He never stepped foot on the field defensively in this contest.  Through the week, Proctor would play some games as a Designated Fielder (meaning he would have Larry Haile hit for him) and some games he would play both ways, getting a chance to hit and field.  He played in a total of 7 games, but only 6 games in the field.  Over the week he stopped 25 balls.  That gave him 4.2 stops per game….in Weissman’s eyes.  The break out looked like this

Opponent Stops
NJ Titans 5
Long Island Bombers 3
Austin Black Hawks 6
Colorado Storm 3
Indy Thunder 2
Indy Edge 6

 

Weissman sprang to action

Before the banquet began, Weissman texted the league and asked for the league to please check the score sheets because there was a feeling the league would count the game he was a DH against his defensive stats.  There was no response and six players were honored at the banquet.  As soon as Andrew Bernet was called to the stand, Weissman knew he would need to bring this to the league’s attention, as Proctor should have been on the team.  The team looked like this”:

MVP Isaiah Wilcox (San Antonio) 5.714
2) Tim Chappell (Tyler) 5.222
3) Eric Rodriguez (Indy Thunder) 4.900
4) Ethan Johnston (Colorado) 4.667
5) Carnell Walker (St. Louis) 4.333
6) Andrew Bernet (BCS) 3.857

After the banquet, Weissman spoke with the league and kicked off a request to have this changed.  This took about 12 days to look into and when the dust settled, the league decided the right thing was to name Proctor to the All-star team.

Jamie Dickerson, Aaron Proctor and Bryan Grillo are pictured here with the other 2017 WS Renegade volunteers

It’s important to note for a player to be an all-star on defense they must have great hearing, good defensive skills, play against teams that will put the ball into play and have a great team of defensive callers.  At the World Series this year, Justen worked with Bryan Grillo on his side of the field.  He worked with a combination of Aarron Proctor and Jamie Dickerson on the right side of the field.  For Grillo and Dickerson, they have become two of the top callers in history.  For Aaron Proctor, he was calling in his first world Series with less than 6 games experience under his belt.   Each of them should take pride in Justen’s accomplishment.

 

Justen Proctor’s story

Photo of Justen Cantan

Picture of Justen in 2009

Justen started playing for the Renegades in 2009.  That season, he joined the team with his brother, Shayne.  Shayne was an athlete who loved to compete.  He even played high school football in Hawaii against sighted opponents.  When Shayne found the team he thought his brother may enjoy it as well.  Shayne was sold on playing the moment he found out about it.  Justen was not.  They both came to a practice in the winter and Shayne was excited while his older brother, Justen was hesitant.  Justen had never played on a team or played sports in his life. He was unsure this would be good for him.  At a gathering after practice, former captain, Kae Rausch spoke with Justen about the benefits of playing.  She told him about her experience with sports and how being a Renegade was rewarding.  She was a leader on the team in those days but her voice was more impactful than her stats.  That time with Kae helped convinced Justen to give it a try.

Justen found out he really liked playing sports

In 2009, Justen was still learning the game.  We found out about his mentality early on during the 6th inning of a game against Long Island in New York.  The Renegades entered the last inning of that game down 8-3 and stared to come back.  After clawing back the Renegades got the score to 8-6 when Weissman decided to gamble and give Justen a chance in a big moment.  Justen had just finished his first ever game and stepped into the box with a grin from ear to ear. In an epic at-bat after fouling off six consecutive pitches, Ron Cochran connected and Justen hit a grounder down the 3rd baseline to Jim Hughes and he beat it out to bring the Renegades one run away from tying it.  Boston would eventually win this contest in what is still the longest game in Renegades history – nine innings.  Justen would finish his rookie year as a key contributor off the bench.

This kid is Good

As the Renegade coaches looked to see how they could make the team better, it was decided that Justen had some skills we had never seen before.  He was the best player in team history at picking up a ball that was not rolling.  That made it a no brainer to put him on the left side of the defense.  BUT, at that time, Dino Vasile was playing that spot and he was the best two way player in team history.  In fact, Dino had just come off a year where he made 59 stops which was the 4th best in team history at the time.  Dino was almost named to the All star team at the 2009 World Series in Stockton (but that award was stripped away from him when there was an error with the stats from another team pushing Dino to the 7th most productive defender in California)  The Renegades decided to move him to the mid field spot.  This gave them a dynamic defense of Proctor, Vasile and Zuccarello.  Three players that would earn multiple awards in the league for their defense.  How would Justen respond?  He made 53 stops in 2010.

