Beep ball, invented in 1964, has given legally blind adults the opportunity to play (a modified version of) baseball. The National Beep Baseball Association — or NBBA — was formed in 1976 and organizes tournaments throughout the country.
The rules are pretty simple. Batter face pitchers from their own team, who give them verbal cues when they release the softball-sized ball. The ball, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, beeps, alerting the batter that it’s coming closer and alerting fielders to its location. Everyone wears a blindfold due to varying degrees of visual impairments.
There are two bases, which are foam pillars, located down the first-base and third-base line. When a batter gets a hit, an umpire flips a switch that makes one of the two pillars randomly start buzzing. If the batter reaches the base before a fielder can control the beeping ball, a run is scored. If the fielder gets to it first, it’s an out.
Here’s the inspiring sport in action:
Beep baseball truly speaks to the ingenuity of mankind. A beeping baseball, some buzzing bases, and a bunch of blindfolds may seem pretty simplistic, but think about what had to be overcome to figure out how to allow people who can’t see to play a sport that relies entirely on sight.
The sport’s impact is two-fold. Beep baseball has allowed those who were born blind and never experienced sports to do so for the first time in their lives. But it has also allowed people who lost their sight at some point to partake in something that had been stripped from their lives.
“Like every kid I had a dream of being a major league baseball player,” Danny Foppiano told ESPN. “Obviously going blind kind of took care of those dreams.” Foppiano was blinded during a little league baseball tryout when a friend accidentally hit him in the head with a bat.
Eric Mazariegos, who was blinded by a genetic eye disorder, said: “One of my big regrets with losing my sight was that I was really into sports. I think I would’ve been a very good athlete. When I lost my sight, I lost that ability to be able to compete. I have that kind of competitive fire.”
For both Eric and Danny, beep baseball has allowed them to compete once again.
Wheelchair sports have always been popular, with slight adjustments to the original sports to compensate for the wheelchairs, such as traveling in basketball. There’s also wheelchair baseball, wheelchair football, wheelchair tennis, and wheelchair just-about-any-sport-you-can-think-of.
Sports for the blind have never been as popular, probably because of the difficulty involved in actually developing the sport. But there are now over 200 beep baseball teams in America and the sport is growing and gaining support.