No, this post has nothing to do with umpires.
I heard about the Stockton Stingrays last year, a group that plays beep baseball, at a Stockton Ports game where they were special guests and one of their players threw out the ceremonial first pitch. The Stingrays, organized by the Community Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, are a team of blind and visually impaired people who enjoy playing the game.
Here’s how this works: There are two bases, where first and third usually are. All players, regardless of visual ability, are blindfolded. The bases are large, plush, blue pillars that buzz, so a player can track them by sound. A coach controls which base buzzes with a little switch (held here by team captain Jennifer Boylan).
When a player hits the ball, he or she can score a run for their team if they make it to the buzzing base before a fielder scoops up the ball. The beep ball is basically the size of a softball, but it beeps when a plug is pulled.
Fielders have some help, though. In the field are two spotters who are able to see, and they call out areas of the field, 1 through 6 — 6 being the middle of the field, with areas counting down to 1, by each base. Players get near the beeping ball, crawl around and pick the ball up. The batter is ruled out if the fielder has control of the ball before the batter reaches base.
The Stingrays have been pretty successful, most recently earning a berth to the 2009 National Beep Ball Association World Series. I’ve been pretty intrigued by the sport, as I know baseball/softball is pretty hard to do when you can see. I couldn’t imagine being blindfolded. The team also accepts members who do have vision, but they also have to wear blindfolds.
One of the assistants, Richard, said he tried one time, but didn’t really have any success, although it was fun. I was really impressed, some of the people out there could field and hit pretty well.
The Stingrays practice and play every Saturday morning at Atherton Park in Stockton. They have a game this Saturday, and they also take on challenging teams who go blindfolded. They’re a great group of people and I hope I can get out there for a game sometime.