Cassie Nipp, with the Tyler Tigers beep (blindfolded) baseball team, coached the batters as they stood at home plate.
“You’re gonna swing on ball,” she said.
“Set. Ready. Ball.”
At her pitch, the batter took a swing and missed.
“Try to swing it straight across for me, OK,” she said. “Let’s try it again. You ready? Here we go.”
On that swing, the batter got a piece of the ball and hit it just foul.
Twelve East Texas students who are blind or visually impaired got to experience some recreational activities tailored just for them during the “Swing. Hit. Serve.” event Thursday in Tyler.
The Lighthouse, which exists to empower blind and visually impaired people through rehabilitation, education, training and employment, put on the event along with the Texas Department of Rehabilitative Services and the Region 7 Education Service Center.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., students learned about and practiced golf, beep baseball and volleyball.
“I had a fun time here,” J.D. Logan, 8, a Higgins Elementary School second-grader, said.
The First Tee of Greater Tyler provided the golf instruction. The Tyler Tigers, a National Beep Baseball Association team, provided the baseball instruction. The Lighthouse provided the volleyball instruction.
Ann Phillips, project administrator at The Lighthouse, said most kids learn core academic subjects like math and reading in school, but if they’re visually impaired, state law requires them to learn additional material included in the Expanded Core Curriculum.
Recreation and leisure skills encompass one of the items in the expanded core curriculum.
The others include independent living, orientation and mobility, compensatory skills such as Braille, assistive technology, social skills and career skills.
“We want to make sure these kids learn how to be active teenagers and adults and have fun things to do or to know what their peers are talking about or their parents,” Ms. Phillips said of Thursday’s recreation event. “If they golf, or if their peers are playing basketball or baseball, we want them to understand the game even if they choose not to play themselves.”
As the students learned beep baseball, there were a lot of misses and a few hits, but no matter. All the kids and adults encouraged one another and seemed to enjoy the opportunity to play the game.
Hogg Middle School seventh-grader Cristopher Martinez, 13, said he enjoyed all of the sports.
“We had a lot of fun here,” said Martinez, who has nystagmus, a condition that causes his eyes to make repetitive, uncontrolled movements that reduce his vision. “It’s been a wonderful day.”
Claire Arteaga, 12, a seventh-grader at Cumberland Academy in Tyler, said she learned she is really good at putting in golf but terrible at long shots.
In beep baseball, she also hit two balls out of three, so she was proud of herself for that.
Miss Arteaga has rod-cone dystrophy and said it makes it hard for her to play sports involving balls, but with fellow students who also have their own vision limitations, it was easier, she said.
Sharee Condry, a Whitehouse ISD teacher of the visually impaired, brought four students to the event.
“This really is good for them … because they get to be with other visually impaired students,” she said. “So it kind of puts them all on the same playing field. They don’t feel like that they can’t do something. They’re just all in there together, and also it gives them motor skills and I just think it’s great that they offer things like this for our visually impaired students.”
Thursday’s event is one of many The Lighthouse puts on each year as part of its Children’s Program.
In addition to educational and rehabilitative services available to the students, annual events include App Camp for iDevices and an Easter egg hunt.
The events are open to all students who are blind or visually impaired and live in the 40-county service area of East Texas.
Visit TylerPaper.com to watch a video of some of the blind and visually impaired students playing sports.
Playing Beep Baseball
In beep baseball, all players except the pitcher and catcher wear a blindfold so that no player has an advantage over another even if they have some vision.
Ann Phillips, project administrator at The Lighthouse, said the pitcher is sighted and the pitcher asks the batter to show their swing.
The pitcher then tries to pitch the ball in the batter’s swing zone and says, “set, ready, ball.” The batter swings when the pitcher says ball.
In beep baseball, there are two bases. One is located where first base would traditionally be and the other is where third base would traditionally be.
When the batter hits the ball, they listen to which base starts beeping and they run to that base as fast as they can.
In the field, if the players, who are also blind or blindfolded, locate the ball before the batter reaches the base, the batter is out. If the batter reaches the base first, they score.