By Miriam Latto (she/her)
If you’ve never heard of Beep Baseball before, it’s one of America’s best loved sports that’s been adapted for those who are blind or visually impaired, enabling them to have the same fun playing baseball as their sighted counterparts.
— National Beep Baseball Association (@NBBA) August 12, 2022
It was Colorado telephone company engineer Charles Fairbanks who designed the first beep baseball back in 1964 but it took about 10 years and a better ball for the concept to catch on. And by 1976 the National Beep Baseball Association was founded, creating the rules still used today.
All the equipment produces audio cues for the players. Here are the rules and equipment, according to the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired:
- There are only two bases: first and third. The bases, which emita buzzing sound, are about four feet tall and are made of foam. Players run toward the buzzing base after the ball is hit.
- The catcher and pitcher are on the batter’s team; they both have some functional vision.
- There are six fielders in a team, and all of them are blind or visually impaired.
- Batters, basemen and outfielders wear sleep shades or blindfolds so as to not give any advantage to players with some remaining vision.
- The defensive team is allowed two spotters, or sighted volunteers, who call out the zone numbers and assist the team.
- Each game has six innings and games typically last 90 minutes.
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The enthusiasm of Joe Quintanilla, a Boston Renegades team member since 2001, is typical of other players:
“I love to compete, and that is why I play beep baseball,” says Joe. “You get to move full speed without worrying about what is around you. It offers competition and an opportunity to improve on various skills. You also make great friendships. In its own way, playing makes us ambassadors for the blind community.”
Photo Credit: National Beep Baseball Association