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In beep baseball, the blind lead the blind

7:26 AM, Aug 5, 2013   |    comments
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COLUMBUS, Ga. -- This past weekend, Columbus, Ga., played host to an international tournament, in which 20 teams traveled thousands of miles to play for a championship.

And every player was deeply visually impaired, if not completely blind.

The National Beep Baseball World Series brought a slew of American teams, as well as the defending world champions from Taiwan, to the Peach State for a special weekend.

"It's almost like playing football, baseball and track all in one," Dee Butler said of the sport.

Butler is a member of Atlanta's beep baseball team, the Eclipse. She is also its oldest member -- a 55-year-old grandma. She lost her sight gradually growing up.

"I have basically no retina at all," Butler said of her condition, "so all I see is light."

She found, in blind baseball, physical salvation.

"Knowing that Saturday's gonna get there and I get the chance to get outside," Butler said, "there's nothing like it."

The sport itself is relatively simple; think baseball as you know it, but with a few modifications:

  • The pitcher is not an opponent, but a teammate.
  • When the batter swings, one of the bases -- either 1st or 3rd (there is no 2nd) -- buzzes.
  • The batter tries to reach that base before a fielder picks up the ball. If so, the batter's team gets a run.

"So many times, society has a negative stereotype towards the word 'blindness'," said Eclipse player Garrick Scott. "It makes it seem like a death sentence."

Scott lost his sight as a young man but just kept pushing. He is now the president of the Georgia chapter of the National Federation for the Blind.

"When we do something as miniscule as tying our shoe," he said, "they use words like amazing, super, or fantastic, and it's not."

In the double-elimination tournament, Taiwan successfully defended its world championship, defeating a team from Austin, Texas in the finals.

The Eclipse, in their first World Series, won four games and finished 13th out of 20 teams -- a major success for a very young team.

*****

For more stories by Matt Pearl, you can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook, or check out his "Telling The Story" blog.

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