BSUK helps launch Beep Baseball in the UK
Fri 25 Oct 2013
On Sunday 29 September, Farnham Park played host to the first Beep Baseball (blind baseball) taster event in the UK. Participants with visual impairments ranging from sighted to partially sighted to fully blind attended from as far and wide as Oxfordshire, Norfolk, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.
How it works
Beep Baseball (also known as Beep Ball) is played on a grass field with six fielders. The only other players on the field are the pitcher, catcher and spotters, plus the batter from the other team.
Fielders and batter are blindfolded, while the catcher, pitcher, and spotters do not wear blindfolds and are usually sighted. The bases are coloured blue and are nearly five feet tall, with a foamy interior and built-in electronics that cause them to buzz or beep continuously after a switch is turned on. Likewise, electronics inside the ball produce a beeping noise.
The bases are placed 100 feet from home plate and are in equivalent positions to the bases in regular baseball.
The sport is now well-established and popular in the United States, and there is a National Beep Baseball Association (NBBA), formed in 1976, that exists to support visually-impaired adults to play baseball. Each year the NBBA coordinates local, state, and regional tournaments, among them the Indy Invitational in Indianapolis, Indiana, and the Bolingbrook Beep Ball Bash outside Chicago.
The sport also has a strong following in France, Italy and Germany.
UK taster event
BSUK Development Manager for the South East, Patrick Knock, worked closely with the Berkshire County Blind Society (BCBS) to organise the taster event, aimed at bringing together visually impaired participants from the Society as well as sighted players from the baseball and softball community to have a go and learn about a fun and competitive new sport that has the potential to grow in the UK.
The event was started with an hour of taster exercises, centred on hitting with a blindfold, fielding a beeping ball and baserunning to beeping bases. The exercises rely on spatial awareness and strong use of non-visual senses as well as verbal support from sighted spotters.
Fielding, in particular, highlighted the skill of tracking using hearing and support from the spotters.
The event then culminated in a game between the participants.
One player said: “"Having played blind cricket regularly, I was initially a bit sceptical about Beep Baseball. However, the taster session convinced me that it is an excellent game for blind people. The ball used in the game is clearly audible and getting a batter out by getting to the ball as quickly as you can gives one a great sense of achievement. It also requires good coordination amongst all players in the team. Thanks to BCBS and BSUK for organising this session and I will be very keen on any future sessions if they are being planned."
The day was led by BSUK staff members Liz Knight and Patrick Knock and BCBS Development Officers Linda Maestrenzi and Jeanette Stacey, with great support from Bracknell Baseball and Softball Club in the form of Mark Salter, Sue Bedford, Fraser Duggan and recently-qualified Level 2 baseball coach Robbie Ferridge.
Linda Maestrenzi said: “The Berkshire County Blind Society has a growing number of members of all ages that are keen to participate in a wide range of sports, which is important not only to keep active and improve fitness, but also to meet new challenges and people. Beep Ball allows people of all abilities to participate together in an exciting sport and this was certainly the case at the taster session at Farnham Park.”
All the participants enjoyed the day, and there are plans to build on the initial taster event to run more frequent sessions, widening the opportunity so that more people can take part.
The long-term goal shared by BSUK and the BCBS is to establish a Beep Ball team as part of the Farnham Park Baseball and Softball Development Club based at the new facility.
Patrick Knock said: “Beep ball is a a fun and inclusive version of baseball which is open to all people no matter if you have a visual impairment or not. I am really pleased that we are working with the BCBS to grow Beep Ball in the UK, which is one strand of BSUK's aim for baseball and softball to become fully-inclusive sports for disabled participants. We are working with the disabled sport development body Interactive to increase our development activity for disabled participants. The Beep Ball taster event is, I hope, just the first step in this exciting area.”
For more information about Beep Ball, please visit the following websites:
Check out Beep Ball in this video: