If you spend even a few minutes with those close to the game of beep baseball, they will tell you of the tremendous bond between players and participants that makes the league feel like extended family.
On Saturday, September 29, the beep baseball family embraced a few new members, as two of the game’s most respected teams took to the field, not for achievements and accolades, but to support the homeless in and around the Indianapolis area.
The #4 Indy Edge and #1 Indy Thunder organized a donation drive and beep baseball exhibition to support Wheeler Mission, a social services organization committed to providing critical goods and services to the homeless, poor and needy in central Indiana. The teams were able to collect clothing, food and monetary support to contribute to the work being done through the local ministry.
“Many of these guys are itching to get back on the field before it gets too cold,” said Steve Michaels, coach with the Indy Edge. “We’ve always wanted to do something for the homeless as a team, and this was a chance to give back to a community that has done so much for both of our Indy teams.”
What started as a conversation with Thunder shortstop, Erik Rodriguez, and general manager and coach, Darnell Booker, quickly became a collaborative event focused on gathering coats, gloves and socks to share with the homeless before the colder winter weather arrives. Michaels said the teams managed to collect over 20 bags of clothing, food and $200 in cash.
According to the US Census, approximately 29% of those in Indiana live at or below the poverty line, while around 12,000 of the state’s residents live in homelessness.
“Here in Indy, homelessness is a real issue,” said Booker. “The work done by Wheeler Mission is fantastic. They have so many programs to help people that are down on their luck to get back on their feet.”
Michaels adds that “you can’t drive down the street without seeing someone who is homeless.”
“The sad part is that many of these people are veterans,” said Michaels. “They fought hard for our freedom. It’s only right to help.”
Adam Beretta, a data entry specialist and program representative with Wheeler Mission, says he witness incredible generosity, a sense of community and athleticism while working with the players and supporters during the event.
“I learned a lot about the game, the sportsmanship and this strong community as I watched these teams,” said Beretta. “The humility and eagerness to give to those who are in need. It’s inspirational.”
Kyle Kennedy, pitcher for the Edge, was firmly committed to the opportunity, pitching in both on and off of the field with a broken index finger. Kennedy tossed four innings during the exhibition game and was excited to take part in the event.
“Honestly, the fact I was able to play beep baseball for a great cause was an awesome,” said Kennedy. “It’s always great when we can take the time to help those in need.”
And though the abbreviated game ended in a deadlocked score at six runs for each team, the players, their supporters and the entire Indianapolis community notched a win through the collective display of selfless service.
“The comradery between these two Indy teams is always fun,” said Michaels. “We’ve already talked about doing this again next year.”
James Michaels, a player with the Indy Edge who was recently inducted into the league’s Hall of Fame, says giving back to the local community is important. A Vice President of Program Services with Bozma Enterprises, James Michaels has had a number of consumers who have needed services from Wheeler Mission, and he says “they do excellent work.”
“The philosophy of giving back has been important to me since I started working, and is something I’ve been able to teach my son as he’s grown up,” said James Michaels. “I think it’s important to help the community that has been so good to us, and also to show that, even though I’m blind, I can still contribute and give back.”
Steve Michaels is grateful for the support of his wife, Liaa, and to Booker and the Thunder for providing food, beverages and the facilities to host the event. Steve Michaels is also thankful for the support of Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana (RHI), a key sponsor for the Indy Edge who also contributed goods to be donated during the event. He says, “something like this is just a testament to the great and caring people across our league.”
“At the end of the day, it’s about helping each other,” said Booker. “I want to encourage teams across our league to make a difference in their communities by finding a charity to support.”