Over Boston marathon weekend, many of the blind/VI individuals that were apart of Team With a Vision attended the Boston Red Sox game against the Baltimore Orioles. While at the game, I got the privilege of explaining to the sighted individuals the game I call “Blind Baseball”. Although this is not truly “blind baseball” as this sport already exists, it is my version. My version of “blind baseball” includes blind and visually impaired individuals using the little vision they have as well as the sounds, crowd reactions existing knowledge of the game and other external cues to figure out what is going on in the game.
We were sitting along the 3rd baseline fairly high up in the lower deck of historic Fenway Field. Because Fenway Park is so old, the configuration of the seats is not optimal for orientation towards home plate. In fact, our seats faced directly at the center field bleachers. This had one of the blind/visually impaired individuals particularly disoriented towards where home plate was but after 7 innings he figured it out. On a separate and totally unrelated topic, I think the chiropractors of Boston have stake in preserving the original structure of Fenway Park as this ensures them business throughout the baseball season. Boston chiropractors have probably quickly figured out that any patient coming in on Monday morning with left rotation in their spine must have been sitting along the first base line and all those with right rotation must have been sitting along the third base line. The Fenway Park seating ensures them continued business for at least half the calendar year.
Back to “Blind Baseball”, as I looked out onto the field with my existing vision all I could see within the area enclosed by the stands was a big green landscape or blob Every once in a while, little white blobs were strategically position on the green backdrop. Knowing that the Red Sox were the home team, I knew that the white blobs must be the Red Sox. Originally, I believed that the Red Sox were wearing their full white uniforms but I was later informed that in reality they were wearing red jerseys and white pants. So the little white blobs were actually just walking pants and thus from then on were called the “White Pants”. Their opponents, the Baltimore Orioles were wearing dark colors which were far less contrasting to the green backdrop. When the Orioles were on the field, I could not see any players on the field and therefore they were named the “Ghosts”. It was the White Pants vs The Ghosts on Friday night April 17th at Fenway Park.
Now that the stage is set, I will explain how “Blind Baseball” in this scenario works. The White Pants were the home team and so they took the field first. The first pitch was thrown as I heard the smack of the ball against the glove of the catcher. The objective of the game is to listen and use as many non-visual cues to figure out what was happening on the field. In order to be most accurate you must also know the context of the situation. For example, if you heard the bat hit the ball and the White Pants were on the field and the crowd cheers not long after then this most likely a ground ball out or line drive out. If however, you hear the bat hit the ball and there is a pause of silence or a build up suspense and then you hear the crowd cheer than this was most likely a high pop fly that was caught by the White Pants or a pop fly that was carrying foul and ended up going foul and out of play. If there was no bat on ball contact but the crowd cheers and the White Pants all begin moving off the green backdrop, it was most likely a strikeout for the White Pants and the third out of the inning. There are many many other scenarios that could happen when the White Pants were in the field that were not described above but you can get an idea for the logic and tactics used.
Next, the White Pants were up to bat. The PA announcer calls out who is up next as each batter enters the batters circle. I frequently hear people in the stands around ne talking to their friends and giving away clues like “he’s 2 for 3 on the night” or “This guy is a good home run hitter.” These clues can be valuable in figuring what goes on in “Blind Baseball”. When the Ghosts are in the field, it becomes a little tougher to figure out whats going on as let’s just say the field is empty for all I know. It is very hard to use the movement of blobs on the green backdrop because the only blobs visible are the very few White Pants on the field and they are too far away to even pick them up against the green backdrop. As a result, when the Ghosts are in the field I really must rely on external cues to figure out the game.
When the White Pants get a hit, the crowd cheers. Where things get interesting and why the ERA in “blind baseball” is high is that it can often be difficult to differentiate between the type of hit that occurred and how many players on base there are at one time . One hit that is easy to determine is a home run for the White Pants as the crowd erupts in a standing ovation and there is a possibility of getting smacked upside the head with one of many beach balls that are swatted around.
As you can see from the above description of “blind baseball”, it is a very exciting game that involves being observant, using your creative mind and a little bit of guessing here and there. The probability for unearned runs and total uncertainty of what just happened can be very high but it is something that I recommend you try next time you attend your next baseball game. Realize though that if you attempt to compete in “blind baseball” with another person in the blind/visually impaired community there is a good chance you will lose as we have a lot of practice with the non-visual world.