SAN FRANCISCO -- Eyesight seems like it's pretty crucial for ballplayers, but the players of beep ball refuse to let a little thing like blindness hold them back.
An adapted form of baseball called beep ball, designed for the blind and visually impaired, was demonstrated at the All-Star FanFest on Saturday afternoon. Kids lined up at the FanFest Diamond to put on a blindfold and take a swing beep ball style.
The general concept of hitting and fielding the ball is the same in the game of beep ball, but that's about it. Beep ball uses a completely different approach to playing baseball, starting with the players not using gloves.
A beep ball probably wouldn't fit a baseball glove anyway since it's so much bigger and heavier than a regular ball. It should come as no surprise that it also makes a beeping sound.
The beep ball players don't need gloves because they hear the ball coming in their general direction and use their bodies to stop it, usually by laying out across the ground. It sounds painful, but because the beep ball is heavier and softer, it doesn't go as far.
"I never got one in the teeth, but I think that's what happened to my hair. A few balls took it off," beep ball representative Neal McDonald joked.
McDonald lost his sight when he was 11 years old. He soon found the thing he missed most was sports competition.
"In the blind world, there aren't a lot of things you can do sport wise, so when I found beep ball, I instantly fell in love," McDonald said.
McDonald explained beep ball to the audience while the blindfolded kids got a taste of what it's like to bat blind.
They soon found out, batting in beep ball is less about listening for the beeps and more about timing. The pitcher will say "ready, pitch" when the ball is released so batters can gauge when to swing. Instead of swinging at the sound, batters are concentrating on putting the bat at the same place at the same time.
"That's not something you have to see. It's something you can feel," McDonald said. "When you hit the sweet spot on the bat, that's something you feel."
Beep ball will be giving another FanFest demonstration at 5 p.m. PT on Sunday. For more information on beep ball, go to www.nbba.org
Becky Regan is an associate reporter at MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.