2011 was a break out year

Justen Proctor Defensive All Star Boston Renegades

Justen Playing defense in 2011 against Long Island

In 2011, Justen did even better than he did in 2010.  He went out and set a Renegade record that still stands today making 77 stops on the season in 15 games.  He also made 39 of these at the World Series which placed him 3rd on the League All-star team.  2011 was not only big for Justen on the field, it was big for him off the field.  He had graduated with his MBA and decided to take a job for the Air force in Hawaii which would put an end to his beep baseball career at least for the next three years.  He would have hopes to come back in the future, but that would be uncertain.

2016 brings Justen Back

Justen Proctor Boston Renegade Defensive All Star

Justen Proctor makes a stop in the 2016 World Series

Justen ached to get back to the East Coast.  He landed a job doing contracting for the Navy in Rhode Island and came back to play ball for the Renegades in 2016.  Upon his return, he had put on a bunch of muscle as he had developed a work out return and a love of staying in shape while he was gone for the previous three years.  With Proctor in the fold, the Renegades knew they would sneak up on the league.  They knew they had one of the top defenders in the game with Proctor and one of the best hitters in the game in Thaxton.  What would happen?  Boston would shock the league and get to the title game in 2016.

2017 – Bolingbrook All-star

The World Series is the biggest event in the NBBA.  The second biggest event is a tournament hosted in Bolingbrook, Il.  This year, the Boston Renegades attended for the 7th time in team history this past June.  The tournament hosted some of the best teams in the country including the teams that finished 1-2-3 in the 2016 World Series. Boston would go to these games without three starters (Joe McCormick, Rob Dias and Guy Zuccarello) and without their number one pitcher – Ron Cochran.  The Gades were also going with some depth on their spotter rotation as they would be without their top three callers experience wise (Grillo, Dickerson, Lenicheck).  It was a great event and got the team some much needed experience.  While there, Justen Proctor placed second on the All star team making 23 stops in 4 games.  He did this with two spotters who had very little experience.  Ben Coiner and Joe Bourque were calling their first set of games together.  For Coiner he was 6-0 lifetime in games entering this tournament and Bourque was making his debut.  Making a defensive all-star team is something that callers are a big part of as well.  They are pictured above with Justen wearing his award

Justen became the 9th Renegade to make a Bolingbrook all-star team for play in this four game tournament.  Here is a lost of the players who have made the team

Year Player Team Stats
2004 Darren Black Defense 28 Stops
2005 Darren Black Defense 17 Stops
2006 Darren Black Defense 20 Stops
2007 Luis Marquez Offense 12-20 (.600)
2007 Darren Black Defense 12 Stops
2009 Dino Vasile Defense 21 Stops
2010 Shayne Cantan Offense 9-14 (.643)
2013 Joey Buizon Offense 10-15 (.600)
2017 Justen Proctor Defense 23 Stops

 

Renegade All Stars

With the naming of Proctor to the 2017 All-star team, the Renegades continue to have an impressive list of names that are among some of the top players in the league.  Here is a list of all of the players named to league All-star teams at the World Series.  Offensively, we have listed their stats and their Average.  Defensiveley, we have listed how many stops they made and the quantity of games played.  The league determines a defensive All start by the amount of stops per game

Year Player Team Place Stats
2003 Darren Black Defense 2nd 28 stops in 5 games
2006 Darren Black Defense 6th 25 in 7 games
2007 Luis Marquez Offense 5th 18-30 (.600)
2011 Justen Proctor Defense 3rd 39 stops in 7 games
2012 Guy Zuccarello Defense MVP 36 stops in 7 games
2013 Guy Zuccarello Defense 3rd 41 stops in 8 games
2014 Joe McCormick Offense 5th 21-35 (.600)
2015 Christian Thaxton Offense 4th 23-32 (.719)
2016 Christian Thaxton Offense 4th 28-43 (.651)
2017 Christian Thaxton Offense MVP 26-29 (.719)
2017 Justen Proctor Defense 6th 25 stops in 6 games

 

Defensive All Star award needs to be changed

The Renegades are thankful the league was able to overlook the game Boston played against Seattle, where Proctor played as the Designated Hitter.  It would have been highway robbery to take the award away from him because he played in a game where without stepping on to the field defensively.

Proctor probably woud have made the defensive all-star team in 2o16, but Weissman played him sporadically to get him rest early in the tournament and in those game he only played a few innings, which would hurt his stats.  This shows one of the many flaws to this statistic.  Looking at stops per game is flawed on so many levels.  If a player plays an inning on defense, they are penalized as they may not even get a defensive chance, and this counts as a game against the stats.

What needs to happen is the league needs to devise a scoresheet which tracks defensive innings played.  If defensive innings were tracked, the league could more accurately award defensive stats to players.  This would have given Proctor the award without an argument  It may have even put him on the team in 2016 when he played a few innings of defense in some of the early games.

It gets even more complex from here.  Another issue with the defensive awards is the only people who win it play up front in the first layer of the defense.  Many times, players who make the defensive all-star team play on teams who don’t have anyone else on the team who can make stops.  Boston was the recipient of this in 2003 and 2006 when Darren Black led the Renegades defense.  Heck, this happened this year as well.  Here are a few examples.

Year Team Leader-stops Rest of team -stops % of stops made by team leader
2003 Boston Black – 28 8 78%
2006 Boston Black – 25 26 49%
2017 St. Luis Walker – 39 24 62%
2017 Lone Star Bernet -27 23 54%

 

There is some work being done to try and track defense differently.  This would allow us to measure who the best front men are as well as the best second and third layer players.  It would also look at the amount of innings players play.  This change needs to be seriously considered by all teams.  It will take some efforts to train people to use the scoresheets.  It will make compiling the stats more complex.  Ultimately, the league’s goal should be to try and automate this effort which will make this easier, more accurate and quicker to compile.  Until that day happens, we hope that we can drive change and use Justen’s example as one that shows the flaws of the system.

In Conclusion

The Renegades are Excited to see their star defender get some recognition as an All-star.  He is one of the most unheralded stars in the game.  Seeing someone join the team with no sports background turn into one of the top defenders in the game is amazing.  It truly shows that you can be good at something that you have never done before.  It shows the Renegade coaching staff has helped produce a top player with its style of coaching and its a fun story to hear.  Justen came to this team in 2009 without any desire to play.  He came because his brother asked him to.  He ended up leaving the team for a career and then came back to help lead his squad to the title game.  Justen never quits working.  He is driven professionally and on the field.  We call him a diva, but he will continue to be a force in this sport and make the Renegades a top team for years to come.

Christian Thaxton appeared on NPR’s “Only a Game”

On Saturday, August 12th, Christian Thaxton appeared on NPR’s “Only a Game” which aired nationally.  Only a Game is an Acclaimed show on NPR radio that has an audience of nearly a half a million listeners.  The story was a seven and a half minute piece that can be listened to our read on their web page at this link

Christian is an amazing man with a great outlook on life despite losing his vision only a few short years ago.  Not only does he make the Renegades better on the field, he helps make them better off the field a well.  In 2017, Christian set a league record for the highest batting average in league history.  That story can be explored here:

We want to thank Producer Gary Waleik for being interested in the story and doing such a good job telling it.  We also need to give Bryan Grillo of the Renegades some love as he has always wanted us to appear on this show and created the pitch tat caught Gary’s eyes.  Here are a few pictures of Christian at WBUR where he went into the studio to tell his story

Renegade Christian Thaxton in the studio at WBUR for Only a game

Christian telling his story in the WBUR studio

Christian Thaxton with the only a game producer

Christian Poses with Gary Waleik of WBUR after the show

Christian Thaxton stands in front of the WBUR sign

Christian Thaxton stands in front of the WBUR sign

 

 

 

 

Christian Thaxton broke a league record for batting average

In Wellington Florida during the 2017 Beep Baseball World Series, Christian Thaxton  broke a league record for batting average that had stood since 1996.

Christian Thaxton

Christian Thaxton at the plate during his 20 game hitting streak in Woburn, Ma

At the World Series, Thaxton hit an eye opening .897.  His stat line was 26 hits in 29 at bats with 1 strike out over 7 games.  The previous record was held by John Parker of the Wichita Sonics in 1996 when Parker hit .878 at the World Series in Austin, Texas.  Many consider John Parker one of the greatest hitters of the National Beep Baseball Association.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thaxton had many highlights this year for the Renegades that included

  • a 20 at bat streak over three tournaments where he scored in 20 straight at bats
  • He set a team record for his .759 average on the entire season (44-58), shattering the record he set in 2016 when he hit .691 (47-68)
  • Tied a team record (that he set in 2016) for scoring 6 runs in a game against the Austin Blackhawks

