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Softball game developed for visually impaired

Posted July 26, 2008
Updated July 27, 2008

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— Cross-town rivals The Raleigh Rockets and The Durham Sluggers took the field Saturday in a Beep Baseball showdown.

Beep Baseball is a softball game developed for the visually impaired.

Durham Sluggers player Glenn Permar has been playing the sport since 1972.

“Every sport I’ve ever been in, I try to put everything I had into it,” he said.

Beep Baseball is different from regular baseball. The six-inning games have only two bases – first and third – that give off a buzzing sound when activated, according to the National Beep Baseball Association. Four-foot padded cylinders containing speakers are placed 100 feet down each baseline and 10 feet from the foul lines.

When the ball is hit, the base operator, who decides which base will buzz, activates the base. The runner must run to the buzzing base before the defensive player fields the ball. If the runner is safe, a run is scored. Otherwise it’s an out.

“We’ve gone through many changes. We used to have three bases instead of two – one behind the catcher. That was kind of tricky because as you ran in the catcher had to get out of the way,” Permar said.

Catchers and pitchers are both sighted players, according to the NBBA.

Players wear blindfolds because they all have varying degrees of visual impairment, said fan Amber Kindley.

“It’s hard enough to hit the ball when you can see it, much less have a blindfold on and not being able to see it,” Kindley said.

Instead of nine defensive players, each team has six players on the field. Each team also gets one or two sighted spotters in the outfield. When the ball is hit the spotter will call out a number indicating to which position the ball is traveling, according to the NBBA.

Recording an out is also different. To get the out a defensive player needs to field the ball before the runner reaches the base. Fielding the ball is constituted by having the ball in hand and off the ground.

“Just seeing these players play makes me feel like I can do whatever,” Kindley said.

The Durham Sluggers beat the Raleigh Rockets 6 to 5.

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