Beep baseball is the adaptive version of baseball for the blind.
Last month, Ames, Iowa (home of Iowa State University) hosted the 2012 NBBA Beep Baseball World Series for beep ball: baseball adapted for the visually impaired. Shortly before the blind baseball teams arrived in town, I heard the Lion’s Club and Ames Chamber of Commerce sought volunteers, so I signed up.
I knew nothing about beep ball, but have always had a heart for adaptive games since I formerly worked as a COTA in Occupational Therapy (OTs teach the disabled how to use adaptive techniques and equipment in daily life.) I was assigned to “host” the Colorado Storm team to help them feel welcome in our city.
I first met my team after the inspiring opening ceremonies with flag bearing, singing of the national anthem, and an opening prayer. The Colorado Storm players are athletic men from college age through middle age, with varying degrees of blindness. Some had been blind since birth–others when older suffered from degenerative eye diseases or injuries.
The men work in various professions when not playing ball. Three are massage therapists (one formerly traveled with the Broadway show, Cats.); one is a lawyer, another a college student getting his degree in communication desiring to be a radio broadcaster. All share a love for baseball and the extra challenge presented by playing blind. They also share a great sense of humor and mutual encouragement. They were a fascinating, funny and inspiring bunch to be around. The Colorado Storm team will forever be in my heart!
Here’s a quick rundown on how beep ball differs from regular baseball. You can also read Beep Baseball in a Nutshell.
- Since all players have differing degrees of blindness, when batting or running they wear sleep masks.
- The pitcher can be sighted or partially blind, and is on the same team with the players. He learns to adapt his pitch to each player.
- The beep ball, an adapted softball, makes a beeping noise as it flies through the air. (The balls are expensive–you can donate beep balls, if you like!)
- When the ball is hit, players in the outfield listen for the buzzing ball and dive for it. If they grab it, they hold it up in the air.
- The bases–only at first and third base–emit buzzing sounds when activated. The activation of one or the other is random, adding some element of surprise to the runner. They only need to make it to the one base to score.
- Umpires (volunteers) call out when when the ball has been caught. They also keep an eye on the bases.
Do you wonder how I was finding God in all this? That was unexpected. Not only did I hear prayers during the opening ceremony, but before each game the men gathered and their coach Jon prayed over them for safety. (It can be a pretty rough sport!) Coach Jon Walker has been a dedicated beep ball volunteer for 24 years, with his wife and son, which is also inspiring.
One evening, we had the team over for dinner. That wasn’t in my host description, but the guys were simply too much fun to not have over. (And we joked that they were perfect houseguests since I’m a far-from-perfect housekeeper, so they couldn’t see the dust!) We all had a blast together. They men had a Bop It tournament on our deck, our dog played fetch with them, and one player made a pine-cone gun with the elastic on his walking cane. Hilarious! We even had background music as Jon strummed away on a guitar.
The different personalities in the group showed me how God had made each man unique and for a purpose. The way the team volunteers, including some dedicated college students and families, cared for their teammates humbled me.
Here’s a video from YouTube showing how beep ball is played:
2012 World Series Final Results for Beep Ball (Blind Baseball)
1. Taiwan Homerun 2. Austin Blackhawks 3. Bayou City Heat, (Houston) 4. Chicago Comets 5. Colorado Storm 6. RHI X-Treme 7. Indy Thunder 8. Southwest Slammers 9. Boston Renegades 10. Minnesota Millers 11. Lone Star Roadrunners 12. Long Island Bombers 13. Cleveland Scrappers 14. New Jersey Lightning 15. Wichita Sonics 16. Tyler Tigers 17. Iowa Reapers.
The National Beep Ball Association is online at: www.nbba.org
© Laurie Winslow Sargent. Laurie edits Finding God Daily, and is an author/contributor and magazine article writer. She blogs for parents at ParentingByFaith.com and for writers at SellYourNonfiction.com. Join her on Twitter as @LaurieSargent.