|Player:||Kevin “Special K” Barrett|
|Years with Team:||39|
|How Connected with Team:||Cofounder of Greater Cleveland Beepball League and Cleveland Scrappers|
I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. While a student at Cleveland State some fellow sight impaired students and I were introduced to the new United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) in 1978. We competed in track and field events at several of the early USABA Nationals.
My good friend the late Marty Skutnik who I met at CSU was a great blind athlete having lost his sight in high school. Another friend, the late Michael Berwald told Marty and I about beep baseball. Mike had been in the local Pioneers Beepball program since childhood. We co-founded the Cleveland Scrappers in 1984. While at some USABA Nationals during 1982-1984 Ray Marshall and others told Marty and I about the NBBA. The Scrappers joined the NBBA in 1987 and have finished as high as third place (2004) at the World Series of Beep Baseball. Overall, the Scrappers have competed in 20 NBBA World Series including being the host team in 2001 and 2006.
I have served several terms on the NBBA Board of Directors including serving as 1st Vice President and 2nd Vice President. Currently I am chairman of the NBBA Hall of Fame Committee and as a Lions member, I network with Lions through the country to adopt Beep Baseball as a service effort to support those who are blind and visually impaired which is a major Lions objective.
Though I originally helped form the Scrappers to play beep baseball circumstances led me to become the team’s sighted pitcher when we were short on sighted volunteers for our first ever game against Philadelphia in July 1984. I have 20/200 vision with correction and ended up pitching that day and grew into the role. Being from a baseball family, this sport gave me a chance to play ball and satisfy my desire to help others at the same time.
This has been extremely rewarding. Pitching in beep baseball is a volunteer position that requires a great deal of involvement. My wife and family have always been supportive over the years. My teammates have been wonderful batters to pitch to and my catchers Richard Skutnik, Richard Benesh, Paul Redd and Todd Simmons have all been a big help making sure we hit the barrel of the bat.
For me, I came from a baseball family. My vision impairment prevented me from ever being able to play organized ball as my father and youngest brother did. I at least could play pick up slow pitch softball with my friends in the neighborhood which I do believe gave me a foundation to one day pitch with success in Beep Baseball. I was raised to be service minded and to help those less fortunate. From raising money for Cancer research in high school to my current membership with the Scrappers and the NBBA and in the Lions this desire to help others lived on through pitching. The level of pride and satisfaction I have derived from being blessed with enough skill, to help our blind athletes experience the sheer joy of smacking that ball and scoring a run, is hard to put into words.
When we first started going to weekend tournaments up in New York State in 1985 a sighted volunteer in Ithaca told me, “You know the pitcher holds the keys to a good game of beep baseball. The game and how it will go is all in your hands.” This always stuck with me in that the pitcher in beep baseball is there for all the players. Sure, we are competitors and want our guys and gals to win, but what we do impacts all. The NBBA and beep baseball would not be where it is today if the ball was not pitched and hit well consistently. All the defensive MVPs and all-tournament team members would not be possible if we pitchers did not hit the bat. So, I always felt it was my responsibility to be ready, stay in shape year-round, and get lots of live practice with my batters. It is important to respect the game and remember people. Not only my teammates but, dear friends, are counting on me.
I was the Scrappers sole pitcher from 1984-2001. In 2002 we had an opportunity to finally develop a second pitcher when Paul Redd became a volunteer coach. He was sighted and got very good quickly. In 2002 I moved to backup pitcher/player so Paul could attain a bunch of repetitions and it went very well. I wanted to do this so as to prepare the team for the future. Also, I had never been injured and had always been concerned what might happen if I had the misfortune of being injured in the middle of a tournament. Paul and I successfully split duties with good success in 2002 and 2003 mainly. I took over and pitched all of 2005 and 2006 as Paul wanted to focus on coaching, catching and backing me up. My last full year pitching was 2006 when we hosted our second NBBA World Series. We finished fourth.
I learned in 2007 that I had developed Glaucoma on top of my original eye defect which had made it more difficult to deal with the sun. I at that time retired. I was able to make some adjustments and pitched again in 2010 and 2011. Todd Simmons took over the pitching at that time, was very dedicated, and kept getting better each year. He was a great volunteer, stepping down in 2022.
I had the opportunity to pitch a couple more times at the WS helping the Atlanta Eclipse in 2013 and the New Jersey Lightening in 2015. These two experiences brought home why we volunteers do what we do. Especially, being able to make it possible for the Lightening to be able to play after their only pitcher got hurt, just before the World Series.
Sport and athletic competition are beneficial in terms of physical well-being, building self- confidence and promoting diversity. For those of us who are sight challenged these positives are multiplied. Yes, we volunteers sighted or sight challenged also grow from this experience.
- Earned a BA in Political Science with a Minor in Communications from Cleveland State University (CSU) in 1980.
- Employed by the Department of Defense (DFAS Cleveland formally Navy Finance Center) for 39 years retiring in March 2020.
- Linda and I celebrated our 36th Anniversary on May 2nd, 2023.
- Linda started helping the Scrappers as early as 1984.
- Linda and I have been members of the Broadview Hts. Lions Club for 25 years.
- Pitcher Catcher Award at 2003 NBBA World Series in Denver, CO with Richie Skutnik
- 2001 Jim Quinn Award Winner
- Most Valuable Pitcher Eastern Regional Tournament 1987, 88, 90
- Lions and Beep Baseball, A Perfect Fit (YouTube)
- Field of Dreams Lion’s Magazine June 2012
- Cleveland Scrappers Visually Impaired Baseball Team Tops Babes of 1916 – Solon Times
- Baseball with a Beep – Crains Business Cleveland
Stats and Honors
Jim Quinn Nomination Letter
I’m writing to you to submit a name for nomination of the Jim Quinn Award. As it has become traditional not to mention the name of the nominee until the last sentence, I will do my best to continue this procedure, however I am certain that by the end of this nomination letter most will already know who this individual is. This person’s contribution to his team, his community and the National Beep Baseball Association has been significant in the realm of this sport.
I first met this man at a local university in 1976. The genuine warmth and caring that emanated from him was overwhelming. I did not know at that time the importance that he would have in my life. Both of us visually impaired, were athletic and enjoyed being active in sports. This played a large part in the development of our friendship. Having never heard of beep baseball yet, we world run around the university’s track, with him having some useful vision guiding me around other runners as we passed. In 1978 the dean of the Special Studies Department informed us that the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) was holding their National Olympic Games at Western Illinois University. We were elated that such an event existed. We had gotten some of the other visually impaired students on campus interested, and began a daily work-out routine. Having attended this event, this individual was hooked on participating in sports for the visually impaired. He not only proceeded to partake in these Olympics in 1979, 80, 82, 83, 84, 85, and 86, but he became a recruiter, fund raiser, coach, charter member and treasurer of his state’s USABA chapter. I mentioned his involvement in USABA for 2 reasons. 1 It shows his enthusiasm and dedication in working with visually impaired athletes and, 2 this is where the sport of beep baseball was introduced to him. In 1980 a demonstration of the game of beep baseball and how it was played, was overwhelming to both of us. Discussions of the sport and how to participate in it lasted for nearly a year. In mid-May, 1981, on campus, a new student had overheard the discussion of beep baseball and had mentioned that he had been participating on a children’s beep baseball team operated by the Telephone Pioneers. Being invited to practice with the Pioneer team was an experience that changed our lives. Having found that this sport required timing, coordination, athleticism and concentration molded into a team concept was exhilarating.
Having to perform under blindfold became a very difficult challenge for him. However with practice, desire and determination he achieved the “comeback player of the year” award. Having played over two full seasons with the Pioneer Program, he, two other players and myself realized that we were participating in a children’s league. All of us now in our mid-twenties, decided to use the contacts established from the USABA and form a beep baseball team that would compete on the level of play in the National Beep Baseball Association.
In 1983 the team, which became a part of our lives was born. The work required obtaining new players, funding, a field of play, equipment and finding volunteers became an enormous task. As all teams know, perhaps the most important role in a beep baseball team is one that is played by the pitcher. Obtaining one is very difficult. Securing the services of our pitcher Doug, in 1984 we were happy to invite the Philadelphia Warriors to town. This was the first time our team would play a “REAL” beep baseball team. An astounding development would soon happen. As the Warriors arrived our pitcher, Doug did not. With the team having traveled 9 hours we were in a crisis situation. We had no pitcher. The same visually impaired individual who was at first having difficulty playing under blindfold, stepped forward and said, “let me try”. His team proceeded to beat Philadelphia resoundingly sweeping the doubleheader. As his pitching was outstanding, he had decided to stay in that position as Doug’s work shift was switched to afternoons which would no longer allow him to volunteer for our team. In 1985 this individual donned a catcher’s mask, shin guards and other protective equipment and began a brilliant pitching career. In 1987, 88, 90 at the Eastern Regional Tournament, he was selected as the most valuable pitcher. As his team began competing in the World Series of Beep Baseball, his performance has always been outstanding, putting him in the top 4 pitchers in the country.
