Blind Rochester athletes take to the diamond

June 23, 2018 07:02 PM

It wasn't a no hitter, and there were no grand slams, instead it was the athletes themselves that were incredible.

At Grace and Truth Sports Park Saturday, two baseball teams met and played a game. It seems like an ordinary sight in the summertime, but this is no ordinary game. This is beep baseball, where the baseball and bases emit a chirping noise, and the players are all, in some capacity, blind.

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"The reason that we wear these blindfolds is because there is a long spectrum of vision loss, and so everything from people who are just barely legally blind or visually impaired to people with no light perception like myself," explained Kirstyn Smith, a beep baseball player. "To even the playing field, we all wear these blindfolds."

Smith and the Rochester Pioneers took part in a beep baseball tournament Saturday, with teams from around the country playing one another throughout the day. The game is modeled off American baseball, but makes adjustments to work around the athletes' visual impairments.

"So beep baseball is similar to regular American baseball, only there are two bases that make noise and instead of rounding them, once a runner makes contact with a base, it's a run as long as he or she makes it there before the fielder catches the ball. When I say catches the ball, we don't actually wear gloves and catch the ball in the air. We throw our bodies down on the ground and use our whole bodies as a glove, to capture the ball and lift the ball of the ground. It's often more high scoring than regular baseball games and obviously just way more exciting," explained Smith.

The Pioneers are part of the Rochester area blind athletes group, which also features skiers, cyclists, and kayaking. Although these sports are simply a great way to have some fun, participating in these activities also empowers the athletes in their everyday lives.

Smith would continue to say, "what happens on the field really carries into our lives and into our homes and communities and workplaces and schools. We're better empowered and more able to communicate. Participating on this team and watching the growth of each and every one of our players on the field and off the field is tremendous. People with visual impairments often experience depression and a sedentary lifestyle but this program really works to combat those things and get us up off those couches and into every day life."


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