Beep baseball or Beep Ball is an adaptation of baseball for visually impaired people.
Blind athletes dive onto the ground to stop a beeping ball and run full speed towards the sound of a buzzing base to score a run. The game is played with a standard softball bat, a 16-inch circumference ball (beeping an audible sound), and two bases (48-inch pylons or tower), which also emits a buzzing audible sound. There are only two bases on the pitch unlike three, as in the case of ordinary baseball game.
A beep ball team consists of six players, which is different from a usual baseball team. These six players are blindfolded to equalise each player's degree of visual impairment. In addition, one or two sighted spotters are deployed on the pitch. They call out numbers to indicate the direction of the ball after being hit by the batter. Besides this, each team has its own sighted pitcher (who throws the ball) and catcher, respectively.
From the fielding team, the pitcher throws the ball towards the home plate, a point where the catcher waits to receive or catch the ball. The batter has to to hit the ball without getting ‘out’, in order to score runs. Each team is allowed three outs per inning. An 'out' consists of four strikes or an occasion where a fair ball is struck by the batter, but the ball gets fielded before the batter reaches the base. A "run" is scored if the batter has hit a fair ball which contacts a base before (ball) being fielded by a fielder. A game has six innings unless more required in case of a tie. The game is won by the team scoring the most runs.
The dimensions of a beepball field have been established by the National Beep Baseball Association (NBBA) and are standard throughout USA, where the game is mostly played.
Click here to download a copy rules in accessible PDF format from the site of NBBA
Before 1964, visually impaired people did not have the opportunity to play baseball, one of the most popular games in America.
In 1964, Charley Fairbanks, an engineer with Mountain Bell Telephone, presented the blind community with a momentous gift, the first beep baseball. It was a normal sized ball with a beeping sound module implanted. Besides this, some basic playing rules were devised by a group of employees of the Telephone Pioneers of America. They also devised a set of knee-high, cone shaped, rubber bases which contained electrically powered sounding units that emitted a high pitched whistle. All this laid the foundation for initial experimentations with beep baseball.
However, the game did not receive the anticipated response and adoption. Often, the equipment did not function properly. Blind youngsters had a difficult time sorting out the conflicting sound of the beeping ball and the whistling base. Soon, it was found out that the youngsters were not responding to the game because of its slow pace, offering little action and challenge.
In the spring of 1975, a very important event happened when the Minnesota Telephone Pioneers presented John Ross, Director, Braille Sports Foundation, with a newly designed beep ball. The new beep ball was a 16 inch ball with an improved sound module designed to withstand the impact of being hit solidly. Dennis Huberty, (representative, blind athletes, ‘St. Paul’s) and John Ross, then wrote a new set of guidelines which became the 'Minnesota Rules.' The main thrust of these rules was the creation of a modified version of baseball which allowed blind people to play with honor and dignity.
Feeling Sports, a monthly by the ‘Braille Sport Foundation’, organised a meeting at Chicago. It was at this meet where National Beep Baseball Association (N.B.B.A) came into being in order to promote acceptance and endorsement for the game from the blind community.
They conducted the first World Series of Beep Baseball in St. Paul. This first ever N.B.B.A. Championship was won by the local St. Paul Gorillas who defeated the Phoenix Thunderbirds.
Calendar of main competitive events
Click here to view the present and past world series of Beep Baseball
Click here to view the NBBA’s most prestigious award ‘The Jim Quinn award’.
National Beep Baseball Association
C/o Jeana Weigand, Secretary
5568, Boulder Crest Street
Columbus, OH 43235