Oh, I see! moments
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Beep Baseball: A Totally Different Ball Game

by Janine Boylan on September 23, 2013

Aqil Sajjad of the Boston Renegades, showing how beep baseball builds self-esteem (Photo © Bill Le)

Aqil Sajjad of the Boston Renegades
Photo © Bill Le

Building Self-Esteem On and Off the Field

The metal bat pings as it squarely contacts the baseball. Within a split second, the batter is sprinting, arms pumping. He intently charges over and past the base while the fielders scramble for the ball and nearly collide in their haste.

In less than six seconds, the play is over.

Oh, did I mention that the batter and fielders can’t see?

Beep baseball is an intense sport. This game was designed specifically for the visually impaired, but the game modifications are not concessions—they demand sharply-honed skills. The devoted players build self-esteem and muscle as they prepare for their season games and, ultimately, the annual world series tournament.

How the Game Is Played

Beep baseball, as the name implies, is played with a softball-sized ball outfitted with a beeping device that allows batters and fielders to hear it.

Each team has its own sighted pitcher. The pitcher yells, “Ready, Set, Pitch,” and releases the ball to the batter who uses a combination of practiced timing and attention to sound in order to know when to swing.

When bat and ball make contact, the umpire, also a sighted person, flips a switch in his or her hand, and a base starts to buzz.

There are only two bases in beep baseball, and they are set in the traditional first- and third-base positions. Either base might buzz, so the batter has to quickly follow the sound.

Beep baseball bases are not flat, like in traditional baseball, but are blue, four-foot-tall foam columns that the runner is trying to knock over. Once hit, the base stops buzzing.

Guy Zuccarello of the Boston Renegades, showing how beep baseball builds self-esteem. (Photo © Bill Le)

Guy Zuccarello of the Boston Renegades tackles a base.
Photo © Bill Le

In the meantime, the six outfielders are going after the beeping ball. As soon as the outfielder’s sighted coach sees the ball in flight, he or she yells out a number that corresponds to where the ball is going in the field.

If the runner reaches the buzzing base before the fielders pick up the beeping ball, the runner has scored a point. If the fielders are quicker, they have an out. Either way, the runner returns to his or her dugout so the next batter can go up.

And the crowd, who has remained silent until now, can cheer wildly.

The Players and Teams

Beep baseball players, who range in age from 13 to 65 years old, have varying degrees of sight, so they are all required to wear blindfolds during the game to level the playing field.

Wearing blindfolds and charging, full speed, down the baseline, skidding through the buzzing base is “simply an accepted understanding,” National Beep Baseball Association Secretary Stephen Guerra explains. “What seems to be a monumental task is just second nature for those who play the sport.”

And once players start playing the sport, they tend to play for many years because of how it changes their lives.

Beep baseball is the only true competitive amateur sport in which visually-impaired people can participate on the team level. And in beep baseball, it’s all about the team. They thrive in a community of motivated, like-minded people.

Sengil Inkiala, building self-esteem through beep baseball (Photo © Bill Le)

Sengil Inkiala
Photo © Bill Le

Currently, there are twenty-seven teams in the National Beep Baseball Association, including one in Taiwan. Some teams practice together two times a week, while others may practice together only a few times a year.

Often the challenge is getting to the field. Some teams are made up of players who live hours apart from one another. Others live in an area where public transportation isn’t enhanced for the visually impaired. A few teams have coaches who will pick up all the players—which extends the time they devote to the sport by several hours. But they all manage to get there and play.

The Inspiration

Guerra, who is a devoted member of the Minnesota Millers team, shares, “Ninety-nine percent of the time, players are glad they found the sport. They are able to socialize with others who have the same issues they have. It enhances self-esteem and confidence to levels they never thought they could achieve in daily activities.”

Guerra explains an “Oh, I see” moment that players gain from the sport: “There are no obstacles. If you let the situation of your loss of sight get to you, you are not going to have the confidence to become adventurous, to become a productive part of society.”

People who watch a beep baseball game for the first time walk away amazed. This video will give you a taste of that.

If the video does not display, watch it here.

Thank you to Rob Weissman for the photos. Visit his team, the Boston Renegades, on Facebook or the team site.

Comment on this post below, or inspire insight with your own OIC Moment here.

 
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