MILWAUKEE — Inclusion is such an important aspect of sport. Some kids who are visually impaired were recently able to learn about and play a game they don’t usually get to play. The game was adapted to them, and they got some help from some Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) players here in Milwaukee.
It takes a ball, a bat, goggles that are also blindfolds, and some very important instructions.
Once the set-up is complete, the game begins.
“We’re playing beeper baseball. The bases and the balls have beeping devices, electronic devices so that the players will know where to follow the ball, where to field it, where to hit it and where to run to the bases,” Claire Egan said.
Kids from the age of four to 18 filled the Kern Center on the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) in downtown Milwaukee — playing a game many have never dreamed of before.
“It’s all about learning and the fun of it,” Egan said.
These kids were able to quickly pick up the new sport.
“You wear a blindfold, except for the umpire who has to call the shots and who operates the base. So they’re basically hitting the ball and running to whichever base they hear beeping. And the fielders try to get the ball and raise it up over their head. And if you raise the ball up over your head before the runner makes it to base, you’ve made an out. If the runner gets the base first, a score is made,” Egan said.
Kids from across the state took part in this game — each of them visually impaired.
Egan is the school age manager for the Vision Forward Association and helped organize this event.
“If you’re blind or low vision, you really need to have the equipment brought to you and get your hands directly on it to understand what a catcher’s mask is like or what is a baseball bat? What does it feel like? So today these students are getting an opportunity to not only put their hands on regular baseball equipment, but also to play the game in a format that’s accessible to them,” Egan said.
And they were learning from people that know this game — players that play at MSOE for Steve Sanfilippo.
“Today we had 10 guys come in and join us,” Coach Sanfilippo said. “They know that they’re blessed and they know we want to give something back. If it’s our time, if it’s our money, whatever, our efforts, our coaching ability, we’d like to give that back to Vision Forward and the boys and girls.”
“What’s really important is these kids today are getting to experience in a sport that they hear about all the time. Their friends play it. They see it on TV or they listen to it on the radio. They don’t always understand the concepts of baseball,” Egan said.
As they got a handle on the game, they were also able to realize a lot more.
“It was pretty special to watch those kids have the smiles and cheer and everything else. It’s one of those things you feel good about yourself at the end of the day about being able to provide that for the boys and girls,” Sanfilippo said.
“This is huge. To make connections with our students and college students is huge. It does more than just bring baseball to our students. It lets them know what’s in the future, what could be in their future — college,” Egan said.
The event was a such a success that Vision Forward and MSOE are planning on doing this again.
Vision Forward also hosts a sports camp in the summer for kids with impaired vision.