The National Beep Baseball Association (NBBA) is a baseball league for the blind. At first, like myself, you may be skeptical about the level of competition these players could produce. However, the hustle and heart these players put in is second to none.
How could this possibly work? Many people would assume they are batting with the ball on a tee, but it’s a step up from that. A sighted pitcher, who is on the batter’s team, stands 20 feet from the batter, and throws underhand to the batter, while communicating verbally the timing of the pitch. The key to a good pitcher is consistency. If a pitcher can throw the ball in the same place at the same speed, it will be easier for the batter to know what to expect, and make good contact.
Once the batter hits the ball into play, he/she will listen for a buzz, either coming from 3rd base or 1st base. They don’t know which will sound until they make contact, and immediately once they hear it they sprint to the base. They don’t stop running until they hit the padded vertical base, shown below.
Anytime I’ve played some sort of blindfolded game in gym class, like being slowly lead through an obstacle course, I am really hesitant to move forward, I have my hands out, and I’m anxious the whole time. I’m moving about as fast as a snail. That is what impresses me so much about beep baseball; the fearlessness of going full sprint into something you can’t see.
Similarly, fielding the ball is a pretty incredible feat to me, but to these players, it is routine. The ball is continually beeping, and in order to record an out, a fielder must secure the ball before the batter touches the base. A simple concept, but as you can imagine, it’s pretty hard to execute.
What can we take from these athletes? I think we can all learn something about courage, and fearlessly running toward your goals. Even if you’re not totally sure how to get there, you have to take that first step. Then another, and another. Eventually you’ll be sprinting at the unknown, and hit your goal faster than you ever thought possible; all because you were fearless.
The 2018 NBA World Series will take place in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, July 29 – August 5. For more information see nbba.org.