Local baseball players proving you don't always have to see the ball to hit it

Playing baseball in a new way

See the ball... Hit the ball...

If you've played baseball, you can probably still hear your first coach drilling that advice into you. 

"Watch the ball hit the bat," they say. 

But what if you can't see the ball? That's where Kevin Sibson comes in.

"Baseball for the blind is a sport for visually impaired athletes that's very similar to the game of baseball," he said when I met him during an April practice. "The ball beeps, the bases buzz, and the competition is fierce."

Sibson has been playing and coaching this sport, known as "beep baseball", for decades. 

It's a lot like our nation's pastime, but there are significant differences. 

The pitcher, catcher and batter are on the same team and work together to get a hit. Sibson throws a beeping ball toward a sighted catcher, and the blind batter listens for the beeps to know when to swing. 

When the batter makes contact and sends the beeping ball toward the defense, coaches in the field shout out numbers to indicate which side of the defense the ball is heading toward. 

Meanwhile, two foam bases stand on either side of the field. One of them buzzes and that's where the hitter runs. 

If the batter gets to the buzzing base before a fielder picks the beeping ball of the ground, the batter's team gets a run. If the fielder is successful, his team records an out. 

There are three outs per half inning just like traditional baseball, and the game is over after six innings.

"My brother is visually impaired and he started playing way back in 1978 and that's how we heard about it," Sibson said. "Once you get out here and start playing it it's so much fun it's hard to quit." 

He helped the Austin Blackhawks become one of the best teams in the sport. Now he's coaching the San Antonio Jets in their first ever season. 

Despite his team's youth, Sibson's got some experienced players to work with. Richie Flores is the captain and he's been playing for years.

"Here we're challenged to get out of your comfort zone and to rely on other people and listening. So beep baseball is pretty amazing for that," Flores said. 

He's been blind since he was three. Cancer forced doctors to remove his retinas. 

"I've always been pretty aggressive in, you know, I like jogging and I like lifting weights and stuff, but I never really had a chance to be on a team," he said.

The lack of team sports is a problem for guys like Flores. The only competition open to his teammate Axel Cox before he found out about beep ball was wrestling. 

"It's just different," Cox said. "You get to share that camaraderie and you bond with the teammates and you have experiences with the teammates and stories you can tell later on in life."

In a world full of comfortable, indoor therapy sessions, Flores says the sport can also be a great outlet.

"You're sweating out there instead of like you know, we're all a group and we're all part of this support group for blindness," he said. "It takes it a step forward here where not only are we a support group, but we're also a team that's really working hard together to, you know, win."

Despite how new this team is, all these guys will tell you their ultimate goal is to be the best. The Beep Baseball World Series is in Aimes Iowa this year and they're trying to raise money to make the trip

"Everything we do from here on out is to reach that goal. We're going to send a team up there and we are going to win that tournament," Sibson said.

It's an optimistic goal, but far from crazy.

When you've taught a bunch of people who've never seen a game of baseball how to hit, field and run base, winning the World Series in your first year doesn't seem so farfetched. 

© 2017 KENS-TV


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment