Wichita beep baseball team ready to take next step

Published: May. 20, 2018 at 10:06 PM CDT
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Wichita's official Beep Baseball team is back for its second season and its ready to compete at the national level.

The Wichita Falcons beep baseball team is an official member of the 34-team National Beep Baseball Association. With the help of their sponsor Envision and the not-for-profit Wichita Association of Blind Athletes, the Falcons are hoping to expand in their second year.

Head Coach Ira Mills brought the team back from a long hiatus when he moved to Wichita from California. As a former athlete and sports junkie, he needed a way to connect to the community.

"I'm a sports fanatic. Football, basketball, hockey, I'm all about the sports," he said. "When I first started going blind, it was lonely. My buddies stopped hanging around me because I couldn't go to the park anymore."

He met Jonathan Akin and a few other former Falcons players from the original team. Akin has been playing for seven years and wanted to help revamp the team.

"It's a great opportunity for blind people just to show off their ability because they don't have that opportunity in real contact sports," Akin said.

According to the American Foundation for the Blind, beep baseball is an adapted form of the traditional sport. It consists of a ball that is larger than a softball that beeps consistently so players are able to hit it when pitched as well as find it in the field. There are two bases rigged with a buzzing sound that is triggered when the ball is hit, so the runner knows which way to go. While the majority of positions are reserved for individuals with vision loss, people who are typically sighted are needed as spotters, catchers and pitchers. During scrimmages or games, anyone other than the pitcher and catcher who is typically sighted wears a blindfold.

The bond between sighted individuals and those with vision loss is tough to form, but is especially important in this game. They need to be on the same page to pitch and hit. But as Mills explains, it's tough for people with vision loss to trust some sighted people.

"They get dogged out by a lot of sighted people and their families that might want to leave them behind, and stuff like that, and it's hard to let stuff like that go."

But eventually, the team is strengthened by bonding together people of all abilities.

The Wichita Falcons are looking to compete in national tournaments, but still need a lot of volunteers in order to make that happen.

They are specifically looking for sighted volunteers to pitch, catch, officiate, and even help guide and drive to tournaments.

If you are interested in volunteering, contact Arlene Ownes or Ira Mills at falcons@nbba.org. You can also follow their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/HelpEnvision