Countywide : Blind Players Sweep 'Beepball' Tourney

A smile spread across Mari Sanchez's face after she smacked the beeping baseball and dashed to first base.

She made it but was called out when outfielder David Myhren picked up the ball before it got past him, and raised it over his head.

Though she hit the ball hard and straight, Sanchez, 15, never saw it. Neither did Myhren, 20.

They are both blind.

Sanchez and Myhren, both from the Braille Institute Orange County Center in Anaheim, were playing in a weekend "beepball" tournament in Montebello that included both blind teams and sighted teams wearing blindfolds. Beepball is a modified version of baseball in which the blind play by using their sense of sound.

Students from Braille centers across the state took part in the tourney, and blind teams won every game against the blindfolded by at least eight points.

"We were slaughtered," said police union president David Rodriguez, after his team lost 48 to 14 to a Braille center squad, "but it was fun."

Beepballs, which are a little larger than softballs, are equipped with special beepers, as are the bases.

Batters listen for the beeping sounds to locate the ball, which is placed on a batting tee for them. Seven blind outfielders listen for the ball as it rolls their way, and batters are called out when an outfielder grabs the ball and holds it over his or her head.

The blind batter runs to one of three beeping bases determined by the umpire. Rarely do the blind batters fail to locate the base, but the same could not be said about their blindfolded opponents.

"I didn't have high hopes of winning," said association member Joe Herrera, who wandered toward a beeping base that he never found.

But many of the blind youngsters chalked up impressive statistics that would make a sighted baseball player envious.

Sanchez, who stands just 5 feet tall, scored five runs in leading her team to 28 to 16 win.

"I wish I were on their team," said Myhren of Sanchez's team. "They've got the good hitters."

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