A field of their own

Ground broken for baseball complex for visually impaired

By Linda Younkin Published:

Put on a blindfold, step into the batter’s box and listen for a ball making a beeping sound as you prepare to swing a bat.
Once you make contact, take off running for a base that buzzes.
That’s beep baseball, a sport for visually impaired athletes that’s been around for more than 50 years.
In all that time there hasn’t been a field built specifically for the sport — until now.
A groundbreaking ceremony took place Tuesday behind the tennis courts at the Panther Athletic Complex on Old Lawrenceburg Road.
The field, which will open in the spring, is the world’s first beep baseball field.
“I lost my sight at the age of 10 because of a brain tumor,” said David Holton, a district judge from Louisville who was one of the speakers at the ceremony. “Before that I participated in all kinds of sports — baseball, football, basketball. To have that opportunity taken away was really a loss.
“This represents giving that opportunity back to those who have lost their eyesight.”
That’s the idea behind bringing the sport to Kentucky.
David Wickstrom of Lexington is the executive director of Beep Baseball of Kentucky, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
Wickstrom saw a piece about the sport on ESPN and began working to bring beep baseball to Kentucky.
“We can definitely do it here,” he said.
Frankfort was chosen as the site for the field after talks with the Frankfort Parks, Recreation & Historic Sites Department.
“Our board chairman, Jack Kennedy, has some solid relationships with Frankfort Parks and Rec,” Wickstrom said. “When we talked to them, they really wanted to do it.”
Kennedy grew up playing baseball, and the Frankfort High graduate went on to umpire for six years in the minor leagues. He now works for the Kentucky Office for the Blind.
“We talked to them (Parks and Rec) about what we wanted to do, our vision,” Kennedy said, “and they were all in. It was like a match made in heaven.
“You couldn’t ask for better people and organizations to partner with us – Parks and Rec, the city schools, Real Properties, Fiscal Court, the Plant Board, the VFW.”
More organizations are expected to join as work progresses on the field.
“Everyone we’ve talked to has said ‘yes, yes, yes. What can we do to make this happen?’” Kennedy said.
The facility will include a walking trail, a fully accessible playground, a shelter and restrooms that meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.
Beep Baseball Kentucky will have a fall league in Louisville that will begin next month.
“I initially thought we’d have two teams play, but when we open our season Sept. 16, we’ll have 51 teams,” Wickstrom said. Of the 51 teams, 46 of them are Wounded Warrior teams.
That league will play at Joe Creason Park. Parks and fields designed other sports are often used for beep baseball.
Michael Lewis, who has been playing beep baseball for eight years, will be part of the new league.
Lewis grew up in Indiana and first learned about beep baseball as a student at the Indiana School for the Blind.
This year he played for RHI X-Treme in Indiana, a team that finished second in the National Beep Baseball Association’s World Series.
“All too often people come to beep baseball and don’t understand the game,” said Lewis, who recently moved to Louisville, “but once they see the passion and love we have for the game, they love it. There are people at the World Series who’ve been volunteers for 30 years.”
With the NBBA’s season over, Lewis will play in Louisville this fall.
“I’m ready to dive into both,” he said. “I feel I can bring all the experience I have to people just learning the game. My favorite part of the game is hitting the ball. Everyone loves hitting, but it’s also being able to compete at a high level.”
In beep baseball there are six players on defense. The batter must identify the buzzing base, and if the ball is fielded before the batter reaches the base he is out.
There are some details to be worked out for the local leagues. There will a youth league and adult league, but the age cutoffs for the leagues haven’t been determined. Beep Baseball Kentucky is not affiliated with the NBBA.

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  • Wonderful to hear of this facility! While it certainly is NOT the first of its kind, it is the most recent and heartily welcomed.

    Kudos to all.  Michael Lewis and his experience will be a big plus as the league develops.  We hope a team from Louisville will attend

    next year's World Series of Beep Baseball Ball in Rochester, New York.

    Best wishes,

    Janet Leonard, NBBA Board member

    Proud member of the National Beep Baseball Associaion since 1986