Baseball league caters to blind players - Atlanta News, Weather, Traffic, and Sports | FOX 5

Baseball league caters to blind players

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ATLANTA -

It's springtime and that can mean one of many things, including baseball. America's favorite past time is being played in metro Atlanta in a pretty unique way.

The Atlanta Eclipse are a dedicated baseball team. They take practice seriously and step up during game time. But there is one thing they can't do.

It's practice time for one metro Atlanta baseball team. And after a couple of warm-up exercises, it's time to play ball. Play ball they will but there is one big difference -- the players are blind. The sport is called beep baseball. And this is the Atlanta Eclipse.

"The balls beep and the bases buzz," said Jim Byrd.

The only sighted players are the pitcher and the catcher. Everyone else has to depend on the sound of the beep coming from inside the ball and the buzz coming from the bases.
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"We don't have a second base because nobody is going to throw the ball to create an out. The way an out is created is the ball is picked up in the field and controlled by the fielder. And that is an out if the person has not yet touched first base," said Byrd.

Some players are totally blind, some are partially blind but during a game everyone is blindfolded to even the playing field. Judy Byrd, who brought the sport to Atlanta along with her husband Jim, says that's the only difference in the sport.

"These are normal people. They just have one difference from you and me, they're blind," said Judy Byrd.

"In high school, I used to run track, lift weights, swim. I used to be an All-American guy," said Scean Atkinson.

Scean Atkinson was 10 when he discovered he inherited glaucoma. Legally blind, he says he joined the team reluctantly.

"Because, I was really going through a lot of things. I was depressed and you know things wasn't really going right. So I said hey, let me just try it out and see how it is. Now I love it," said Atkinson.

Roger Keeney went blind at 40 from a farm accident. He says he finds the most joy in seeing his teammates transform.

"Watching those kinds of folks at the beginning of the season, barely stiff and moving around real stiff with a cane and then after a season of running full blast with a blindfold attached at nothing but a buzzing sound. The mobility magically changes," said Roger Keeney.

"A lot of my sighted counterparts think just because we're visually impaired or blind that we need help but that's a myth. That's a myth. We can do it just like our sighted counterparts can do it," said Atkinson.

The Eclipse play sighted teams. They've even played Georgia Tech's softball team. They're now gearing up for the World Series which will be held in Columbus, Georgia next year. For more information on volunteering or joining the Atlanta Eclipse, visit http://www.facebook.com/pages/Atlanta-Beep-Baseball/184620908230337 and for information on the National Beep Baseball Association, visit http://www.nbba.org.

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