Vietnam vet carries on love of baseball in Silver BayDave Beasly had all the makings of a baseball star. Growing up in Duluth, he excelled on the West Junior High School and Denfeld High School baseball teams. He was destined for baseball success, but fate would have different plans for Beasly, and, in 1968, he found himself in the midst of the Vietnam War.
By: Brittany Berrens, Lake County News Chronicle
Dave Beasly had all the makings of a baseball star. Growing up in Duluth, he excelled on the West Junior High School and Denfeld High School baseball teams. He was destined for baseball success, but fate would have different plans for Beasly, and, in 1968, he found himself in the midst of the Vietnam War.
Beasly served in the Navy Assault Unit, otherwise known as the amphibious unit. He suffered a spinal injury during the war and when he returned, he wasn’t able to play baseball the same way. “I just couldn’t get it back,” he said.
The veteran is now staying at the Minnesota Veterans Home in Silver Bay. He’s been there for more than a year as he recovers from surgery. He’s now in a wheelchair, but that’s not keeping him from playing the sport he’s always loved.
This summer, Beasly has been helping Ward Wallin, the volunteer service coordinator at the home, with coaching the Silver Bay Little League teams. Beasly plays catch with the kids and offers tips that he learned throughout his baseball career. He said coaching has been a good way for him to get out into the community. “I really enjoy it,” he said. “It’s the way you get out of here to be normal.”
Getting residents of the veterans home and into the community is exactly what Wallin works at in his job. “When people come to the vets home we want it to be their new home,” he said. “We’re striving to be a part of the community.”
Wallin knew he should get Beasly out onto the baseball field after seeing him interact with kids who were visiting with veterans in the home. Beasly was always up for a game of catch, even indoors.
“Last spring during renovations they were in one of the empty rooms whipping a ball around,” Wallin said with a laugh. “I had to say ‘knock it off, Dave’ because he was encouraging it.”
Every Tuesday and Thursday since the Little League season started in June, Wallin and Beasly drove to the baseball fields in a modified golf cart that can fit Beasly’s wheelchair. Wallin recalls the season had a rough start in the opener.
“One of our team rules is that if any of the kids forget their hat, they have to wear a pink hat,” Wallin said. “Well, first game of the year, Dave forgot his hat.”
Beasly coached the entire game with the pink hat on.
Aside from the fun the kids and Beasly have had playing baseball, Wallin says the players are learning more than just sports knowledge. “The kids are learning about barriers,” Wallin said. “Sometimes the kids want to push Dave in his wheelchair, but he doesn’t want them to because he’s working to regain his strength.”
Wallin says the kids are learning that though there may be some differences between them and Beasly, in the end they are all the same. “It’s important for kids just understanding a disability,” he said. “Here you’ve got a guy in a wheelchair and he’s playing catch all the time, and they learn he’s just a regular human being like the rest of us.”
Beasly is happy to impart his wisdom. “There are three words to get better at anything in life: practice, practice, practice,” he said.
Another lesson he likes to teach is something Beasly has to keep in his mind every day as builds back his strength. “Keep trying whatever you do and never give up.”