THE BOYS OF SUMMER

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From the Publisher:

What follows here and online is a 30th anniversary retrospective of the NO BATS BASEBALL CLUB which observed this milestone in 2021.  It’s a compilation of experiences, memories, and life-changing experiences.

In recognition of a long-time friend, Mike Flynn, and his passion for baseball, so many stories can he, and does he tell, it was indeed fitting to have a tribute feature in our summer edition with “The Boys of Summer.”  

Over the course of the thirty years the baseball club has donated some $2.2 million to charitable endeavors supporting youth baseball.  And that is a story unto itself.

Enjoy this story – and PLAY BALL!

No Bats Baseball Club takes the field at Miami Marlins Stadium (2016).

It was not quite Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – but playing a little hooky has had fortuitous consequences for native Miamian Mike Flynn who grew up on Schoolhouse Road between Sunset Drive and Davis Road.

Starting with fourth grade at Epiphany Catholic School in South Miami, Flynn was one of those kids who tried his best to get that “perfect attendance” certificate each June. “But I broke my streak in seventh grade when I feigned feeling sick after breakfast and stayed home from school so that I could listen to the opening game of the baseball season on the radio” Flynn recounted recently from his pool patio in South Miami.

Retired since 2005 from a career that included teaching English and Journalism at his alma mater, Christopher Columbus High School, and then 29 years as a sales executive and special events coordinator for Xerox Corporation in South Florida, Flynn fondly recalls how the No Bats Baseball Club was conceived one Monday, the first week of March, 1991.

“I was the most-tenured member of the staff at Xerox Business Services in South Florida, and as a native Miamian I always tried my best to welcome and help make new employees feel welcomed to Team Xerox. 

“Ted Simendinger had just transferred from the training staff at Xerox University near Washington, DC, and was the newest member of the management team in Miami. 

“Ted’s first Monday on the job was also the first time the Doral-Ryder Golf Tournament had been called on Sunday evening due to darkness, and a playoff was scheduled for Monday morning between Curtis Strange and Rocco Mediate. The Doral Country Club was one of my major accounts, and I thought it would be a good place to introduce Ted ~ a native of Baltimore ~ to South Florida.

“So when he came out of his first senior staff meeting, I quietly invited him to sneak out of the office and go with me to the Doral to catch the end of the golf tournament.

“We got to the Doral Country Club just in time to catch the winning putt, so we then sat down in the Staggerbush Lounge overlooking the putting green for a welcome-to-Xerox-Miami lunch.

Club “Commissioner” Ted Simendinger with South Miami native and Hall of Famer Andre Dawson in Bimiini.

“This was my 13th year with Xerox and my accounts were all the hotels and convention and conference centers in South Florida. I was not on the management team of my office, but for the past dozen years the management team did come to me to ask which of my accounts they should schedule their bi-annual sales and annual kickoff meetings.

“Through the years we had done the “team building” events like beach olympics, golfing, bowling, and such at my accounts in Key Biscayne, Turnberry, Key Largo and so on. That previous November I had been invited along with other local meeting planners to attend a familiarization weekend at Dodgertown in Vero Beach.

“Having been that kid who had loved baseball since the days of Mickey Mantle winning the Triple Crown (1956) and had given up his own perfect attendance record for baseball on the radio, that weekend at Dodgertown was better for me than even my first visit to Disney World!

“The highlight of the “fam” trip was playing a co-ed softball game under the lights at Holmon Stadium.

Legendary Nolan Ryan talks baseball with club members at Round Rock, Texas field at their 30th Anniversary event.

“And so during the course of our lunch, I suggested to Ted that when the senior management team look toward our next team building event, they consider Dodgertown ~ since a co-ed softball game would be a new and fun activity for our next kick off event.

“And that is when Ted told me that prior to his career with Xerox, he had been a sports writer for the Baltimore Sun and that he too was a baseball fan like me ~ but more of the ‘Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris era’ than of the 1990 era of baseball. When he said that he had long dreamed of ‘renewing the joys of summer’ with guys he had played ball with growing up, I told him that I would call the sales staff at Dodgertown who had hosted me in November.

“Lisa Kent was the Dodgertown sales manager who then invited me and Ted up to Vero Beach the following week for their annual customer appreciation day for the meeting planners from Florida Power and Light, Ryder System, Harris Corporation, and other Florida companies who patronized their conference facilities. After a luncheon in the Jackie Robinson Conference Center we received Dodger souvenirs and tickets to that afternoon’s spring training game.”

. . . and six months later 60 guys aged from 24 to over 70 took the field at Dodgertown for the first No Bats Baseball Club event ~ which will celebrate its 31st edition this September in Chicago where they will be hosted by the Chicago White Sox. 

Cincinnati 2018

Michael Byrne is a retired CPA and a lifelong baseball fan who graduated from Jacksonville University in the early 1970’s. As a good friend of Ted Simendinger’s since their college days, Byrne was one of the first of Simendinger’s and Flynn’s friends and business associates to get the invite to what was imagined then as a one-time event.

As “Byrnsie” put it when interviewed “Guys who got that initial invite all had a love of the game, but had skill levels that ranged from ‘very proficient’ to ‘I played once when I was 9 years old.’ ”

Simendinger assumed the role of “Commissioner” and explains on the club’s official website www.nobats.com that “The goal was to create a long weekend for guys to have a fun, supportive event that celebrated baseball and brotherhood. I wanted cross-polination ~ not cliques ~ and from all walks of society. Good guys. No hotshots. No problems. To do that I devised just three rules:

1. No wives
2. No drugs
3. No arguing

Dell Diamond 2021

From the start, our concession to our age and lack of skills was that we pitched to our own teams, the object being to hit the ball. Impact is when the chaos begins.”

With the initial invitation (a Xerox-copied letter) Simendinger included another printed list of 20 rules to be casually left around the house for “the wife” to discover and feel comfortable in “allowing” the husband to have a boys’ weekend in Florida that was not like a wild bachelor party.

This special set of rules included:
-No drinking.
– Buses leave Sunday morning at 7:45 am for church. Punctual attendance mandatory.
– Sunday at 3:00 pm we will work in a group kitchen for the homeless.
– No cigarette or cigar smoking.
– Everyone must call home each evening before being allowed to eat dinner.
– You must have a picture of your wife and kids to register.
– We will have a photo-sharing party Friday from 7:30 – 9:30 pm in the chapel ante-room.

That October 1991 weekend was filled with a good amount of beer- drinking and cigar-smoking, a larger amount of chaos-upon-contact baseball games with enough players for four teams to play four games each on the spring training diamonds and concluding with the “World Championship” game under the lights at Holman Stadium where the spirits of Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Roy Campanella, and Duke Snyder still roamed, AND an even  larger amount of once-a-year-weekend-warrior pulled hamstrings.

But it was such a smash hit with all the players that they were unanimous in wanting a same time, same place weekend next year. 

Nashville 2019

And the next year. 

And the next year.

And then in 1994, Simendinger decided to take the game on the road ~ to Cooperstown, New York, the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

It rained the entire weekend.  

The guys got to play only a few innings of baseball ~ and not on the Hall of Fame Field ~ but at an-only-semi-drenched local high school field from which they were chased by the school principal for not first getting his permission on a Saturday afternoon.

But by then, the first weekend in October was so sacredly etched on the founding members’ calendars that the club returned to Dodgertown in 1995, and the following season headed west for the first time where they paid to rent the California Angels spring training facility in Tempe, Arizona. 

A highlight of the Tempe trip for the club members who were part of the baby boomer generation was having their pictures taken next to the bronze statue of the Angels owner Gene Autry ~ the singing cowboy of their childhood.

With Nolan Ryan celebrating 30th anniversary 2021 In Round Rock, Texas

Having learned that there was an effort to restore the oldest continuing operating ballpark in America (not Fenway in Boston (1912) ~ but Rickwood Field in Birmingham (1910) Simendinger took the show on the road again in 1995. And it was at the end of the weekend in Alabama that a new chapter was begun in the No Bats history as the club donated over a thousand dollars to the Friends of Rickwood organization to help restore the historic landmark.

Inspired by the gratitude of the Friends of Rickwood and encouraged by the large contingent of original club members from Xerox in Dallas and Austin, Simendinger swung for the fences, if you will, by contacting Nolan Ryan, the major league baseball strikeout king who had retired at the end of the 1993 season and still had a year left of the mandatory waiting period before being installed in Baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

“My message to Big Tex was simply ‘I have a group of buddies that love baseball, and would love to come to your hometown of Alvin, Texas, and play a few games on your homefield. We won’t trash the LaQuinta hotel rooms and we won’t throw the televisions out the windows into the pool, but we will contribute to your foundation for promoting youth baseball.”

As big a thrill as it was then for the club members to hang with Nolan Ryan at the Alvin Community College diamond in October 1998, the “Big Train” himself was not only entertained by the chaos he saw on the field, but he voiced several times that what he missed most in his retirement was the camaraderie and brotherhood with teammates he relived that weekend.

In the following 23 years, Nolan Ryan and his minor league ballparks in Round Rock and Corpus Christi, Texas, have hosted No Bats Baseball three times, and that initial $60,000 in contributions to his foundation and the Friends of Rickwood, has now surpassed $2.2 million to baseball-related charities, and organizations including Susan G. Komen, Wounded Warriors, and Canine Companions.

“The word has gotten around in baseball circles that this rag-tag group will come to your town to play on your field and leave behind a nice big check for your ballclub’s favorite charity. Nowadays I just have to decide whose invitation I am going to accept next,” smiles Commissioner Simendinger.

He and the club have accepted those invitations from major league organizations around the country including the Miami Marlins, the Texas Rangers, the Chicago Cubs, the Arizona Diamondbacks, the San Francisco Giants, the Cincinnati Reds. The Chicago White Sox will host the club this fall, and the San Diego Padres are on the calendar for 2023.

Every member of the club that participates each year is encouraged to  raise at least $500 for that year’s charity. Groups that have benefitted have included retired members of the old baseball Negro League, the Miracle League that develops ballfield for handicapped children, Dave Dravecky’s Outreach for Hope Foundation that helps others who are losing a limb to cancer, and the Chicago’s Cubs Care for youth sports programs for athletes with disabilities, and several of the major league’s local RBI programs for revitalizing baseball in the inner cities.

South Florida resident and 1976 graduate of Miami-Dade Community College, Leonard “Brave” Stuart tells the story of how his chance encounter with Ted Simendinger gave the club an international reach right from its early innings:

“Ted was in Bimini on a fishing trip in 1992 after Hurricane Andrew when I was teaching heath and physical education in Bimini, the Bahamas. When Ted saw a group of youngsters playing on the storm-damaged baseball field right in the heart of the town, he inquired as to who was responsible for baseball on the island. The students told him that I was in charge, and he left a message with the students as to where he was staying while on the island.”

Within months of that first encounter with Stuart, Simendinger and eight of the founding members of the club were back on the island to do a little fishing and a lot more manual labor to restore the playing field in order to match up in ball games with the local teams.

Stuart worked for the Bahamas Tourist office in Florida to promote the islands, and in 2005 invited Simendinger and the whole ball club to Bimini for their 14th annual event. “Hurricanes Wilma and Katrina caused the annual fall event to be delayed until February of 2006, but the fund-raising had already been completed and so right before Christmas in 2005 founding members Mike Flynn and Harley Kane flew to Bimini with Andre Dawson to present the three small schools on the island with brand new computer systems.”

Flynn recalls fondly “Each of the schools had assemblies with all of the students, and they entertained us with Christmas pageants and chorus numbers, and then sat quietly in awe of Andre Dawson telling them his baseball journey from Southwest High School in Miami to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

To this day, I still smile remembering that the principal of the grammar school likened Andre, Harley and me to the Three Wisemen ~ coming to the island bearing gifts at Christmas time.”

Thereafter, the tag line Global Ambassadors for the Good of the Game

became part of the team’s logo.

Bill McClintock grew up in the heart of South Miami on Southwest 82nd Street and played on South Miami Little League teams and for the Columbus High School Explorers. “When Mike Flynn invited me to join the club in 2010 when I retired from a 40-year career as a pharmacist/CEO/president I was thrilled that No Bats gave me a fun opportunity to give back to the community and continue to play my baseball ~ my first love.”

While many of the club members have “gained a few pounds and slowed down in their “speed” from home plate to first base, McClintock’s healthy life-style and fitness have helped earn him many MVP awards through the years as he continues to get on base 90% of the time.

Combined with his playing skills, McClintock’s outstanding fund-raising year after year was recognized at the team’s closing banquet in the Nashville Sounds ballpark when he was presented the George Simmons Award for outstanding contributions to the club’s mission.

George Simmons was a founding member of the club who was the head of training and Ted Simendinger’s mentor at the Xerox University, and whose motto was “Life is good.” He died an American Patriot on flight #77 at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

While the on-the-field ball playing was taken very seriously by the players those first three years especially ~ as could be measured by the number of pulled hamstrings ~ highjinks and belly laughs took center stage at the banquet gatherings each night.

Beginning with the second year at Dodgertown, Friday night’s main card was the introduction of the rookies ~ and the imposing of a “rookie tax” to help cover the cost of the beer on tap in Dodger Tavern. First-timers were introduced by the sponsoring veteran who had invited them, and based upon the rookie’s self-introduction to the group, a tax dollar amount was levied by voice vote from the audience.

The shorter and more humble the rookie’s autobiography was ~ the more modest the levy of a few dollars would be. But woe to the wallet of the rook who tried to impress the group with tales of his glory days on the diamond!

