Beep Baseball Minnesota

"Have fun and improve..."

Long history in Minnesota...

Beep Ball, baseball for the Blind--has a long history in Minnesota 

June 30, 2008 

The start to beepball: In 1964, Charles Fairbanks along with the Telecom Pioneers started the game of beepball. 

One of the original Minnesota beepball players from the 1970’s was Tom Heinl. St. A member of the Saint Paul Gorillas beepball team, Heinl shared in the

Glory of victory as the Gorillas won the first ever world series game in 1976 by defeating a team from Arizona. 

Fast forward to 2003: Beepball returned to Minnesota soil after local teams disbanded more then a decade earlier. One of the volunteers, Suzanne Glidden,

remembered one of the first practices as a newly formed team began to practice once again. 

Glidden stated that she "remembers our first meeting with players at St. Albert's gym in South Minneapolis 5 years ago. It was March, and it was too wet and cold to go outdoors. 

Someone had to stay outside with three dogs. We had some drills on a hard gym floor, but we had no bases, so I had to be a base --snapping a metal clicker to make the sound that players would run to. Later that year, Jim, one of the parents made some electronic bases for us that weighed about 40 pounds each!" 

"I am very struck with how inspiring these players are," said Suzanne, and "How much they help each other." She added, "They have a spirit and openness, And I love to be around them." 

The World Series Returns to Minnesota: During the first week of August in 2007, Rochester Minnesota was the chosen site for the annual beepball world series.  Teams from around the world and across the country competed with one another. One after one, highly motivated teams was eliminated, defeated by stronger and more aggressive ball clubs. The process of elimination took place over several days of hard played games. Only one team prevailed and moved up the ladder of success, The 2007 World Series beepball Champions were the Kansas All-Stars. This team will have to defend its title in the Beepball World Series

for 2008 held in Houston, Texas. The National Beep Ball Association is the sponsor of the World Series. To know more about beepball games across the country, access the website at www.nbba.org. 

A little about beepball: If any of us on the offensive or defensive teams are not blind, sleep shades are pulled down snuggly over the eyes to block out

any residual vision. The pitcher, who is sighted and stands a mere twenty feet from the batter, calls out "Go, Set, ready pitch" as the "sixteen inch beeping

softball" is thrown underhanded, The batter, braced for action, swings the bat at the first letter of the word "pitch" and the crack of the bat against

the ball is heard around the ball park. 

Play ball: Marilynn Highland, a fellow beepball player, summed up why many of us play this sport. Highland stated, "I like playing beep ball because I love

to run by myself with no sighted guide, which is usually not a safe thing to do. Playing beep ball with our very competent spotters gives me that opportunity.

I am also a very competitive spirit, so I like that aspect of beep ball as well. I have to admit that every spring I wonder whether I am still going to

be able to participate in the same way; but, so far so good." 

Competition on the beepball field: The St. Paul Lion’s, a Minnesota team, defeated a celebrity team at the end of the 2006 season by a score of 22-5. 

A new Beep Ball season has begun for the spring and summer of 2008, the fifth year this team has been together. At the opening of a St. Paul Saints game,

a minor league team from Minnesota, we played our first 2008 exhibition game. Kent Evans, the pitcher tossed the ball at a height and speed for the best

contact with the bat. A veteran from the 1970’s beepball team, Kevin Moldenhauer, took his place with the bat in hand. The pitcher threw the beeping ball.

Crack, oohhhh, aahhh, and Kevin chalked up two points for our team. We went on to win this game 8-1. 

Action on the field: Seasonal practice began in March, 2008 again at Aldine Park in the Midway of St. Paul, Minnesota. Once again, Tom Heinl took his place

during a weekly practice. Heinl picked up his heavy wooden bat and he was guided to the batters place. A left handed batter, Heinl stood on the left side

of the batters plate. I wondered, would he hit the ball towards my out-field direction or would he drive it deep into left field? The bat and ball connected, and Suzanne pressed the button that activated one of the two vertical standing bases. Tom raced toward the right beeping base. Players scrambled for the ball. Spotter Joe called out, it’s a four!  Nancy Schadegg, another beepball player from the 1970’s, ran to the sound of the beeping ball as it rolled through the grass.  Nancy shouted, it passed me on my Right!. Mike ran forward for the ball.  Jennifer ran toward the ball from her in-field position.  Just as Jennifer reached for the ball, Marilynn already had the ball in her hands and she raised the ball upward for the spotters to call.  SAFE!, called out John the other spotter. Tom got his run. 

A typical practice: Beepballs hit from the under-hand pitch are not as easy as it may seem. The pitcher has the job of throwing the ball where the batter

consistently swings. There are four chances, not three. If the ball is not hit off of a pitch, the player has an opportunity to hit the ball from the "T",

a firm three-foot cone shaped stand in which the ball is placed on the narrowest part of the stand.  The batter swings at the ball after the pitcher calls

out the four part rhythm. If a run is made off of the "T", its one point. If the run is made off of a pitch, its two points. 

The defense: Center field is known as the six position. Forty-five feet on either side of center field is known as the three positions. Defensive players

take their place on the three and six lines, two on each of the three lines on either side of the center six where two players stand. The out-field players

on each of the lines stand twenty-five feet behind the in-field players. Sighted spotters position themselves between each of the three and six defensive

lines to call out the direction each ball are hit. Players usually run fifteen to thirty feet on either side of where they stand to make the play. Spotters

make sure there are no collisions during the fast action as players move freely from place-to-place. 

The Saint Paul Lion’s teams: The St. Paul Lion’s is divided into two practice teams, the Cubs and the Cats, the young-timers against the old-timers. Joel,

Matt, Mike, Jennifer, Ricardo, John, Nick Knack (Nicky), and Nicky… make up the Cubs. Marilynn, Nancy, Tom, Kevin, Jerry, and Clarence make up the Cats. 

The Spotters take their place in the ball field; Maria, Julie, Adauto, Brandon, John, and Joe. 

The pitchers alternate between Coaches Dennis Stern and Kent Evans, and Wisconsin high school baseball coach Steve Block. 

Choreographic moves on the ball field: Blind ball players dart from one spot to another in blinded excitement to prevent a successful home run by the batter

of the opposing team. There’s a set choreographic pattern to follow for the in-field and out-field beep ball players. Each person in the field calls out

his or her position prior to the first pitch of the ball. That is how each player knows the location of one another in either the in or out field positions. 

Go, set, ready, pitch: The pitcher sizes up the speed and level of each batter's swing. The pitch is made on a four beat rhythm – Go, Set, ready, pitch.

The batter swings the bat to strike the ball. The ball is heard as it flies rotating through the air or along the ground. In field players race in the

direction of the ball. If the softball gets past the in-fielder he or she will yell out ""it’s to my right" or "it’s to my left." The outfielder will make

quick moves to catch the ball. Spotters will announce with either high or low voice inflection as to whether the ball is a long or a short shot. The spotters

will shout out whether the ball is a three or five or two. Players positioned at any of these points in the field dive to their right or left to block

the ball. 

All players, except the pitcher and the spotters, wear sleep shades and we rely only on our hearing to hit or catch the balls. In my four years as a beep

ball player, I’ve never observed an injury caused by player to player contact. Like in traditional baseball, it could happen and it is a risk we take in

this game. The thrill is to run as fast as one can and to enjoy the sport. Exercise and team cooperation are also important parts of this game. Beepball is a fun sport and a time of relaxation in a ball game at a ball park. 

Why I play beepball: In beepball, the playing field is level, so to speak, for all players.  Most of us are totally blind.  Those with some sight have to wear sleepshades to block out any remaining vision.  Confidence of players is positively built up in the game while a friendly rivalry exists between teams on the field. 

I like the feeling of the freedom to run without a sighted guide. And practices and games make me feel relaxed while I improve my health, stamina and ability. 

Beepball motivates me to exercise.  It’s a fun form of activity that makes a work out more worthwhile and memorable.