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!

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