It’s a beautiful summer morning at Orange Grove Park in South Pasadena. The San Gabriel Valley Panthers are warming up around the grassy field.
Practicing “beep” baseball today are 3 totally blind and 4 partially blind athletes from around the region, including right here in South Pasadena. Although this is a newer team, the Panthers are one of only 2 teams in California to be registered with the National Beep Baseball Association.
The team was founded by Darren Keepers in January of 2018, “to raise awareness that the visually impaired can live fulfilling lives just like everyone else and that includes athletics such as baseball.”
Beep baseball was created in 1964 to give blind and visually impaired athletes the opportunity to enjoy a variation on the great American pastime of baseball.
A sighted pitcher, catcher and “spotter” all cooperate to ensure that the visually impaired athletes are able to hit, run and field with complete trust that they will not run into an obstacle or another player. Every player wears a blindfold to level the playing field between the totally blind and visually impaired athletes.
The key to beep baseball lies in sound. The ball “beeps” when in play allowing the hitter to connect and fielders to track it down by ear. Once a batter gets a hit they race towards either first or third base depending on which base is activated to beep. If the batter can reach base before a fielder touches the ball – they score a run. If the fielder touches the ball before the hitter reaches base – that is counted as an out.
The bases in beep baseball are upright foam pillars which beep and vibrate after a hit. The batter runs towards the base and has merely to touch some part of the pillar to score a run.
Marcus Peralta is taking practice swings. His stance and swings are a product of his previous baseball prowess. Marcus was able to see and play in baseball as a youngster. He was then tragically attacked and struck in the head and eye region leading to his loss of sight. His teammate Harold Lopez has arrived from Orange County to play. Mr. Lopez is also visually impaired and remarked on what it is like for someone who can’t see to play baseball for the first time as a beep baseball athlete, “It brought back the fun. It was a chance to feel normal again.”
Darren Keepers, the founder of the team and a South Pasadena resident has been blind since the age of five. He continued to pursue physical activity through both snow skiing and water skiing. Darren also loves baseball. He found out about beep baseball 2 years ago and realized that forming a team could give blind athletes an outlet for their desire to play sports and connect with teammates.
Darren explained that, “There are people who go blind in their 30’s and 40’s – and they think “That’s it”. But this is out there for you. There’s a community out here – you can make friends and get physically active. I know for a fact that this sport and team could bring our community together on a different level.”
The San Gabriel Valley Panthers currently practice on Wednesdays at 10:00 am at Orange Grove Park in South Pasadena. The team has aspirations of playing in the Beep Baseball World Series to be held in Tulsa, Oklahoma in July, 2019. They are actively seeking local people who want to get involved, and want to help. If you are interested in learning more about the San Gabriel Valley Panthers and beep baseball you can get in touch here:
Phone: (626) 921-6274
Let’s support this South Pasadena-based team and hope they are on the field in Tulsa in 2019 when the ump yells, “Play ball!”.