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Where Blind Baseball Players Play To Win

Coach Kevin Daniel and captain Dino Sanchez of the Seattle South King Sluggers.
Coach Kevin Daniel and captain Dino Sanchez of the Seattle South King Sluggers.

When Kevin Daniel moved to Seattle, he assumed the city would have something he was leaving behind in Spokane: a blind baseball team.

That wasn’t the case. So in 2013 Daniel formed the Seattle South King Sluggersafter asking one very important question: If he started a team, could they win?

“Blind people associated with winning isn’t always something you hear talked about. We get credit for wanting to participate,” Daniel said.

“If baseball players strive to win and be great, blind baseball players should strive to win and be great. I just didn’t want to have players being OK with just participating.”

That competitive focus has paid off. In two seasons, the team has only lost twice.

The game demands skill. The pitcher and catcher are not blind, but batters and fielders are blind or visually impaired. They use their listening skills, by way of a loud beeping ball, to hit and field the ball.

After a hit, the umpire chooses either first or third base at random to emit a tone to direct the runner.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "80753", "style": "placed_left", "uri": "public://201409/BeepBall-primer.jpg", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Kara McDermott"}]]From there, Daniel estimated the game lasts about seven seconds. The players are in a race: the batter to the base and the fielders to the ball. If the batter wins, it’s a run. If the fielders win, it’s an out.

The game tests listening, running, fielding and coordination.

“One of the things we like about the sport is that it’s a challenge,” Daniel said. “If it was easy and one of those things that everyone can do it wouldn’t be any fun for us.”

As with a normal baseball game, there’s a danger of players colliding or getting hit by a ball, but Daniel said that’s part of the equality goal of the sport.  

“That little element of fun danger – that’s one of the reasons I think we do play,” he said.

The Sluggers’ season ends officially on Oct. 1, but Daniel has big plans for next year and beyond.

“Why don’t we try to be the best beep baseball team in the country and have the premier beep baseball program in the country?” 

Produced for the Web byKara McDermott. This story was originally broadcast September 26, 2014.