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Spring 99 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Tina Herzberg, VI Specialist, Region 12 Education Service Center, Waco, Texas
& Mary Ann Riggs, Vision Teacher - Consortium of the Visually Impaired

Education Service Center Region 12 and the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) , Waco Regional Office, sponsor Camp Teen Challenge, a summer camp for teens with visual impairments who have completed the 6th grade through the l2th grade. Camp Teen Challenge turned into a sports camp when the Austin Blackhawks, the World Cup Champion beep baseball team, visited last summer.

The Austin Blackhawks explained the game to the campers and then demonstrated how beep baseball is played. After a couple of innings, the Blackhawks asked for volunteers to try playing the game. Every camper chose to participate. They were able to play the different positions, such as outfielder, batter, pitcher, and catcher. They enjoyed the game and wanted to continue until well after dark.

As the campers played, members of the Blackhawks gave them tips on how to play each position. The campers also asked the Blackhawks questions about life as an adult with a visual impairment: "How did you like going to Taiwan?" "Do you live with your parents?" "How much do you practice beep baseball?" "Wow, you live in an apartment by yourself." "How do you take care of your guide dog?" "What do you do on the weekends?" "Do you have a job?" "How do you get to work?"

Beep baseball originated in the early 1970s when Telephone Pioneers of America volunteers wanted both the sighted and non-sighted to be able to play our national pastime _ baseball. They perfected the idea of putting a sound-emitting device inside a softball and established some basic playing rules. Thus, beep baseball was born. In the mid 1970s, John Ross modified the original game to make beep baseball more like the game of baseball. Today, the balls and bases are still made by Telephone Pioneer volunteers, an organization of 800,000 communications industry employees and retirees.

Like baseball, the game consists of innings with three outs per side. There are only six players for each team _ all blind or visually impaired. To keep it fair, all players wear blindfolds. Batters are allowed four swings. Fielders don't wear gloves. There are only two bases, first and third. The bases are four foot padded cylinders with speakers that are placed a hundred feet down their respective baselines.

Each team has its own sighted pitcher and catcher. The catcher creates a target for the pitcher to throw toward. Before each pitch, the pitcher says "Ready" to let everyone know he/she is about to throw the ball. As the pitcher releases the ball, he/she says either "Pitch" or "Ball". The batter knows to wait a split second before swinging. When the batter hits the ball, a base operator (a volunteer behind the catcher) activates one of the bases and the batter must identify which base to run toward. In order to score, he/she must reach the base before the ball is fielded.

In the field, a sighted spotter calls out the player numbers (one _ first baseman, two _ right fielder, three _ middle fielder, four _ left fielder, five _ third baseman, and six _ back fielder) to indicate where the ball landed. The player must head toward the ball, locate it, and establish control of the ball. In order to get an out, the player must field the ball before the batter gets to the base.

For some of the campers, playing beep baseball was their first experience with organized sports. The Blackhawks also gave the campers ideas about what their futures hold, and convinceded them that they CAN play sports. The campers were excited to discover that there are several beep baseball teams across Texas including Houston, Tyler, Austin and Dallas-Ft. Worth. Everyone found the game to be a lot of fun and would like to have a team someday in the Waco/ESC Region 12 area. If you would like more information about beep baseball, please contact Jeannette Bigger, secretary of the National Beep Baseball Association, at either (785) 234-2156 or . Wanna play?