A month or so ago I was asked by Elaine Welch, CEO of the Pennsylvania Association for the Blind, if she could feature our beep team in the next PAB newsletter. I was happy to do so and sent her newsletter writer some information on our team. The writer asked if she could interview Scott Berube and he was very accommodating. I thought she did an excellent job and wanted to share with you her story on Scott...
What’s That Beeping Sound?
By Joanne Ritter
Pennsylvania Association for the Blind
Love baseball? Imagine playing it wearing a blindfold! Beep baseball is an adapted version of traditional baseball designed for people who are blind or visually impaired. The ball beeps and the bases buzz. And in case you think it’s not a serious sport, think again. Teams compete in local, regional, and even world championships.
For Scott Berube, it is a chance to feed his competitive spirit. “Before I lost my vision, I was into motorcycles,” he said. “I used to race in Florida and California, and I even won a motocross championship.”
Although he hadn’t played baseball seriously since he was a pitcher in Little League at age 12, it all came back to him pretty easily. He loves the game. “I would never have believed I’d be playing baseball at 52,” he said, “And certainly not blind.”
It is not a sport for the timid. Participants who are sighted or have partial vision must wear blindfolds. The idea of doing something without using vision can be jarring at first. But, like anything else, practice improves performance. “If you’re sighted, you can watch a few games and you kind of get the arc of the ball and the timing,” he said. “It’s fun. It’s inclusive. A sighted person can play and try it out.” It’s also a great way to encourage teamwork.
But for Scott, it is an opportunity to enjoy a sport he used to love. “It felt good to swing a bat and hit a ball again,” he said.
He explained that the beeping of the ball is mostly for the outfielders. “The fielding’s different because we’re listening to the ball coming at us instead of seeing it.”
Another big difference is that the pitcher and batter are on the same team. “When you’re batting behind the plate, you don’t have time to gauge the location of the ball from the sound. The batter just has to go by feel. The pitcher is not your enemy, though. The pitcher is your friend. You work together.” Pitchers call out before they pitch so the batter can be ready to swing.
Instead of the traditional diamond: three bases and home plate, beep ball uses two bases (first and third). Bases are tall foam columns. They emit a solid tone, different from the beeping ball. “When the ball is pitched, the sound of the base you need to run to is turned on. It’s 100 feet away, rather than the traditional 90. You’ve got to get to that base before the fielder gets the ball. We run full bore and hit that base. Sometimes we just go right through it and knock them over,” Scott said. “Once, I ran so hard, I took out a spectator,” he laughed.
It is that opportunity to “just go for it and charge the base with all you’ve got” that appeals to Scott. “We play even if it’s raining. As long as there’s no thunder, we play right through. We go slipping and sliding through the mud. Sometimes, you miss the base entirely — you go right by it and slip and end up on your butt. It’s fun; it really is!”
Scott plays for ForSight Vision’s team, the Thunder Sticks, out of York. The team has competed with teams from Lancaster, Philadelphia, New Jersey, and even Boston. “You play some of the better teams — they come in on a bus and start doing jumping jacks to warm up and we say, ‘Oh, geez!’ These are teams that have been around a long time. But we’ve scored against them.”
“We let everybody play on our team,” Scott said. “We even have women on our team. But we play to win.”
It’s been raining a lot in York lately. But that doesn’t matter to Scott. Practice starts next week, and he’s ready.