Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A different way of playing

Baseball is played in many ways, in many varieties, and in many countries. How, where, and who plays is never the issue. As long as people are playing, that's all that matters. So when people can't participate in the normal way of playing, they will look for other ways to enjoy the game:

In Italy, Cuba and Hungary, they use a drilled baseball containing sleighbells. In Chinese Taipei and the USA, they prefer an oversized ball with an implanted electronic beeper. The Japanese play with an air-filled ball with no sounding device at all.
The question you probably have is, why do they use different balls like that:

The equipment and rules may vary, but one thing is constant: blind and visually-impaired players have permanently adopted the game of baseball.
Yeah, blind people playing baseball. And I'm not making fun of it. I think it's great, and they're playing all over the worl:

Italy's Associazione Baseball giocato da Ciechi (AIBXC) is in its twelfth season and is part of the Italian Federation of Baseball and Softball (FIBS). Chinese Taipei's first team was formed in 1995. In America, the National Beep Baseball Association has been organising tournaments and a World Series (including teams from Chinese Taipei) since 1975. Japan's "grand softball" was developed in the 1990s and, today, there are more than 10,000 active players in that country.
The game is played slightly differently, of course:

The visually-impaired versions of the game are decidedly different from the traditional game in some respects. In Italy, originators spent about two years experimenting with distances, equipment and rule modifications to reach a workable version of the sport. AIBXC teams are made up of five blind players, one sighted player and a sighted defencive assistant. The batter hits the ball out of his or her hand. Only the left side of the traditional field is considered fair, and all outs are made at second base and by the batter only. Runs are scored by crossing a 13-foot line marked behind home plate.
There are other modifications to the game, and specialized rules, but it isn't important. As kids, we've all played the games with rules designed to fit the players and available space. It doesn't have to be exactly the same, and it doesn't have be major league caliber.

What matters is that the people playing this version of the game haven't given up on the love of their sport just because they can't see. They can still participate, and they can still enjoy it.

And that's what the point of the game really is.

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