With Major League Baseball fans dealing with playoff excitement, the athletes in a different kind of baseball league are getting a little rest and relaxation after a season that ended in late July. They’re the players of the National Beep Baseball Association (NBBA), a baseball league for the legally blind and those with low vision.
Since the establishment of the NBBA in 1976, the league and the game have made it possible for many to enjoy the excitement, fun, challenge and camaraderie of organized sports. The league is made up of 34 teams which mostly hail from the U.S., but include entries from Taiwan and Canada.
The rules of the game
Beep Baseball has only two bases, first and third. If you can make it to the base before the ball is corralled by a fielder, it's a run. (Photo: CBS Sunday Morning/YouTube)
In Beep Baseball, players have to rely on their ears and their athleticism to play the game. A softball with a beeping mechanism is used, and the players rely on the beeping sound in order to figure out where the ball is. That way, the batter can make contact and the fielders can follow the ball in order to retrieve it.
The way the game is played is simple. The batter walks up to home plate with the assistance of a sighted spotter. The pitcher — who is on the same team as the batter and is able to see — gets the action started by calling, "ready, set, pitch." If the batter makes contact with the pitch, a switch is flipped by the base operator, which causes either “first” or “third” base to beep, and the batter runs toward the beeping base. There’s no second base or rounding of the bases in the game.
When the batter darts off toward the beeping base, he or she must tackle a foam dummy where the base is located. If a fielder retrieves the beeping ball before the batter is able to make it to the base in time, the batter is out and the play is over. If the batter can get to the base before the ball is retrieved, it’s a run.
On the defensive side, there are six players on the field and two sighted spotters. The two spotters serve as guides for the fielders so they have an idea of where the ball is headed, and they also help to make sure no players collide. In the entire history of the game, only five balls have been caught in the air, reports NPR.
There’s six innings in a game (no 7th inning stretch) unless more innings are required for a tiebreaker. The batter is allowed four strikes before a strikeout and one passed ball. For the batter to strike out on the final pitch, the swing has to be a clean miss.
For a ball to be considered fair, it has to go a distance of at least 40 feet. If the ball travels 170 feet, and the batter gets to the beeping base within 30 seconds, it’s a home run, which is worth two points.
Because the players all have varying degrees of blindness, every player is required to wear a blindfold in order to level the playing field.
Beep Baseball World Series
The Beep Baseball World Series works a little bit differently than Major League Baseball's World Series. The tournament takes place over a few days, with 22 seeded teams competing. This year’s series took place in Wellington, Florida from July 25-29. The Indy Thunder beat the Taiwan Homerun for the title.
What the sport really means
While Beep Baseball is certainly a blast for all those involved, the sport goes beyond just fun and games. The sport “gives the public a chance a chance to go ‘I’m celebrating blind people rather than pitying them,'" coach Kevin Daniel of the Seattle’s Beep Baseball team, the South King Sluggers, told the Seattle Times in July. “That’s what the goal of Beep Baseball has always been.”
And while Beep Baseball certainly speaks to perseverance and the ability to have a good time in spite of obstacles, it’s also about people coming together and creating a sense of camaraderie and trust. “That’s why we call ourselves a family. It’s 'cause we’re closer than a team. We trust one another. We have faith in one another,” Brandon Chesser of the Austin Blackhawks told CBS in 2014.
Click below to check out some Beep Baseball action at the 29th Annual MidNight Express in Columbus, Georgia: