Michael Moody, Ballbusters Softball Team Manager
By Andy Armano
This series focuses on individuals who give to our community and make a positive impact on the lives of others. Often it is through our personal adversities that we discover who we are and transform the challenges into strength.
Michael Moody helped found the Broward Ballbusters, a softball team for men and women in recovery that helps give them an outlet for fun, friendship, and support. He has been the team manager for eight years.
Andy Armano: Tell us a little bit about how the Broward Ballbusters started.
Michael Moody: Sports and beer go together. For a while, most softball teams were sponsored by bars. But people would say, “You know, I’ve decided to turn my life around and stop using drugs and alcohol because I have to. But now, how do I have fun and do the things I love? It’s probably not the greatest environment for me to be in if the team is sponsored by a bar and their social part of it is to go to the bar after the game.” So we wanted to create an environment where we could go take part in that. It was a great outlet for people to have fun and play sports and be part of something.
We were . . . The Bad News Bears comes to mind. We had a lot of people who hadn’t played before or had played in high school or grade school, but wanted to give it a shot. We didn’t win a lot of games in the beginning. Of course we looked fabulous. We had wonderful uniforms because we are a gay team, and we wanted to look terrific. But the players were sober and the league wasn’t really sure what to do with us for the first couple of seasons. We had a few key players that had experience and they really helped the new players get better and better.
AA: How was the team received by the community?
MM: At most softball games there aren’t too many people in the stands. Most softball games it’s like, yeah, somebody’s boyfriend, their partner, their mom and dad will come watch them play every once in a while. But the Ballbusters would have packed stands and people standing around, but we had an immediate fan base! We weren’t really that good, but sort of created a community around it.
People in the league saw the excitement and our support, and that was attractive to them. Then they got to know us and were like, “These guys are awesome!” Eventually it got to be like, “Well, can I play with you guys?”
I felt this would really be a success when players can go play on the next level up and be welcomed onto those teams and sought after by those teams. Even though they’re from that weird team, which, because we kept showing up they’re like, “They’re not that weird and they are having a ball.”
AA: When did you realize that what you were doing was really making a difference for people?
MM: Early on every once in a while I would get a phone call from someone who knew me in the league saying, “I have a brother who’s really in trouble and I don’t know what to do. How do I help him get help? What do I do?”
And then an amazing thing happened. Players from other teams that were struggling with addiction would call me and go, “I need help and I want to play on your team.” That really made me pause and ask the question, “So why wouldn’t we continue to do this?”
There are people that say to me, “The Ballbusters saved my life. I don’t think that I would have been able to get my life back on track and get out of the darkness of addiction if I wasn’t shown how much fun and joy I could experience without drugs and alcohol.” Because that is a challenge that most people face, especially when they’re starting out in recovery. They are like, “My life is over, I’m not going to have any fun again.”
AA: Do you find that your fans get attached to the team the same way the players do?
MM: There’s a guy who’s been going to Ballbuster games since they first started. He’s been in recovery for a long time. He’s not an athlete, just a supporter. He comes to games all the time, but he travels a lot for work. This is a guy who, on Facebook, when they announce the games, if he knows he can’t be at the games he still posts the message, “Go Ballbusters! I know you’re going to have a great time today.” From like Amsterdam, he’s posting this.
You see that on a national level and die-hard fans for sports teams. I had no idea that any kind of thing like that would happen around a silly softball team. But it does. There are people that don’t miss games. That’s just baffling to us, and it’s also beautiful. Turns out it isn’t silly after all.
AA: How do you feel about the future prospects for the team?
MM: We’re now in our 13th year, which means that’s 26 seasons that we’ve played ball and we haven’t missed any season. And here’s to 26 more. I am not going to lie and say I’m not tired. It’s a year-round commitment and I am ready to step back a bit. I still want to be able to go set up my chair on Sundays and watch the team play, though. I still want to be able to go set up my chair and watch those Ballbusters play. I’m excited because more people are getting involved and working hard to ensure that it continues. I’m blessed by that and I’m excited by it.