Modifications to baseball help visually impaired athletes take part in the sport – NBC Los Angeles

Hand and eye coordination is absolutely crucial to baseball. Swinging the bat, hitting the ball, rounding the bases – all require a symphony of senses. But what if you’re playing without the benefit of one of those — your sight?

In Beep Baseball, visually impaired or blind players play the game in complete darkness. Since the level of impairment varies among them, each athlete has to wear a dark mask.

At a practice session in Pasadena’s McDonald Park on Thursday, coach Isabela Varela, who is sighted, described how the 1-pound softballs have electronic beepers inside them, as do the tall foam pillars that serve as first base.

The batter swings toward the sound of the ball and runs toward the sound of the base, hoping to get there before the opposing team’s outfielders, also unsighted, can get to the ball. If they succeed, the player is “out”; if they fail, the player scores a point.

“It helps them get out of their comfort zone,” said Varela, “and that’s the scariest part – to run blindly and go out in the outfield.”

Varela is currently assembling what she hopes will become California’s first all-female Beep Baseball team, the West Coast Echoes.

Daisy Rosales, who lives with glaucoma, has been playing Beep Baseball for a couple of years. She said a friend had suggested she try it since she’s already played soccer and basketball.

“You’re thinking, ‘What??’ It’s insane!” she said, laughing at the notion of not being sighted and running across an open field to first base. “I was, like, ‘How do you even hit the ball?’”

But now, it’s her favorite sport.

“It’s so freeing. I get to run without actually bumping into any people!” she said.

Kellie Walders, a Braille instructor from Los Angeles whose constant companion is her seeing-eye dog, Nugget, tried Beep Baseball for the first time.

“I was a little apprehensive, at first. I didn’t think I was running properly,” she said.

Properly or not, she made an impression at the Thursday practice session. A broad smile crossed her face as she trotted from home base toward the beeping foam marker ahead of her while Nugget watched from the sidelines. She said she hadn’t done anything like that since summer camp as a little girl.

West Coast Echo’s inaugural practice will happen Saturday, May 18 at 12:20 pm at Mar Vista Ave. in Pasadena. Details about Beep Baseball (which includes mens’ and co-ed teams) can be found here.

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