Tops in history

Christian Thaxton holds up a T shirt signed by John Parker

John Parker sent Christian Thaxton a shirt with Parker’s record and Christians new record written on it as a way to pass on the record that held for 21 years from one of the all-time greats to one of the leagues current stars

The NBBA has been in existence since the mid 1970’s but the rules have changed over time.  At one time bases were 90 feet and the hitters had 5 strikes to hit the ball.  John Parker’s record in 1996 was with the current set of rules with 100 foot bases and 4 strikes.  The top averages in history with the current rules for a single World Series are as follows

Rank Year Player Team Avg
1 2017 Christian Thaxton Boston Renegades .897
2 1996 John Parker Wichita Sonics .878
3 2001 Benny Meier Oklahoma City Bombers .840
4 1996 Dan Greene Chicago Bluff .837

 

 

About Christian Thaxton

Knowing Christian, this should come as no surprise since he did play junior college baseball before he lost his sight.  In just three seasons, his swing has become almost legendary in beep baseball, as he has made the all star team all three seasons he has played.  Not only is he one of the best hitters in the game, he is invested in being a great teammate.  All year long, he was working with his coaches and teammates to help the team better learn the proper mechanics of a swing.  His attitude makes him more of an MVP than his stats do.  Christian was interviewed by NPR this summer on a show called Only a game.  You can hear that interview here:  

Christian Thaxton pose with his MVP trophy and his catcher, Rob Weissman and pitcher, Ron Cochran

Weissman, Thaxton and Cochran pose with Christian’s MVP award

Though Thaxton is an amazing athlete, the work to get an MVP in beep baseball also heavily relies on his pitcher and catcher.  In beep baseball, the hitter is blindfolded and the pitcher and catcher are in the same team.  They work as a unit to put the ball into play against the opponent. Ron Cochran of Littleton, Mass threw every pitch to Thaxton and finished as one of the top pitchers of the 2017 beep baseball world series.  the Catcher was Head Coach, Rob Weissman of Waltham, Mass.

2017  World Series

Thaxton ran away with the mvp this year as he finished .147 points ahead of the next best hitter in the 2017 World Series.

MVP Christian Thaxton (Boston Renegades) 0.897
2) Brandon Chesser (Austin Blackhawks) .750
3) Lupe Perez (Indy Edge) .733
4) Gerald Dycus (Indy Thunder) .704
5) Eric Rodriguez (Indy Thunder) .692
6) Cory White (Indy Thunder) .667

 

Putting this World Series in perspectve

In Beep baseball, it can be tough to tell who the best hitters are.  The reason for this is the fact the schedules are not equally balanced.  For the most part, nobody would argue with the names that make the list.  They are truly some of the best hitters in the league for sure.  In addition, each World Series produces different numbers that correlate to the speed of the fields.  Faster fields typically produce higher batting averages.   Christian did something that was pretty amazing.  The distance he had to 2nd place was also the largest gap in the history of the sport since the rule change

Rank Year MVP – team Avg 2nd place player/team 2nd place avg Delta
1 2017 Christian Thaxton – Boston .897 Brandon Chesser – Austin .750 .147
2 2003 Eric Mazariegos – West Coast .765 Mike Dell- Cleveland .630 .135
3 2011 Tanner Gers – Bayou City .667 Steve Lyles – Colorado .586 .081
4 2013 Tanner Gers – Bayou City .756 Ching-Kai Chen – Taiwan .676 .080

Boston’s Accomplishments

Thaxton becomes the second player in team history to earn an MVP at the world series.  Guy Zuccarello won a defensive MVP in the 2012 World Series in Ames, Iowa

The Renegades finished the 2017 World Series ranked 5th in the world.  It was the team’s third consecutive top 5 finish and its best performances since the team started competing in 2002.

Planting a seed for the NBBA

This article looks at how the NBBA seeding is done for the World Series and tries to explain how a pilot of the coaches power rankings can help.  The article was written before the World Series took place in July, 2017

Ranking teams, the NCAA does it.  The NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB also do it when its play-off time.  It can be a tool to make things fairer in competition.  However, it is also a tool used for debate, conversation and interest.  Why not try it in the NBBA?  Let’s explore our thought process.

For the past few years I have been writing about strength of schedule that each team plays at the World Series.

2016 Strength of Schedule Article

2015 Strength of Schedule Article

2014 Strength of Schedule Article

I have discovered some trends and have wanted to drive some change.  Over time, I had spoken to some of the most respected coaches in the league in JT Herzog, Kevin Sibson, Jerry Windell, Darnell Booker and Johnny Walker.  We all agreed that it may be a time to change things.  So we set off on this journey which started last fall.

