STRONGSVILLE – The Cleveland Scrappers came to town on July 13 for a baseball game unlike any other that is typically played at Youth Sports Park.
The co-ed team is part of the National Beep Baseball Association, an organization that provides adaptive baseball for blind, low-vision and legally blind players. The athletes use a combination of their strength, skill and auditory senses to focus on a beeping ball and buzzing bases to play a modified version of the game.
The Scrappers play in regional tournaments and have been in 20 World Series since their inception in 1984. Being the only Beep Baseball team in the area, they have to travel for the majority of their competition. Their game in Strongsville was one of the scrimmages they played this summer, and their competition was from the Greater Cleveland Senior Softball League.
The GCSSL teams typically play traditional softball games. In the game against the Scrappers, they modified their game to the style of Beep Baseball. They also proved that while the Scrappers have limited vision, they have honed their talents in other areas to compensate and thrive at the game.
To play the game “blind,” the seniors closed their eyes while attempting to hit the beeping ball as it was pitched to them. If they were not successful after three strikes, they had the chance to open their eyes and try to hit. The blind players wear blindfolds when they hit to even the playing field due to varying degrees of visual impairment.
When they were in the field, the senior players had to field the ball and throw it to first base to try to get the batter out. When the Scrappers were in the field, they had to successfully field the ball and have it in hand before the batter got to first base to record an out.
The bases themselves are different, as well. In a game between two blind teams, there are two bases – first and third, and they are padded cylinders that stand about 4 feet tall. After the ball is hit, one of the bases will begin to buzz. The sound indicates which direction the hitter runs. If the runner gets there before the ball is fielded, they score a run and go back to their bench.
After six innings of play, the team with the most runs wins the game.
The players learn a lot of valuable skills from the game, according to Jeff Dell, a member of the Scrappers. They have to communicate, listen, work on consistent skills and support one another.
“We focus on working on improving our play and working together as a team. Communication is very important when you are blind, and this game really stresses communication,” Dell said.
It also carries over into other areas of their lives. When they are given an opportunity like this to compete and participate in a sporting event, it translates into successes in education, work and personal achievements.
They also have a community of people who rally around them. Family and friends give them support at the games and in all they do. At the July 13 game, the Cleveland Sight Center had tables set up to raffle items, sell concessions and raise money for the team.
Cathy Javorsky of the CSC was there to support the team and fundraise. Javorsky, who is also legally blind, said she supports the mission of the team and is amazed by what they have accomplished.
“Some of the players met through the Cleveland Sight Center, and it’s a wonderful opportunity for them to come out and play. We want to be here to support what they are doing and raise money for their expenses,” she said.
Though they aren’t headed to the World Series in Tulsa, Okla. this year, they will continue playing through the summer and are always open to new teammates as they carry on their traditions in the years to come.