For sports enthusiasts across the U.S., the start of spring means one thing: it’s baseball season! While millions of people prefer to enjoy sports by cheering on their favorite team from the sidelines, countless others prefer to get in on the action by joining a baseball or softball team. Many of our employees – both sighted and blind – are huge sports fans. While you’ll find plenty of Brewers fans here at IB Milwaukee, you’ll also find fans of a sport many sighted people have never heard of: Beep Baseball. Beep Baseball is a modified, yet highly-competitive version of traditional baseball that was created in 1976 as a way for blind and visually impaired athletes to continue playing the game of baseball. While some may incorrectly assume that Beep Baseball is an “easier” form of traditional baseball, it can actually be quite a challenging game! In the words of the National Beep Baseball Association, “Beep Baseball is not a game for those who are concerned about a scraped elbow.” So, how does Beep Baseball differ from traditional baseball? According to the official rules, there are several major differences:
- The ball is a modified, oversized softball that beeps
- Games are six innings long with three outs per inning
- Outs are earned by fielding a ball before the runner reaches the base
- There is no second base
- First and third bases are four-foot padded cylinders with speakers that give off a buzzing sound when activated
One question many sighted people have when first viewing a game of Beep Baseball is, “If everyone is blind, why are all of the players wearing blindfolds?” Well, there’s a good explanation for that! As we know, there are different types and varying degrees of visual impairment. Even though most players are legally blind; all batters, baseman and outfielders wear blindfolds so those with partial sight don’t have an advantage over anyone else. As for the players that aren’t wearing blindfolds? They’re sighted! While nearly all Beep Baseball players are legally blind, the pitcher, defense and “spotters” are always sighted. The spotters’ job is to help the players get in position. As for the pitcher? Well, his or her goal is the exact opposite of what you’d find in traditional baseball! “The difference between pitching for Beep Baseball as compared to regular baseball or softball is in regular baseball, you’re pitching to strike the batter out,” Long Island Bombers pitcher James Sciortino explains. “In Beep Baseball, you’re pitching to help them hit the ball.” And how does the batter know when to hit the ball? “You have to time the ball,” says right fielder Matthew Puvogel. “The pitcher will say ‘Ready, set, pitch,’ and usually I start my swing when he says pitch,” he explains, adding, “It’s more of a rhythm.”
There are currently 32 Beep Baseball teams located throughout the United States that are registered for the 2016 season of Beep Baseball. Interested in checking out the teams in person? The NBBA 2016 Beep Baseball World Series is being hosted in Ames, Iowa from July 24th – 31st, 2016.