What are we trying to accomplish, some ask and why change things?  Everyone has an opinion but what we are trying to do is gather information.  We want to try and take the league to the next level competitively.  We believe that gathering information is the start.  Data leads to better decisions and with data, we can make more informed decisions on how we set up the league.  Let’s explore the current process and short term goals we have.  After exploring this, I’ll take you into other things that would happen organically if this was adopted and paths this could lead us down.

Learn from the past

NBBA LogoWhen I entered this league in 2003, we had a random draw to place teams into brackets.  The top two teams from each bracket went to a championship round and the bottom two teams went to the “barbeque bracket”.  That’s how it was.  It was simple…and totally unfair. I witnessed the Chicago Bluff making the championship bracket because they happened to be in an easy bracket.  I witnessed the Oklahoma City Bombers trounce every team in the barbeque bracket because their bracket was stacked.  It was random, it was impossible to predict what would happen if this was still the case, I think I would be bald, pulling my hair out.

JT Herzog led the charge to change this to the process we use today.  It was so much improved.  Not only did it focus on seeding and some level of intelligence, it allowed for seeding games at the end of the week.  This is a key point, the seeding games.  Before these existed…your world series would be over once you lost two games. Imagine booking flights for a week and playing three games on Tuesday and two games on Wednesday and being done…but you can’t leave till Sunday.  That change alone in my mind was amazing!  More than half the teams in this league are comprised of new teams, small teams and teams not made up of all stars.  These teams need an opportunity to be heard.  I speak from one of these teams, the Boston Renegades have been in the league since 2002 and it’s been a long journey to get to where we are today.

What are we proposing

Ever hear the word, Pilot?  I work in software and we pilot things all the time.  A pilot is an ability to try something, gather feedback and improve it to make it better.  That’s what this is.  We have some of the most dedicated beep ball coaching minds involved in this project and we have been discussing this since the fall.  Our goal is to see if this can work as a better way of seeding then the current system.  We have discussed the key things a team needs to win and agreed upon things such as:

Top level pitching
Speed
Solid defense
Coaching
Good hitting
Roster depth

Teams need all of this and more to compete for the title and these things are not easy to accomplish for many of our squads.  Some people have asked, why their team was not involved.  The answer is that it’s a pilot.  Actually the original proposal was to have a rep from every team involved…but we had a hard time getting participation so we wanted to start small and work out the kinks.  Yes, there are a few others out there who should be involved. And when the time is right, they will be invited.  What we want to avoid is having unqualified people (for example, someone new to the league) or people who don’t have the time to be involved…. Again, it’s a pilot.

We get together and gather data and talk about the teams.  With this group we have representation from the east, Texas, the mid-west and the west.  That covers a big part of the league.  So we discuss what we have seen amongst ourselves and then we vote.

Voting process

Originally, we were going to vote on all 21 teams going to the series but that was a hard exercise to do.  Some coaches felt it would be too much to rank all teams they don’t see play.  As the NCAA does, we decided to focus on the top portion of our league.  For the NCAA this is top 25, for the nbba, we decided to start with the top 12 because there would be six brackets and we wanted to focus on the top two of each bracket.

Down to 12 teams to vote on, each coach on the poll voted by giving 12 points to the best team, 11 points to the second best team all the way down to 1 point for the 12th team.  We published the final tally of voting.  What did we find?  We found that most teams were voted within a few spots of each other from all the coaches involved.  Nothing was very far out of whack.

What data is available

Getting data was very hard.  We quickly learned there are a lot of rumors out there.  But worse than that, we learned many teams just don’t know how to score a game.  Looking at score sheets in Texas and the East Coast was like deciphering code.  So what did we get?  Steve Guerra joined us to confirm the roster movement so that we had knowledge of what was happening on rosters.  We discussed the leagues schedules.  Sadly, outside the World Series, there was only 5 tournaments this year prior to the series.  Dallas in late May.  Indy thunder and 1st leg of the Beast if the East in early June.  Bolingbrook a week later.  The last leg of the Beast if the East in July.  Darnell and JT gave us stats from their tournaments.  Rob and Kevin provided information about the teams they saw in their respective tournaments.

We knew if teams were short major players.  We knew if teams were pitching back up pitchers.  We knew the field conditions (which so often play into the score).

But this showed us a major hole we have.  First, not all teams know how to keep score or just don’t historically care.  Few scoresheets show pitcher stats (or who pitched). Teams don’t write last names of players and sometimes the score sheets don’t add up to the amount of runs the team scored.  Some teams don’t record who made defensive stops or even record substitutions in a way all can understand. It’s something we need to clean up.

But the opportunity we have is we need to do more with our regional tournaments.  We need to show perspective players and sponsors we play ball all year long.  These tournaments count.  The data we can get from them should count more than what a team’s World Series finish was in the previous year.  These games tell us who is playing, and not playing.  They help us identify exciting new rookies who can make an impact and help us get a taste of the game.

Let’s face it…if you have read this far.  You love the sport.  Having this data can help make this game so much more exciting and enjoyable

What have we struggled with

We just discovered one of the major obstacles, the scoresheets.  It goes further than this.  Even if everyone had good scoresheets, the whole process is manual.  Imagine a future where we score games on a device.  That device records pitch by pitch stats.  That device stores the stats to be analyzed.  Most importantly, that device can be used to play the games live in the cloud for viewers to watch a game cast.  This is doable, MLB at bat does it and Tourney Machine is working on it as well.  There are smaller companies out there who also do it.  We just need some help to code an app for beep ball.  It would not be too hard for a company that has this skill already.  Heck, if we can get organized and move in this direction, we could likely find a sponsor to fund it.

We have also struggled with some negativity from the membership.  Look at the goal here.  All of sports and business is moving toward using data to make decisions.  All of these industries are finding new ways to measure their business.  Why should we be different?  We can do better.  We need to move away from a mindset that things are fair for everyone with our current system.  They are not.  Who is hurt the worst by the current process?  You think it’s a team like Taiwan that is hurt?  You’d be wrong.  The team most hurt by the current seeding are teams in the 8-9-10 seeds.  The teams who normally are busting their humps to try to get to the next level.  How are they hurt?  Typically, they are a mid-level team and based on the previous year, earned a two seed in their bracket.  Then a team like Taiwan (or San Antonio or the Edge) is thrown into their bracket…and normally, they come out of their bracket as a 3 seed.  This forces them to play early morning games the next day.  This also typically puts them in a position to play 6 games in the first two days.  Remember, they “earned” a two seed the year before.  Bottom line, if it’s just Taiwan we worry about…they may still get a two seed…just in a different bracket.

Next steps with pilot

We just recently finished up our second set of rankings.  A few key takeaways are as follows
1. These rankings are far from perfect….BUT, the variance we had was typically 1-2 seeds.  A few times we varied by 3 seeds.  There was nobody ranking Taiwan 21st.  Maybe it’s not perfect, but it’s closer to reality than Taiwan at 21
2. This was a fun exercise.  Talking rosters, schedules and movement is fun.  Heck, it would be for most in the league.  Imagine having this type of data available for everyone?  It could help make the league more than a one week world series.  It could bring more hype to local tournaments and double headers.  All of that leads to more exposure and will help teams recruit new players.  Growth is good!
3. The final rankings will not reflect the seedlings.  Why? Some of these teams will face each other and bounce the other out.  How can that happen?  Mis-seeding!  You should have gotten that by now…wink wink

Impact in 2017

So…can you guess the team who is most impacted this year?  Chicago.  They have San Antonio and Taiwan in their bracket.  If Taiwan plays like they do historically, Chicago could head out as the three seed.  Know what else happens?  They wreck a few opponents in their wake and knock their seeds down as well.  Who knows, it could be your team!

Minnesota is also in trouble.  They come in as a 9 seed.  If Taiwan is any good and grabs a 1 or 2 seed…that sends Chicago out as a 3 seed.  This would set up Minnesota’s first two games to be against either Taiwan or San Antonio…and then their second game could be against Chicago.  That’s a two and screw and Minnesota could be looking at the 13-16 bracket.

Two other teams are mis seeded in long island and St. Luis.  Both of these teams are existing teams who were not at the series last year.  Long island is not a 20 seed that is for sure.  They finished 2nd in the beast of the east.  They also beat the New Jersey Titans this year and the Titans are ranked in the middle of the pack.  St. Luis is a story. They are made up of many players and the pitcher who pitched for Atlanta last season.  Atlanta was one of the great stories of the 2016 World Series.  There is no way they should be lumped at the bottom.  These mis seedlings will hurt some of the teams fighting for the 13-16 brackets.

Cost of series for international
Some people think the current system can’t be changed.  Think of the cost for teams to come internationally.  I heard recently, it costs Taiwan $30,000 for airfare to come.  How can we honestly expect them to come every year?  The Dominican is coming this year…but going to Wisconsin will be much more expensive for them than Florida.  If we want to move closer to an international game, we have to remember it’s much harder for these teams.  We need to move to a better solution for everyone.

In sum, where can this take us?

1. We need to work on having excitement year round for this sport with key dates and milestones.  It needs to be about more than the World Series.  There is growing excitement for Bolingbrook, but they may only be able to take 8 teams there.  This idea can help us build that excitement
2. We need to publicize games and schedules of the teams.  The Renegades played 10 games leading up to the series.  The Thunder played 10 games as well.  These two teams finished 1-2 in 2017.  Boston proved the level of interest in the media at its beast of the east date.  At that tournament, we had 5 TV networks, 1 radio station and 3 newspapers.  This happens with hard work.  That press helps the entire league with exposure as some of it went “viral”.
3. Facebook live videos were such an amazing idea.  That idea needs growth.  We need to make games available to the public, not just a private group.  To do this, we need higher quality broadcasts.  Ones where we know who is batting, who makes the outs, video that shows the play…clearly.  Maybe work with a tripod and a microphone to cut out wind noise.  People like Lindsey Woodard and Andrea Guerra were Pioneers.  They brought an amazing idea to the league..and they did it well.  Time to take it to the next level.  A tool like what MLB at bat has can help…big time
4. Data is the key.  The more data we have, the better we can make seeding decisions. Also, if we can collect this in an automated manner, we can get sponsors to help
5. The more unified we are, the more exposure we will get.  That exposure will lead to a higher rate of growth in the league if we cultivate it
6. We discussed at length that this process can be done, and it can be done in a way that would improve the integrity of the league for everyone.
7. Stop thinking about your team and start thinking about the impact to all teams.  Fairness starts when we think of everyone.  If your seed changes by 1 spot, does it really matter much in the long run?  You will get the chance to prove yourself when the games play.  This change helps stop seeding mistakes by 20 spots that impact others.

I hope people will read this, re read it and truly give it some thought.  Think of the positives.  Think what it’s like to play for your home town team and set a goal of moving your seed up every year.  Not every team can win the World Series..but every team can work to improve their seed.  Improving your seed should be in your control.  With today’s system…it’s not in your control.  There are many more positives to this concept than negatives.  The thought process has been put in…This is not taken lightly.  We all hope you can help make this league better for everyone with the goal of growing the sport to cities and players whom never dreamt it possible to play baseball without their sight.

2017 NBBA World Series game summaries Day 4

The 2017 NBBA World Series game summaries Day 4 in Wellington, Florida for the Boston Renegades are below. Boston would be in the losers bracket and would run up against a tough opponent, the defending champion, Indy Thunder.  The Thunder were coming off a tough day as they played three games the previous day.

Game 6: Indy Bruises the Renegades in many ways again 19-9

Joe Yee represented the Renegades in this game when he was hit twice in the head in the same inning of this game. He got banged up, bruised and battered, much like the Reengades

