“Keep your eye on the ball.” That’s got to be one of the most frequently yelled instructions from a baseball coach to a team practicing for a big game.
But it doesn’t quite work for Troy Leeberg, the coach, manager, president “and the everything else” of the Spokane Pride Beep Baseball Team.
“I’m statutorily blind,” Leeberg said with a chuckle, “and most of my players are blind. They may see light, but they can’t see any objects.”
Beep baseball is baseball for blind people, and on Saturday the Spokane Pride Beep Baseball Team is taking on the Seattle South King Sluggers at Franklin Park at 2:30 p.m. It’s the first time a game like this is hosted in Spokane, Leeberg said.
“No, it’s really not that hard to coach,” Leeberg said. “There are some obstacles but we work around them. It’s fun.”
There are six players on a team and to make sure no one has even a slight advantage everyone is blindfolded.
A game has six innings and the batter gets four strikes instead of three. To make things a little easier, the ball emits a beeping sound.
“The pitcher pulls a little pin out of the ball and that starts the beeping,” Leeberg said, explaining that there’s a sighted spotter in the outfield who yells out which of six zones the ball is headed toward.
There are only first and third base and they, too, omit a buzzing sound making it easier for players to head in the right direction.
“It’s all about mobility, about running out there and doing it the best way you can,” Leeberg said.
One player is blind and hearing impaired but doing great, Leeberg said.
Another player is blind and doesn’t have a lot of independent mobility.
“We are teaching her how to be much more independent out on the field,” Leeberg said.
Spokane Pride Beep Baseball got started last year in April, and Leeberg said the team is still getting organized, waiting for its nonprofit 501(c)(3) registration to be finalized.
At Saturday’s game, the team will be selling team hats and shirts, as well as hotdogs and snacks, as a fundraiser.
“It will be fun,” Leeberg said. “The whole thing about sport for the blind is helping people feel independent – that’s what we are trying to do.”