His contributions to his team is not just his performance as pitcher but goes way beyond that; he has also undertaken the task as treasurer utilizing his prior experience with the USABA. He has initiated several fundraising efforts. As it became apparent that this beep baseball team was to participate and going to be a predominant force in the NBBA, it needed to secure much more funding. In order to do so he had written his team’s articles of incorporation, the bylaws, the team’s ethical code and established his team’s non-profit 501©(3) status. His persistence in this endeavor was very successful. His team is now listed in the United Way Federal Campaign charity booklet. Tens of thousands of dollars have been donated to his team from United Way, Delta Fi, TRW, the Major League Baseball team in his city, Broadview Hts. Lions and many more. Continuing his fundraising efforts, the major league baseball stadium offers a program to nonprofit organizations to raise money by volunteering to work concession locations. He and his wife Linda have worked the stands faithfully. He taking care of the money and Linda, managing the facility. Both of them arriving early to take inventory, clean and prepare and both of them staying late to close the inventory, clean and balance the receipts. The work is difficult and stressful, but the effort and commitment have resulted in over $100,000 dollars being raised for his team over the past 5 years.
In 1994 his team established a community awareness program. This program was to institute the familiarization of visually impaired individuals to students of all ages. The use of beep baseball demonstrations played a significant role by letting students hit, run and field a beeping ball under blindfold allowing them to experience what it was like to be visually impaired.
In 1997 his contributions to Beep Baseball is one that exposes the sport to the general public more than anything else. Having received significant donations from his major league team, Allen Davis, public relations manager of this team, had contacted this individual asking him if he and his team would participate in an upcoming event. The 1997 Major League All Star Game was coming to his city. Having said, “Yes most definitely”, he and Jennifer Stein of major league baseball collaborated and beep baseball demonstrations were now being put on at an event called “Fan Fest”. This was so successful MLB has asked this individual to set up demonstrations in Denver in 1998 and Boston in 1999. He contacted beep baseball teams in those areas explaining the procedures that were done the previous year. Again the results were the same. Success! It has now become a yearly event that beep baseball demonstrations are held at the all -star fan fest.
In that same year two of his team members were elected to the NBBA Board of Directors. He had accompanied these 2 to their board meetings at his own cost providing assistance. At the board meeting as a guest he volunteered to assist on the hall of fame committee. In 1998 he was elected to the NBBA board and became chairman of that committee. Building upon the foundation that Dan Greene and Kevin Sibson had laid he has built and completed the National Beep Baseball Hall of Fame. The work and effort to establish the criteria for eligibility into this elite manor was relentless. The research of putting together a history of statistics that were almost nonexistent was overwhelming. However, through phone contacts, Feeling Sports Magazine articles written by John Ross and some NBBA information provided by Cora McKiernan and Jeanette Bigger, the first Hall of Fame ceremonies will take place at the 2001 World Series. He has also registered the National Beep Baseball Association with the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). This is a group whose members keep statistics for all organized American baseball (I E college teams, Negro Leagues etc.). By doing this the NBBA has become a legitimate baseball organization in the USA.
As the 2001 World Series was passed by the NBBA to be held in his city he again had played a larger part. Being a Lion club member he approached his organization with the prospect of possibly helping the upcoming tournament. The response was phenomenal. The Lions Club had responded with a significant donation of 5,000 dollars and has been a major contributor in the adopt a ball program. The Lions have also agreed to have many volunteers at the series. Without his participation this tournament, this league, this sport, his team and his city would be less fortunate. The gift that this man has provided to each and every one of us make me proud to nominate Kevin T. Barrett for the National Beep Baseball Association’s Jim Quinn Award.
“This letter was written by Marty Skutnik with the greatest appreciation to my daughter, Audrey Skutnik for her assistance”.