Wed, Oct 22, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Balls beep and bases buzz for blind baseball players

By Jewel Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Baseball fever reached a climax when the Brother Elephants won the 2003 Taiwan Series. But many people do not realize that the blind also enjoy playing baseball.

In fact, visually-impaired people not only play baseball, they also have their own baseball team, their own equipment, a regular practice schedule and their own base of supporters.

"Actually, many people who cannot see are involved in baseball games, and not just as fans. They play baseball just like normal people do," said Chen Yun-ying (陳芸英), the author of a book telling the story of blind baseball teams in Taiwan and of those who are dedicated to the sport and its promotion. The book was released yesterday.

"They [blind players] see desire, determination and teamwork in the game and in many cases they even out-perform sighted players. Playing baseball is not a privilege reserved for sighted people," Chen said.

Beep baseball, as its name implies, is a ball game played with a normal softball containing a small sound module, which helps blind people keep track of the ball.

In beep baseball, each team is permitted six turns to bat, during which it attempts to score runs by having its batters hit the beeping ball into fair territory and reach a buzzing base.

Each team has its own sighted pitcher and catcher.

"There are now six beep baseball teams in Taiwan. Two are in Taipei, three in Taichung and one in Ilan," said Lin Hsin-hong (林信宏), 34, a blind member of Taipei's Bat Beep Baseball Team.

Lin suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited disease in which eyesight degenerates with age. He will eventually become completely blind.

Lin and his team represented Taiwan at the Beep Baseball World Series in Los Angeles in 1997.

"After playing beep baseball, I regained confidence and hope. I found that I could participate in sports just like other people. It felt like I was reborn," Lin said.

The game enables players to move around without the assistance of a cane, guide dog or helper.

"The feeling of freedom is great," he said.

Four star pitchers of the Brother Elephants showed their support by attending a news conference to introduce the sport to the media.

Pitcher Liu Wen-mao (劉文貿), who tried to play beep baseball while wearing a black eye patch, said this is the first time that he felt such delight when he managed to hit the ball.

"I respect their [blind players'] resolution and perseverance, which is exemplary," Liu said.

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