With the summer months coming to a close, I find myself reflecting on the economic progress Eau Claire has seen over the past several years.
I love the fact that what we do at Visit Eau Claire generates over a quarter of a billion dollars in new revenue for our city each year — this is the economic development that saves every homeowner over $700 per year in property taxes. That virtuous cycle of “visits equal interest, which equals investments” is pretty cool. I have seen it in action for over 25 years and it is exponentially energizing.
Recently, my role as executive director at Visit Eau Claire brought me to the ballfield, where I experienced the impacts of tourism in a new way. Beginning in 2013, the Visit Eau Claire Sports Commission launched a multi-year bid to host the National Beep Baseball Association (NBBA) World Series, a highly coveted event that is competitively bid nationally each year. Some of the past host cities include Rochester, Minn.; Ames, Iowa; West Palm Beach, Fla.; and upstate New York. In 2016, after many attempts, the NBBA took a chance on Eau Claire, and recently the tournament took place in our city.
Since the Visit Eau Claire team is always up for doing whatever is necessary to ensure an event’s success, we, along with over 120 volunteers spent our days at the tournament serving as base umpires, field judges and base switch operators for more than a total of 90 games.
At one point, I had served as a base judge for only 10 of 90 games that had taken place so far during the tournament. Even so, it is hard for me to hold back tears when I saw the incredibly talented athletes in these games, dealing with significant visual limitations, yet maintaining positive attitudes and offering endless support to their teammates and opponents.
You see, beep baseball is actually baseball for individuals who are blind and visually impaired. And this is their world series, where the team chants are exciting, the athleticism is mind-boggling and the inter-team camaraderie sets an example of a community desired by all. The beep baseball athletes are strong, intelligent, funny, confident and grateful. They are inspiring.
Thank you, National Beep Baseball Association, for bringing the gift of the NBBA athletes to Eau Claire, Wisconsin. We are so privileged to host you, and we look forward to your return visit.
John is executive director of Visit Eau Claire.