Low vision baseball coming to county

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 22, 2014

Members of Covington County’s visually impaired community will soon receive a unique opportunity to get involved in sports, thanks to a local civic group and a new twist on American’s favorite pastime.

At the regular meeting of the Andalusia Lions Club Wednesday, Lion John Vick presented the club’s newest contribution to its continuing goal of enhancing the lives of visually impaired persons – the game of Beep Baseball.

“Beep Baseball is so big, there are professional leagues,” Vick said, as he explained the sport. “They’ve even have a Beep Baseball World Series since 2008. But, we’re not proposing a league.”

What Vick is proposing, or rather donating, is a way for the blind and low vision community to play a game going on nightly this time of year on baseball fields across the county.

Vick said he knew Lions Club was the perfect avenue for such a venture.

“Almost a year ago, Lion Wanda (Sasser-Scroggins) was talking about the Extreme (Experience Retreat) Camp, which the Lions Club supports,” Vick said. “I got the idea for Beep Baseball when I read about how it got started in Colorado. I knew it would just be easier for (my wife) Faye and I to donate the equipment to Lions Club and then give it to Blue Lake (Camp).”

What equipment? Vick said this unique form of baseball is meant for the visually impaired and utilizes their sense of hearing through a beeping noise produced from the ball itself.

“The pitcher and the catcher are sighted people,” Vick said. “If the batter is only visually impaired, they are blind folded so everyone is on a level playing field. They have to listen to the beep, beep to hit the ball.”

Vick said, at that point, the batter will listen for another beeping sound, this time emitted from one of two “bases” located where first and third would normally be set.

“The bases are four-foot tall Styrofoam upright pylons,” he said. “The beep will come from one or the other of them and the runner will literally fall over them.”

Vick said the defensive players will consist of six other blindfolded players that use the beep of the ball to attempt to locate it.

“If the runner reaches one of the bases before one of the fielders reaches the ball, it’s a run,” he said. “I think, in the leagues, they’ve had something like five balls that have been caught in the air since 2008, so it takes some skill.”

Vick said there are other rules that differentiate Beep Baseball from the original version – the biggest being its ability to include everyone.

“It was only natural for the Lions Club to do this, because our project is sight conservation,” he said. “We also sponsor the VIP (Visually Impaired Persons) Lions Club.”

Phyllis Murray, director of Blue Lake Camp, where the equipment will be utilized, said it will be wonderful new tool for both the visually impaired and sighted campers.

“All the space at Blue Lake is multi-functional,” she said. “This will also be a great way for kids to get sensitivity training, because everyone knows someone who is sight impaired.”

Murray said she is looking forward to incorporating the new equipment into the camp’s activities with the help of both the Andalusia Lions Club and the Andalusia VIP Lions Club.

For more information about Beep Baseball, visit nbba.org.