BOLINGBROOK: A BEEPBALL TRADITION
By: David Benney
David Benney is a former all-star who has played for teams in Chicago, Indianapolis, and San Antonio. He has since developed a following providing play-by-play commentary for games being streamed online and sharing information that is relevant to the beepball nation. Here’s his write-up regarding a popular beepball tradition in June!
For the 22nd year, teams from across the United States will gather in Bolingbrook Illinois on the second weekend in June for a weekend of beep baseball competition and camaraderie like none other. The annual Bolingbrook Beepball Bash happens on June 10-11 and features eight teams, including the top three finishers from the 2022 National Beep Baseball Association (NBBA) World Series: the defending champions Indy Edge, San Antonio Jets, and Austin Blackhawks. Also competing are the Bayou City Heat, Chicago Comets, Cleveland Scrappers, Indy Thunder, and Minnesota Millers. Hosted by the Bolingbrook Lions Club along with other local support, the tournament has grown from humble beginnings into a premier event in the beep baseball season. Bolingbrook set the goal standard of excellence for other regional events, as others have adopted the style and traditions of the Beepball Bash. Here is an overview of Bolingbrook’s rich history and tradition.
The origins of the Bolingbrook Beepball Bash date back to the year 2000, two years prior to the first annual tournament. The first beepball event in Bolingbrook was just a scrimmage involving the Cleveland Scrappers, Columbus Vipers, and a split squad of the Chicago Comets, then known as the Faster Comets. The scrimmage was played on June 17, 2000, and was hosted by the Chicago Park District and the Comets, with the Comets A team placing first.
The first Bolingbrook tournament was held in 2002 on the second weekend in June, joining the Indy Bonanza as the longest-running local tournaments in beepball. There were only four teams: Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, and Indianapolis. Chicago and Cleveland finished as co-champions with 3-1 records. Ben Shue of Cleveland was the top batter, while David Benney of the Indy Thunder collected 32 putouts in four games to earn top defensive honors.
The tournament increased to six teams in 2003 with the addition of the Boston Renegades, Chicago Bluffs, and Kansas All-Stars, and the subtraction of Columbus. Kansas and Chicago would dominate the tournament for the next eight seasons until the All-Stars disbanded in 2010. Bolingbrook helped foster one of beepball’s all-time great rivalries between the Comets and the All-Stars.
The tournament expanded again in 2004 to its current eight-team format. The Comets again entered two teams and neither made the championship game, allowing the Indy Thunder to challenge for their first tournament title in team history. Although the Thunder fell short to eventual league runner-up Kansas in the Sunday morning final, the 3-0 record on Saturday and second-place finish was a shot in the arm for a young Thunder organization who would eventually conquer the tournament and the sport. Until 2016, this was the only appearance the Thunder would make in a championship game at Bolingbrook. John Parker and Chad Sumner hit 571 to earn offensive co-MVP while David Benney was defensive MVP with 30 putouts in four games.
Minnesota, now a regular in Bolingbrook, entered the tournament in 2007 as the Fighting Lions. The tournament vacillated between six and eight teams for the next several years until 2010 when newly-formed Wichita entered as the eighth team. Also in 2010, the Colorado Storm broke Kansas and Chicago’s hold on the championship, defeating the All-Stars for the title. The Storm won Bolingbrook in 2010 without placing a single player on the all-tournament team. The Storm fell short of defending their title in 2011, falling in the final to the newly-formed RHI Indy Xtreme. 2011 marked the dawn of a new era, as teams from Indianapolis—first the Xtreme, and then the Thunder, and now the Edge–would reign in Bolingbrook for the next dozen years. The exception was 2021, when the San Antonio Jets, in Kevin Sibson’s last season as pitcher, knocked off both the Thunder and the Edge on route to the title.
Recent memorable moments from Bolingbrook include: Demieli Wright’s walk-off hit in the 2016 final to clinch the Thunder’s first Bolingbrook championship 12-11 over the then world champions, The Austin Blackhawks; Erik Rodriguez of the Thunder scoring 18 runs in 18 at-bats in 2017 to register the first 1.000 batting average in tournament history; and Nick Mulherin’s home run in the 2022 final to propel the Edge to their first Bolingbrook title.
In addition to its rich history, the Bolingbrook Beepball Bash is steeped in tradition. Bolingbrook was the first local event to award monetary assistance to participating teams. Bolingbrook established the unique custom of awarding the first-place finisher their entry fee to the NBBA world series, with lesser amounts to the other teams. In recent years, other local events such as the Indy Bonanza have followed suit. Another tradition unique to Bolingbrook is the Saturday evening banquet-style dinner put on for the athletes and volunteers by the Lion’s Club. This, along with the Friday evening catered hospitality room featuring an assortment of food and beverages, is a hallmark of the Beepball Bash and a blueprint for other beepball events. Furthermore, the same venue and hotel have hosted the tournament throughout its history; all made possible through the work of the Bolingbrook Lions and their collaboration with other local organizations. The traditions and hospitality of Bolingbrook make this tournament one of the most anticipated events on the schedule.
BOLINGBROOK: A BEEPBALL TRADITION