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Fall 2003 Table of Contents
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Visually Impaired Young Athletes Play Beep Baseball Game

By Eric Garza, Monitor Staff Writer, Harlingen Texas, egarza@themonhar.com

Reprinted with permission from The Monitor

Abstract: Read about how children in the Rio Grande Valley are given a chance to experience the game of beep baseball.

Key Words: blind, beep baseball, sports, recreation, leisure

Editor's Note: Another sport specific to individuals who are blind is Beep Baseball www.NBBA.org . As described in the next article, staff at the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) provide a great opportunity for students to be involved in local beep baseball teams.

Edinburg _ A small crowd cheered feverishly Saturday morning as the next batter stepped up to the plate at South Park baseball field in Edinburg. When the umpire yelled "batter up" the crowd quieted and there was dead silence.

Though summer baseball games and children go hand in hand, this game was different. It was important the crowd stay quiet as possible, otherwise the players would not be able to hear where they were going. All the players on the field were blind or visually impaired. They had to rely on their hearing to hit and catch a special softball emitting a beeping sound.

Beep baseball is played much like a traditional baseball game but with a few changes. There is only one base for players to run to. As soon as the batter hits the ball, which is placed on a tee, the base begins to beep. In order to score a run, the batter must reach the 4-foot tall foam base before a defender finds the ball and lifts it above his head. All players are blindfolded to ensure fairness since some have partial eyesight.

Saturday's game featured a showdown between the Little Roadrunners and the Little Whitewings. The players who formed the two teams came from across the Rio Grande Valley. Some participants came from as far away as Laredo.

"I personally see that it improves their self-esteem," said Martin Aceves, an employee at the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) in El Paso. "They are out there playing and hitting the ball and running. You don't expect it overnight, but you do see their self-esteem improve."

Aceves was contacted by the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) in the Valley last year seeking help in teaching local children to play the game. The commission held the first beep baseball game in the region last year in Harlingen.

But teaching a child to play a game he has never even seen before can be an arduous task. He said someone who has never seen a baseball game might not have a perspective on how they should run or hold a bat.

"We have the perspective of how it's done because we can see it," Aceves said. "If somebody wins, great, but we have to teach them the basics."

Ralph Rangel, a regional director for the state Commission for the Blind, said he hopes the beep baseball games generate enough interest to have at least one event every year.

"The purpose of this is to bring the kids out to have a nice day but also to focus on their abilities and skills," he said. They are able to participate in any activities that an able bodied person can play."

Miguel Robledo, a McAllen resident, was at the game with his 9-year-old son, Luis. His son played the game for the first time last year in Harlingen. Miguel Robledo said the game gave the children a chance for them to participate in activities many people take for granted.

"This is great for them to do something that they don't normally do," he said. "You don't expect blind people to play baseball. This is important for them because it really gives them the concept of what goes on when you go to a baseball game."

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