The highest-to-date rookie tax was levied at the Friday night barbeque poolside at the LaQuinta Inn in Alvin, Texas. Gene Ahlhorn was the rookie invited to join the club by founding member Mike Flynn, who had coached Ahlhorn beforehand to be short and sweet and “by all means do not mention your playing high school and college ball, or your being a highly-ranked boss and general manager in your business careers with Xerox and Pitney Bowes.”

Ahlhorn DID give a short and “very grateful to be here” self intro. BUT, when Commissioner and nightly Master of Ceremonies Simendinger pointed out to the group that Ahlhorn had arrived at the LaQuinta “in that shiny new red Jaguar there in the parking lot” ~ ‘FIFTY DOLLARS!” There was no further discussion.

By the fourth year at Dodgertown when the weekend had become a sacred annual ritual for the founding members, a new tax was initiated to help cover the rising cost of a keg of beer ~ the Smite Tax. The Smite Tax was levied upon members who had been part of the group originally but had then missed a year or two before rejoining. An explanation was needed!

“I was undergoing chemo for cancer” ~ ok, one dollar. But woe again to the wallets of anyone whose excuse implied “my wife wouldn’t let me” or “I was too busy at work.” Dick Kievet, then one of the top vice presidents in all of Xerox Coporation set the Smite Tax highwater mark when he meekly sought forgiveness for having chosen to attend a high school reunion in Rochester rather than the club weekend in Vero Beach.

Even if you owned the  major league records for most year pitched, most no-hit games, and most strikeouts ~ as Nolan Ryan did when he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in the summer of 1999 ~ you were subpoenaed and fined by No Bats the following October for failing to mention the club in your Hall of Fame acceptance speech and for not then wearing the silver engraved Texas-sized belt buckle gifted to you by the club in 1998!

And while there have been no stolen cars or such ala Ferris Bueller, No Bats did from the start engage in the baseball time in memoriam  tradition of nicknames.

When Scott Hammerlee of Lake Helen, Florida, was first introduced to the group at his rookie induction in the VIP clubroom at Auto Zone Park in Memphis, he said that he met his wife at Disney World where she played the role of Cinderella. Thus  ~ before he even came to the plate for the first time ~ Scott was dubbed and will forever be known as “Prince Charming.” 

Mike O’Neil joined the club for its second edition in Dodgertown having been invited by Simendinger after the two met in training sessions at Xerox University. O’Neill was a doppelganger for the comic actor Jerry Van Dyke who played the role of Luther Van Dam on the long-running tv comedy series Coach. 

Mike Flynn remembers, “Mike and I had an early connection as we both were graduates of Marist College and discovered we had a mutual friend in John Edward Smith, the publisher of SOMI Magazine. Mike and John Edward were both friends in high school in the Bronx and in college in Poughkeepise, New York. So through all the years of No Bats, other than his sons who joined the club later, I was the only member who didn’t refer to him or address him as ‘Luther’.”

Scott O’Neil was one of “Luther’s” sons who joined the club while still in his young and fast twenties. While wearing basketball shorts and with all the enthusiasm and energy of a rookie, O’Neil aggressively slid into third base in his first game at Dodgertown and came up bleeding profusely from his left knee. Even though his distinguished professional career has included roles as vice-president of the National Basketball Association and president of Madison Square Garden, his moniker with club members will always be “Plasma.”

Samuel “Jay” Davis was a Xerox colleague of Simendinger and Flynn and, as the one founding member of the club who had five daughters at home, relished the once-a-year all-guys weekend more than most.  His signature move after the first getaway weekend was to surprise the members with a new and outrageous hairstyle ~ everything from a mullet, to a Bart Simpson yellow-dyed spike, to a Colonel Sanders white goatee and coif.

After three decades the club keeps adding new members and so anticipates that a growing roster of young talent will see the group accomplish even more over the next 30 years.

Each fall when they get together Simendinger reminds the guys “The power of us is us. When a man joins No Bats his life will be enriched as is ours. The club motto I paraphrased from Jackie Robinson ‘A man’s life means nothing except for the impact it has on others.’ We have embraced Jackie’s message and do our best to prove him right.”

And looking back on his 35-year business and teaching career, Mike Flynn adds, “The best thing I ever did was play hooky one day.”

Note: For more on No Bats Baseball, including videos of chaos upon contact and testimonials from Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan, Cal Ripken, Randy Johnson, Tony Gwynn, and Catfish Hunter go to www.nobats.com.

Photos provided by No Bats Baseball Club

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