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Lighthouse team back to winning ways in annual beepball match-up
It was sweet revenge for members of the Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind squad at the 25th annual Beepball Classic at the George M. Steinbrenner Field baseball complex on Saturday.
The Lighthouse team took no mercy on a group of Tampa area journalists, personalities and politicians led by Tampa Tribune columnist Steve Otto, pounding the Media All Stars 5-1.
“The key is to know what you need to do,” Lighthouse team slugger Lee Kimbrell said, rejoicing in the win. “As you can see, the Media All Stars don't know what to do under the leadership of Steve Otto.”
But that's all a part of the fun of beepball.
Each year, the event raises money for Tampa's Lighthouse for the Blind, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who are visually impaired or legally blind.
This year, the annual match was played for the first time on Steinbrenner Field at North Dale Mabry Highway and West Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The game was part of a doubleheader event at the Yankees' spring training complex, which was followed by a game between the Tampa Yankees and Clearwater Threshers.
Otto's All Star line-up included, among others, News Channel 8 anchorwoman Gayle Guyardo and chief meteorologist Steve Jerve; Tampa City Council members Lisa Montelione and Mike Suarez; and Tribune food critic Jeff Houck.
Beepball is played much like softball, but players must hit a soft, beeping ball to advance to a single, beeping base.
To even the odds, players with vision are blindfolded – both when batting and when playing positions in the field. If a batter connects with a pitch, she or he must scramble to the base before a fielder picks up the ball.
“The key to the game is learning how to bat,” said Kimbrell of Plant City, who has played for the Lighthouse team since about 1996. “Then it is up to the pitcher. The rules allow (the pitcher) to say: 'Ready, pitch.' After that, you say '1,001' and swing away.”
On Saturday, despite falling behind early, Otto remained optimistic to the end.
“We are consistent,” the All Stars team captain said. “It's not easy dropping 23 games in a row.
“We won last year. We cheated,” he quipped.
But the Lighthouse squad never let up. They recalled last year's collapse, the All Stars' first win in 24 years.
“It's all in fun,” says Lighthouse spokeswoman Cheryl Brown. “It's great to win. But more important is we have been able to raise money to provide free services to people of all ages who are visually impaired.”