Jay Copp 2014-09-10 06:53:20
Christian Simonetti, 9, normally flies down the first base line in his Pony Baseball games. “He’s really proud of his running,” says his mother, Pam. But wearing a blindfold and momentarily confused by hearing both the ball and two bases beeping, he hesitated after solidly thwacking the ball. Christian had to adapt in the field as well, tracking the ball with his ears and not his eyes. Lesson learned. “It gives the kids a chance to experience what adaptive sports are like,” says Alecia Cerna, a youth consultant at the Braille Institute in Anaheim, California. For Christian’s mom, too, the beep baseball game pitting visually impaired youths against Pony Baseball players was not about winning or even competition but about discovering that just because life may throw you a curve ball or two doesn’t mean you are doomed to strike out or sit idle on the sidelines. The Pony players saw that lack of vision was not an insurmountable barrier even in sports. “It was just a fantastic opportunity for kids to take on a challenge like that,” she says. For four years players from Seal Beach Pony Baseball have competed in a beep baseball game against youths who attend the Braille Institute, an afterschool program. So many Pony youths want to play that names are drawn from a hat to fill the squad. The Institute players are also not shy about taking on new experiences or being part of the broader community. Some belong to the Braille Leo Club, sponsored by the Seal Beach Lions Club. In the friendly, quick game, score is not kept. Everyone bats once. Players from both teams wear blindfolds while batting and playing the field. Fans cheer loudly for both squads. Beep baseball modifies the rules and practices of the game to keep it safe and make it practical. Batters hit the ball off a tee. The batter is safe and tallies a run if he reaches one of two beeping bases before a fielder can grab the beeping ball and place it over his head. By all accounts, the game this past year was evenly contested. Though few if any of Braille Institute youths play beep baseball regularly, they have the advantage of being accustomed to running and doing things that require manual dexterity without vision. The Pony players are accustomed to playing baseball. “They played very well. They impressed our kids,” says Cerna. In running and reacting spontaneously, the Braille youths showed superiority. “It’s funny to see the Braille kids run to bases pumping their arms and sprinting for the bases,” says Scott Newton, a Seal Beach Lion who is the senior Leo adviser. “The sighted kids hold their hands out in front of them blocking obstacles. The base running is where the Braille kids shine.” The baseball game evolved from a Beepball tournament among Braille Institute teams that was started by the Seal Beach Lions Club. Seal Beach Lions and Leos made sure the game ran smoothly. They worked the bases and beepers, guided players to and from the field and cooked hot dogs and hamburgers. The baseball field may be the first time the sighted youths and those from the Braille Institute meet in athletic competition, but off the field it’s not unusual for the two to mix as those with disabilities are mainstreamed in schools. Christian and his classmates also encounter the challenges of disability through a day at their school called Walk a Mile in My Shoes. Students use a wheelchair while navigating the hallways or wear dark glasses to simulate poor vision. “Seal Beach is a tight-knit community, and we do a lot to expose our kids to different things,” says Simonetti. The baseball game ended with a handshake line. Without the blindfolds on it was even easier to see the broad smiles of players from both teams.
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
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