Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame Profile: Passion, Loving Heart Defines Buster Beal
By Maria Sonnenberg // June 12, 2019
FLASHBACK: 2013 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME inductee
ABOVE VIDEO: Kevin “Buster” Beal is beloved by everyone at Merritt Island High School, where he is the go-to guy for whatever a sports team needs.
“Because he is loved by a town, he found his place in the world.”
SPECIAL VOLUNTEER RECOGNITION: Kevin “Buster” Beal Goes That Extra Mile For Both Friends and Strangers
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – At a ceremony at the King Center in 2013, when Channel 13 television anchor Marla Weech named Kevin Beal the volunteer of the year for Brevard schools, a tsunami of applause and congratulatory yells for “Buster, Buster, Buster” erupted.
Kevin “Buster” Beal is beloved by everyone at Merritt Island High School, where he is the go-to guy for whatever a sports team needs.
On a light week, he puts in 25 hours working for his beloved Mustangs. On busy ones, he clocks in 45, all as a volunteer. He is the school’s biggest fan and motivator. He is their heart.
The 34-year-old Merritt Island resident is mentally delayed, but the disability is totally irrelevant to Buster’s appreciation for life’s little pleasures and his desire and ability to go not just an extra mile, but rather five, for both friends and strangers.
“The charm of Buster is that he treats everyone he meets with joy and love,” said proud mom, Sheila Beal.
When Buster was a sophomore, Chuck Goldfarb, one of his teachers at Merritt Island High, suggested he get involved in team sports. Buster didn’t just run with the idea, he careened with it. Although he graduated a decade ago, he continues his constant devotion to his favorite school.
“Buster bleeds black and gold and is the true spirit of being a Mustang,” said big sister Jessica, who Buster calls his “most favorite sister in the whole world.”
“Kids, parents, coaches and refs come and go through the years, but Buster is a constant. He’s always there to lend his hard work, time and support for Merritt Island sports. Years and years of Merritt Island High students, athletes, coaches and faculty have had an opportunity to know Buster. Everyone has a story to tell and some of them are priceless.”
They show the innocence, passion and loving heart within him.”
He bikes to school each day from his home five miles away, arriving at 1:30, so he could get things ready before the teams head out onto the field after the school day ends. Football, soccer, volleyball and baseball keep him busy as sports seasons ebb and flow throughout the year.
“Being able to work with the teams keeps me a part of all the action,” said Buster, who can’t comprehend his almost-celebrity status in Merritt Island.
Meet him, and you cannot help but like him.“There’s no place in the Space Coast that we go that you don’t hear a “Hey, Buster” from at least one person,” added Jessica. “He has touched many people’s lives.”
Corporations pay big bucks to team builders to rally the troops. Buster does it for free. Seeing him leading the team onto the field as he proudly waves the large Merritt Island flag is purity in motion. This is love without reservations.
“One of my main duties for all the teams is to get them and the crowd pumped up,” he said.
Whenever the team scores, Buster is back out on the field with the flag, letting the world know that Merritt Island High is invincible.
“Every Friday night during football season, running the flag and hearing everyone cheering gives me a thrill,” said Buster.
As the football team’s manager, Buster sets up the field, hands out the uniforms, gets the water jugs ready and helps the trainer ice down and wrap injuries. During games, his duties include running the ball in and out of the game to the referees.
At practice, he works with the kickers, and throws passes so receivers can practice. For away games, he is responsible that all the equipment is safely stored in the bus before and after the games.
‘I DO WHATEVER THE COACH NEEDS DONE’
He is the first to admit he is not perfect. “One time I did forget to put the footballs on the bus for a JV game,” said Buster. “Coach was a little mad at me that day.”
After the games and on Mondays, it’s time to do the laundry and clean all the water bottles. “I do a little bit of everything,” he explained.
Lucky players and coaches are the recipients of Buster’s gastronomic treats of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with oatmeal cream pies in the middle, washed down with Gatorade.
Buster’s responsibilities with the soccer team are similar to his work with the football players. He helps them warm up by kicking them balls. During game time, he cheerfully retrieves the balls. There is no job he will not tackle for “his” teams.