The Indy Thunder were upset by the San Antonio Jets and were forced to play three games on Thursday.  The Renegades were the more rested team for sure.  This time, Joe McCormick would be in the lineup and the Gades were excited to show what they could do.  It started badly for Boston when Eric Rodriguez tagged the first pitch of the contest into deep center field for a run.  The only highlight of the inning for Boston was a pop up off the bat of Gerald Dycus.  Justen Proctor made an amazing play while laying on his back and finding the ball with his back on the ground and got the ball up to beat the speedy Dycus.  the Thunder plated 5 runs in the inning, the most runs boston had let up in an inning all week.  Boston would answer though.  Thaxton would lead off with a run scoring grounder.  With two out Rob “Diaz” Dias stepped into the box (it became a running joke for the rest of the day that this Diaz character whom the Indy coach, Darnell Booker called him, was a better hitter than Dias).  Dias laced a line drive to the right side for a run and then Justen Proctor hit a hard ball off the diving hands of Eric Rodriguez.  As Erod scrambled to the ball in foul territory, he conceded when he heard the lumbering footsteps of Proctor.  After one, it looked like a game as Indy led just 5-3. Corey white and Adam Rodenbeck would score in the second on grounders that could have been stopped.  But the damage was limited.  In the bottom of the second, Boston would tie the game with run scoring by Christian Thaxton and Larry Haile.  The third inning would be a nightmare.  Gerald Dycus led off with a bomb that Joe McCormick made an amazing play on, just a second to late.  Buhler would score on a shallow pop fly that landed between Proctor, Zuccarello and Yee with all of them thinking the other would take it.  Corey White then hit a grounder down the third base line and Joe Yee could not get to it.  Then Boston appeared to catch a break as the next two betters would strike out.  With 4 in and 2 outs, Eric Rodriguez tagged a fly ball to third base that hit Joe Yee on the side of the head on the fly. Yee wobbled but the run scored.  After a short break, he stayed in the game.  Dycus then scored again on a ball hit inside 100 feet and 6 runs were in for Indy.  Buhler then hit a bomb and things looked bad for Boston as the Indy Thunder were on a roll.  Corey White stepped up and this time Joe yee laid out and had the ball lined up.  Sadly, the ball hit him square in the face and the run scored. Bryan Grillo quickly called for help as blood was streaming from Yee’s face. He was hit twice in the head within just 4 batters.  This time, he was taken out on a golf cart to be tended to.  By the time the inning ended, Boston had let up 12 runs.  It was 19-5.  At this point, Weissman asked the starters what they wanted to do.  Play it out…or get ready for the 5/6 game.  The shell shocked team stood for a moment when Guy Zuccarello caught rage and encouraged the team to keep going.    Thaxton and Haile would score in the third but could not prevent the 12 run rule.  At this point, the game became a circus of substitutions.  The best moments came in the 6th, when Luis Soto plated a run on a fly ball down down the right side for his second run of the World Series.  “Hot Tub” Thayer also rocked a hard grounder to the left side through the defense and it looked like he would score but he missed the base and was put out to end the game.  It was the only missed base the Renegades had all series.  Overall, for the two teams, 26 players played in this contest.  There are no records kept for these things, but this is surely close to an NBBA record for most players playing in a game.  The Thunder would move to the next round to play Colorado with the winner of that game going to the finals (Indy would eventually win against Colorado).  Boston was shipped across the park to play in the 5/6 game against the Indy Edge.

Game 7: Renegades take care of business and earn the 5 seed 14-7

2017 World Series team for the Boston Renegades team picture

Team photo taken at the end of the World Series of the 21 Renegades representing the team. Not shown is Melissa Hoyt who left the squad on Wednesday

The last time these teams faced off was in Chicago, when then Edge trounced the Renegades.  They entered this match with common wins over New Jersey and Austin and a common loss to the Colorado Storm.  The Edge would sit a few of their starters in this contest.  In fact, they would strike out twice in the first inning to set the tone.  Thaxton would score and Joe McCormick would plate runs for Boston to get the party started and after one it was 2-0.  The Edge would fare better in the second as they plated three runs before Joe McCormick would help end the inning with a diving stop at first base off the bat of Jonathan Boggs.  Boston would answer with three runs of their own in the bottom of the frame with Thaxton, McCormick and Dias scoring runs.  McCormick scored his runs on fly balls down the right side, which was a new thing for him using a different hand path in his swing.  In the third inning, Frank Porter would hit a line drive just by Justen Proctor’s out stretched hands and then bounced off Thaxton ‘s hands for a run.  That would be all for them in the 3rd.  McCormick was on his way to his best game of the week plated his third run.  Shawn Devenish also showed some speed as he legged out a hit and after three, Boston led 7-4.  The 4th inning was not kind to the Edge, Boggs and Trejo would each strike out and Gregory would be stopped by Justen.  As the team came to the bench, Weissman was waiting for them and encouraging them to focus.  The result was their best inning of the game.  Devenish legged out a run again.  Thaxton had a rare one pitch at bat lofting a bomb into left. Haile regained his stroke with a fly into left.  Rob Dias also scored on a grounder up the middle.  After 4 it was 11-4.  Weissman was thinking about subs but the Edge scored three times in the 5th to pull the game within 4 runs.  With one out, Thaxton, Haile and McCormick lofted bombs into left field for runs.  That would seal this game.  The Edge would throw up a goose egg in the 6th.  Boston would win 14-7 behind 4 run games from Thaxton and McCormick and 6 defensive stops by Proctor.  The 2017 season may not have ended up the way the team had wanted but it would end with a 13-4 record and it’s third top 5 finish in the past three seasons.

For more game summaries from the world Series

Day #1 vs Seattle and Long Island

Day #2 vs Long Island

Day #3 vs Austin and Colorado