CRESTWOOD (CBS) – Playoff baseball in August.
The Wheelchair Softball World Series is taking over Crestwood for the next three days, bringing together 21 teams including one from Japan.
CBS 2’s Jackie Kostek went to the diamond to check out the sport that was born in the Midwest and why its bigger than baseball.
America’s pastime in a parking lot.
“Everybody always says, ‘wheelchair softball, you play on grass,'” said Keith Wallace, co-organizer of the Wheelchair Softball World Series and coach of a local team. “No! We are on a parking lot.”
It’s a different field, with the same rules. Players with different physical disabilities play on the same team.
Players don’t use standard wheelchairs. Sports chairs are lighter and you can see the wheels are at an angle which allows players to rip around the bases and not lose their center of gravity.
“We have ex-minor leaguers here,” Wallace said. “We have guys that could have been in the minor or major leagues. They had an accident, lost their leg. And they’re here, they’re playing. They found their people. They found their sport.”
Known as the Babe Ruth of wheelchair softball, Brent Rasmussen reached levels of success in baseball most don’t. He was a high school state champion, captain of his college team and a minor leaguer for the Kansas City Royals.
But when he was 24, life threw him a curveball.
“I got hit by a car along the interstate at about 55 miles per hour,” Rasmussen said. “So I stopped to help someone and another car slid off in kind of snowy, wintery weather and that’s what happened to me.”
His left leg was gone. His right leg was shattered. Doctors weren’t sure if he’d walk again, let alone run.
Baseball seemed a thing of the past, until the Nebraska Barrons called.
“First time coming out and seeing these guys I had a really negative mindset of what wheelchair softball was, but through weeks of practicing and training with the guys, it really opened my eyes to saying, ‘Alright, I have a chance to go out and play baseball (or) softball again, just in a different way,” he said.
Rounding the bases in a wheelchair may be different, but his slugging percentage is sky high, leading his team to decades of dominance.
KOSTEK: “The Nebraska Barrons you said have won 13 of the last 20 World Series, correct?”
RASMUSSEN: “That’s correct.”
KOSTEK: “Is that the most success you’ve had on any baseball team?”
RASMUSSEN: “Oh by far.”
Rasmussen said it’s almost a given the Barrons will make the Finals as they have 18 of the last 20 years.
But if Wallace has his way, it’ll be his guys, the Lincolnway Special Recreation Association Hawks that will be hoisting the trophy.
“They’ve just been winning every year, so somebody’s gotta dethrone them,” Wallace said. “They’re getting a little older so hopefully this is the year that my team will take them out.”
The Wheelchair Softball World Series runs through Saturday at Ozinga Field in Crestwood.
Wallace, who coaches the local team, also manages the USA Wheelchair Softball team which will compete in the World Championship this November in Japan.