“I help the coach get the field set up and do whatever he needs me to before and during the fame,” he said.
Come volleyball season, you’ll find Buster running the flag during the games to get the fans in the right crescendo of support.
Then there’s baseball.
“Like football, there is lots of work to be done,” said team manager Buster, who in addition to getting the field ready and helping players warm up, also retrieves the foul balls and occasionally even films the game for the coach.
“Basically, I do whatever the coach needs done,” says Buster. “A couple of games back, I even got to coach first base.”
SURE MAKES A PARENT PROUD
If you’re given to superstition, then you will think that Buster’s most important – and certainly his most unique – duty with the baseball team may be the pre-game ritual known as the “Dead Fish Dance,” eccentric performance art that supposedly helps good fortune to beam upon the team.
“He gets on the ground and flaps around,” said Sheila. “It’s strange, but the guys all think it will bring them good luck.”
Considered a coach by all the teams, he may not have expertise in strategies or stats, but Buster overflows with inspiration, passion and enthusiasm. What coach could ask for more?“Sure makes a parent proud,” said his father, Alan “Boston” Beal.
Buster is an amazing individual, but, so, too, are the family and friends who helped him blossom.
“Because people looked past his disability or imperfections, he found a way to make his own unique contribution to the world,” said Jessica Beal.
“Because he is loved by a town, he found his place in the world.”
SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME HONORS BREVARD’S RICH SPORTS HISTORY: The Space Coast Daily– Friday Night Locker Room Team is Brevard’s #1 Sports Source
For more than a century, athletes from Brevard County have been considered among the finest in America and their accomplishments are honored and immortalized by the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame.
Space Coast Daily created the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame in 2011 and inducted its first class in 2012 and has so far inducted more than 150 of Brevard’s most outstanding athletes, coaches and sports personalities.
MEMBERS INDUCTED IN FOUR CATEGORIES
Nominees are chosen in four categories including professional sports, college sports, high school sports and amateur-rec sports. Special honorary recognition is also be bestowed upon individuals and groups that have made significant contributions to sports on the Space Coast.
A special committee will select the Class of 2020, and the inductees will be enshrined in the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame on Friday, May 8, 2019.
Serving on the 2020 committee are Space Coast Daily President and Publisher Tom Palermo, Vice President Giles Malone, Editor-in-Chief Dr. Jim Palermo, Managing Editor Zach Clark, Senior Editor Chris Bonanno, Assistant Editor Jordan Rocco, Friday Night Locker Room co-founders Steve Wilson and Orville Susong, former Health First COO Larry Garrison and Amateur Athletic Union Vice President Rusty Buchanan.
“The list of potential and deserving candidates for 2019 induction include athletes and coaches everybody knows – and some that may have been forgotten with the passing of time,” said Tom Palermo.
VENUE TO PAY TRIBUTE
Susong has been watching and covering sports on the Space Coast for more than 25 years and has interviewed many of the area’s outstanding athletes on the Friday Night Locker Room.
“It’s amazing how many outstanding athletes have come from Brevard County,” said Susong.
Susong and Wilson were inducted into the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame in 2015 and have been broadcasting youth and high school sports for more than 20 years.
“We receive nominations for athletes that competed 30, 40, or even 50 years ago – it’s satisfying to be able to recognize these individuals who have been forgotten but made an indelible mark on sports on the Space Coast,” said Malone.
Avid sports fan, Dr. Jim Palermo, said, “I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to live and work in Brevard County for more than 36 years, during which time I’ve had the pleasure of watching and following so many superlative athletes ascend through local junior and school sports programs to the college level, and some into the pros.”
2020 HALL OF FAME INDUCTION
The 2020 Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame Induction Banquet and Sports Awards is set May 8 and will be held at the Cocoa Beach County Club,
“The festivities include a meet and greet with the area’s sports royalty, dinner and the induction proceeding which includes compelling video tributes of each of the inductees,” said Malone.
FOR INFORMATION about the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame, and to submit a nomination, call 321-615-8111 or e-mail Contact@SpaceCoastDaily.com
CLICK HERE TO SEE ALL THE INDUCTEES