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Baseball tournament for the visually impaired comes to Savoy

A baseball player wears an eye mask while swinging at bat at a ball.
A beep baseball players swings at a ball during a game.

SAVOY – This weekend, three Midwestern teams are coming to Savoy for the Beep Baseball Tournament. This event provides an adaptive version of the sport for visually impaired players and coaches.

The Indy Thunder, Chicago Comets, and Gateway Archers will compete at Prairie Fields Park in Savoy on Saturday, July 6th, starting at 9:30am.

Morning Edition host Kimberly Schofield spoke with Mark Brown about the tournament.

Note: The tournament now starts at 9:30am, not 10am as previously announced, due to heat concerns.

Kimberly Schofield: Thank you, Mark, for joining me. So beep baseball…I personally have never heard of beep baseball. Can you tell me just a little bit about what beep baseball is? Where did this name come from?

A man taps a blue padded cylinder while wearing an eyemask.
Beep baseball uses alternative equipment, including tall padded bases that buzz for players to know where to run. Photo courtesy of National Beep Baseball Association website

Mark Brown: Yeah. So beep baseball is actually a sport for athletes that are either blind or visually impaired, and the reason that it’s called beep baseball is because the baseball that’s used beeps. And the reason that it beeps is because they struggle to be able to see the baseball and so they need to be able to hear it when it’s coming toward them in order to hit it. And the other kind of exciting or interesting thing to note is that the base also buzzes. You know, it’d be difficult for them to be able to see where the bases are as they’re running to them, and so the bases buzz, so that they’re able to hear where they are, and that’s how they can get where they need to go after they’ve hit the beep baseball.

KS: Is there an age range at all for the people who participate in it?

MB: You know, in terms of age ranges, it really ranges all the way from like teenage years up through adulthood. You know, we’re going to see athletes from three different cities that represent a variety of different age ranges. And again, some of them are fully blind, and some of them are visually impaired, where, you know, they’re able to see some things, but they’re not able to get the full breadth of the vision, you know. And so we’re going to kind of see a variety of different abilities

KS: Other than the bases buzzing and the baseball beeping. Do you know if there are any other adjustments made?

A baseball player holds a ball in the air while kneeling on the grass
If a player picks up the ball before the batter reaches the base, regardless of the ball hitting the ground, the batter is out. Photo courtesy of National Beep Baseball Association website

MB: So there are, there’s actually only two bases instead of three. So that’s one adjustment. And one of the cool things is that the base that is turned on as buzzing. So they, the people that run the tournament, actually will turn on one of the bases after a ball is hit. The athlete then that has hit the ball has to listen for which base is buzzing, and then they run to that base. So they’re not necessarily always running to the same, you know, first base, like you would see in standard baseball. They have to listen to know which base to run to.

The other interesting adjustment is that it’s very rare that an athlete is able to catch the beep baseball midair. And so what happens is, once the ball is hit, as soon as one of the athletes in the field makes contact with it and picks it up, if the athlete that hit the beep baseball has not made it to the base yet, then they’re out. And so it’s kind of different than standard baseball in terms of how it’s it’s played. It has the same idea. Those adjustments are just there because it is harder to catch a ball midair and it’s harder to get it where it needs to go, you know, just because when athletes are blind or visually impaired, you know, it’s not as easy to be able to handle the ball.

KS: For people who are interested in attending the event, what information do they need to know? Do they have to buy tickets? Can they show up and cheer?

MB: So this is actually a free event. We’re encouraging everybody who’s interested in it to come out. You know, one

A baseball player holds a ball while sitting on the grass.
If a player in the field picks up the ball before the batter reaches the base, regardless of the ball hitting the ground, the batter is out. Photo courtesy of National Beep Baseball Association website

important thing just to consider is that we do need a quiet atmosphere. Because, you know, obviously the athletes have to be able to hear the beep baseball, and they have to be able to hear the bases buzzing, and so, you know, that’s one of the reasons that we hold it at this particular park. It’s actually at the park right next to Carrie Busey Elementary in Savoy. So it’s a very quiet area. Games are actually going to start with the first pitch at 930 on Saturday, July 6. We encourage anybody who’s interested to come out and just watch it be spectators, just kind of see what the what the sport is all about.

Picture of Kimberly Schofield

Kimberly Schofield

Kimberly Schofield is the host of Morning Edition and covers arts and entertainment for Illinois Newsroom. When she is not covering the arts, she is performing in plays and musicals or running the streets of CU.

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