Beep baseball teaches students about visual impairment

The baseball rolled through the dirt toward Jonathan “Chihuahua” Akin, who waits in the makeshift baseball field at the Metropolitan Complex Saturday in a game akin to baseball.

There was one notable difference from this game, though: instead of using a glove to locate and catch the ball, Akin was blindfolded and laid his body out in the dirt to best locate a beeping ball, a technique used in the sport of “beep baseball.”

“It was something unique,” said junior Jason Puder, president of the Pi Kappa Phi chapter at Wichita State, which hosted the game Saturday. “We wanted to do something that was a little different than (the norm).”

Two teams of about 10 Wichita State students competed in the game, an adaptive form of baseball for the visually impaired.

Beep baseball forces the players to use their ears to field and hit the ball, which is constantly beeping to inform players of its position. Only the first and third bases are used — which look more like tackling dummies than bases — and the team that is up to bat uses their own players to pitch and catch.

Puder brought the idea to his fraternity after meeting a man in Lexington, Ken., who was in the process of building a beep baseball park.

Pi Kappa Phi organized the event as part of The Ability Experience, which is about using shared experiences to support people with disabilities.

Sophomore Devante Garcia invited two local beep baseball players to the event: Akin and Richard Taylor of the Wichita Sonics.

Taylor and Akin gave tips to each of the teams on fielding the ball and pitching.

“I used their tips to lie out and get the ball,” junior Layne McKibben said.

Demonstrated by Akin, the idea was to lie on the ground with hands reaching out in an attempt to stop the forward motion of the ball.

Akin stood out among the WSU students. Known as the best fielder on the Sonics, he continually laid out, even diving on top of his own fallen teammate to quickly locate a beeping ball before the runner made it to a base.

“We were hoping somebody would notice us,” Akin said.

Beep baseball is more than just a sport to Taylor, a catcher for the Sonics, who has a visual acuity of 20/200.

“[Beep baseball] teaches you how to live if you do go blind,” Taylor said. “I had to wear a blindfold to do everything during training, even cooking and walking down the street.”

 After the game, Garcia addressed the participants and told them the purpose of the event was to try to understand what other people may be going through.

“You really have to depend on the pitcher and your teammates telling you when to swing,” freshman Austin Daniels said. “You just don’t know what kind of a world they live in until you experience it.”