Veto League Baseball has hosted over 800 players since the first game of "Veto Ball" was played in 1998. Over those 800 players, the number of friendships formed is immeasurable. There have been in-laws, father-sons, mother-daughters, father-daughters, father and three sons, and even a three-generational game.
However, of those 800 players, a handful are unfortunately no longer with us today. The most recent was Colby Moore, who had heart issues and passed away at a young 36-years old earlier this year. My rookie year was back in 2002 - the same as Colby Moore. Moore outvoted me for "Rookie of the Year" honors that season. He continued playing in Veto League a few more years, being so active that he earned a captainship of the Latino Heat.
Kaylan Eickstaedt was a carbon copy of what a VLB player is. He wasn't a spectacular athlete, had an average glove and decent speed, but not much pop from the bat. But that's what most Veto League players are. We're average. Eickstaedt's talent was just that, but his heart is what won him over with teammates. He always showed up with a smile and loved the camaraderie of the players. He loved to joke around and didn't mind when teammates poked fun at his awkwardly pronounced last name. Eicksteadt had his own personal demons, but he never shared his mental health issues with other players, and honestly, none of us had any idea the real issues he was facing. Kaylan passed away at just 25-years old. One of our annual awards is named in his honor: the "Eickstaedt Sportsmanship Award".
Josh Smith was a long-time, die hard Veto Leaguer. He was a fixture at the games and still ranks in the Top 10 most played career Veto League games, despite leaving us in 2017. The funny stories about Smith are too much for a news post, but I'll forever remember him for grape All-Sports, being tased in the back of a random strangers car, and breaking his foot climbing after a foul ball. Smith passed away of an enlarged heart - which makes sense with how much love he was always passing on to others.
But the passing that stung the hardest is when #31 left us. August 7th, 2017. The worst day of my life. I remember it like it was yesterday. Getting a call that one of my best friends - and co-manager of the league - Jeff Kilgard, had passed away. I had just hung out with Kilgard the weekend before, playing baseball at Saukie then having drinks at his house. After hearing the news, I had the undesirable task of calling a dozen of our friends, telling them that our buddy had passed away. His love for Veto League was immeasurable. He played baseball the day after getting married. If he wasn't at a Nintendo game convention, he was on the Veto diamond. He's responsible for all the archived stats, schedule, box scores, etc.
There certainly are others, too. The likes of Flynn Schultz, Nathan Linn, John Gunter, and Dan Sharpe, just to name a few.
On August 7th, the third anniversary of Jeff Kilgard's passing, we'll play a tribute game. Not a game for us. But a game for them. A game to remember those who are no longer with us today. The event will take place at Northwest Park in Davenport, with first pitch slated for 6pm. Captains will be Ryan Barton's Gremlins versus my Goonies.
The game will benefit Foster's Voice (www.FostersVoice.org), a Quad-City based non-profit group helping with suicide awareness. Each player will make a $10 donation which will go toward Foster's Voice.
We hope for a fun, energy filled atmosphere, hopefully with some friends and family in attendance. Any current or former player is invited to participate in the game. Veto League hopes to get a handful of "retired" players out to dust off the glove, clean the dirt off the cleats and join us on the baseball diamond at Northwest.
I hope you can join us.
More info available on the FACEBOOK EVENT.