If you received the MindsEye spring appeal letter, you got to hear a little of the inspiring story of Kim and Mari Blumenthal. A mother-daughter BeepBall duo, they both play for the Gateway Archers (Mari is a sighted pitcher and catcher.) Thanks to the support of MindsEye donors, they’re able to afford to play together and travel to all the National BeepBall Association tournaments this summer. Read on for a full transcript of their interview with Development and Communications Coordinator Laura Foughty:
Laura: Kim, how did you feel the first time you played BeepBall? Did it feel natural, or did it take some time to grow into it?
Kim: Oh no, I loved it! When I was in junior high, I went to the School for the Blind, so I was exposed to it there. But then I went to a public high school so finding things that I could do was a little more difficult. I was very interested in sports but in public school there wasn’t a lot that they could offer. That’s why I did cheerleading and stuff like that, because I couldn’t really do a lot of the other sports. I tried playing softball and ended up busting up my nose one time and my dad was like, “yeah I think we’re done with that!” So, then the only position I could play was catcher because I had the face mask, but my vision just wasn’t great for that either.
Laura: Mari, have you always been athletic? When did you start playing BeepBall?
Mari: I wrestle, I play football, I run track. I’ve always been a sporty girl.
Kim: But she’s been helping with BeepBall since she was seven! There’s a lot of volunteer needs and for a long time she was just shagging balls, she was bat girl, and then she started pitching for me because I wanted to work more at my hitting. So, she started pitching for me, and here we are!
Laura: Can you tell me a little more about the rest of your family?
Kim: Right now, I have an 18-year-old, 15-year-old, 14, 11, 9, 7, 2, and 8 months. Two of them are mine, one biological and one adopted, and then we have six foster children.
Laura: With your busy life and so many kids at home, is playing BeepBall together your special mother-daughter time?
Kim: Yeah, this is what we do to get away and de-stress. We’ve always been very close, she tells me everything, sometimes things I don’t want to know! We’ll spend as much time as we can and it’s just nice to get away from all the chaos.
Mari: Yeah, we have a poster at our house that says, “you call it chaos, we call it family!”
Kim: My husband calls Mari “the second mom” because she’s very attentive to our little ones. She sees the kids do something and we’ll correct them at the same time and I’m like, “I am still sitting here, and I am the mom!”
Laura: Do you have a favorite BeepBall memory?
Kim: I think my favorite BeepBall memory was when we were in the world series and they do a special game that is an all-women’s game– they call it the “wool” game, women of our league. The team we were playing had a little girl on it that had never batted in a game before, and Mari pitched to her.
Mari: I think her name was Audrey, it was really nice being able to be there for her first time.
Kim: That’s one of the best things about some of the BeepBall teams– everybody’s there to have a good time, I mean obviously we want to win, but you can work with them like that.
Laura: Have you had any special mother-daughter moments on the field?
Mari: Yeah, last year I pitched to my mom and she hit it and she scored…
Kim: …yeah, I think I’ve only scored once in a World Series and that was it! We were both pretty excited about it because it was a special time. It’s like all this work paid off finally!
Laura: Mari, do you ever see your mom having a moment on the field and feel proud?
Mari: Yeah. When she’s out on the field she’s catching the balls everywhere– every which way– and getting all muddy with just a big smile on her face, it makes me proud.
Laura: Is there anything that you would want to say to MindsEye donors who are just finding out about BeepBall and considering pledging their support?
Kim: It’s very important for people who are visually impaired to be able to get out and compete in something and feel normal… and their support and their help is what makes it all possible. I played for a team before this, and I spent about $3000 a year to play. We paid for our hotels, our own gas, uniforms, everything. Just the fact that we have someone to help support us makes a huge difference. It was one of the defining factors in deciding if Mari was going to get to play with me… just because of the cost factor.
Mari: When I was younger, I would just put on one of mom’s jerseys or something and I’d have been fine, but now that I’m getting older it’s different.
Kim: It betters a person’s life, giving them the opportunity to get out and be active in a sport where they can actually feel competitive. I’m 50 years old now and I’m still playing! When I played football in high school, I was the only visually impaired person. When I tried out for the team, I didn’t even tell them I was visually impaired because I didn’t want there to be a bias. I said, “I don’t want to touch the ball, I just want to hit people, I love defense.” Finally, I did tell the coach and I didn’t want to tell other people because I didn’t want them feeling sorry for me. I just wanted to be able to try to be competitive. That’s what BeepBall gives us gives us… that feeling.
Mari: Everybody’s the same.
Kim: Everybody’s on the same playing field no matter how much vision you have. Everybody’s wearing blindfolds so nobody has an upper hand. When I’m out there doing even daily type things, I always feel like people who have vision have an upper hand because they can see things that I can’t. So, this puts us on that same level playing field and I am able to have that same competitive feeling that the sighted world has and that makes a huge difference. That’s good for your self-esteem. That’s good for just–
Kim: everything; that inner part of you that needs to feel like you fit in. And BeepBall does that.