Getting Burned by Minor League Baseball

Ted Batchelor, The Human Fireball (photo via Batchelor)

Getting Burned by Minor League Baseball

As a kid, did you ever think you wanted to grow up to be a firefighter? What about a doctor or astronaut or professional baseball player? What about setting yourself on fire? Well that’s what Ted Batchelor knew he wanted to do from early on after some prompting and daring from his high school buddies.

Saturday night, the Sugar Land Skeeters, an Independent Atlantic League Team with growing notoriety thanks to the recent signing of Roger Clemens, hosted Ted Batchelor, otherwise known as the “human fireball” at Constellation Field to add to the growing list of infamous minor league gimmicks.

Immediately following their shut-out win over the Long Island Ducks in front of 7,463 fans, Ted took his talents on the field, where fans watched him get doused in fuel and run the bases, where they watched in awe, some in horror. Having never been “on fire in Texas,” Batchelor was excited for this first. He has recently set out on a goal to be on fire in all 50 states. “This experience will be how I remember Sugar Land and the Skeeters,” Batchelor said. “I’ve only completed about 15 states, so hopefully more Minor League Ball Clubs start calling.”

How does one get started lighting himself on fire as a career?

The Chagrin Falls’ native says it’s quite simple. “One day in highschool I had a pretty typical dream, diving off waterfalls – something I’ve done since I was 10. This time I have the same dream except I’m on fire. Then I woke up and went to my creative writing class in school and wrote a poem about it. In the dream people bet me to do all kinds of stuff, like set myself on fire. People are always betting me to do random things like getting hit by cars, rolling down stairs, anything really. I was at a party and someone read my poem and bet me $400 to light myself on fire and jump into the falls. The next week was prom and I really needed the money to take this girl, so I did it. That was 36 years ago (May 20, 1976), and the rest is history,” Batchelor says.

Although he got the girl, these daredevil-like stunts landed him in jail a time or two. Perhaps part of the reason Batchelor doesn’t just market himself as a “human fireball” but rather a “Professional Stunt Man and Performer.” And teams are taking notice, like Tom Gorman, Executive Producer for the Sugar Land Skeeters. “ I found the Human Fireball off Ben’s Biz Blog on milb.com. I saw he was trying to run the bases while on fire in all 50 states. This being our first year in Sugar Land, I wanted to show the fans what makes minor league baseball different from other sports, and acts like Teds’ is what separates us from the rest. We like acts that are fun, unique, and entertaining. We’re always looking for new ways to entertain and engage fans…and an act like Ted’s is one of those ways,” Gorman says.

Having been on fire nearly 200 times and setting two Guinness World Records (longest distance run while on fire – 492ft, and the record for most people on fire which broke the Spanish record of 12 by doing 17), Batchelor has somehow perfected the art of lighting himself on fire and it goes a little something like this:

Based on his idea from when he was 18, one of his crew members (or fans) has a ball on the mound. Batchelor, standing at home, catches the ball and bursts into flames and runs the bases. “It’s a simple stunt, yet it’s dangerous,” he admits. His team shows up at the ballpark, gets dressed, and walks out onto the field along side their equipment (extinguisher, fire blankets). “Once I catch it, it’s go-time,” Batchelor laughs.

As he touches each base, each one lights on fire, then fuel from a fuel gun gets added to him (this is the part his wife used to participate in until it felt “weird” for both of them). As he rounds third, he does a headfirst slide into homeplate where his crew puts him out. The whole stunt takes about 50 seconds.

Part of his “crew” includes his wife, which he deems an “integral part of this whole thing.” “She actually dresses me and puts all the fuel on me (it’s a lot of fuel) and puts me out,” Batchelor says.

Batchelor used to hold another world record for the longest burn ever, but that was recently broken. “They are wearing helmets and fireproof suits and all that stuff,” Batchelor quickly dismisses. “My suits are really simple and meant to burn. When you’re on fire, that’s just it – YOU’RE ON FIRE,” he explains.

“We do these stunts a lot, but we’re nervous every single time – believe me. With that much fuel, you have to be. After a successful show we may have a couple beers, usually Jack Daniels makes an appearance,” he says of his own post-game routine.

On a lighter note, Batchelor insists no matter what life his stunts take on, he’s “totally normal.” “I just have this thing that I do and a lot of people don’t understand it, until they see it and they realize it’s a professional stunt, not some crazy person doing this wildly. There’s a big difference between the two. I still respect fire as all people should,” he says.

He has a wife, children, a day job as a project manager for a painting company in Cleveland, and yes, even health insurance – normal indeed.