Arts Science & Technology Society & Culture

Athens Inclusive Recreation group seeks participants for first Beep Baseball practice

Athens, Ga. – Athens’ first Beep Baseball team is looking for participants from the University of Georgia and the community for its practice Feb. 23 from 1-4 p.m. at Smith Field, 1570 Old Epps Bridge Road in Athens.

Beep Baseball is an adapted sport for players with or without disabilities. It is played with six fielders (generally a first-baseman, third-baseman, shortstop, left fielder, right fielder and center fielder) and one or two “spotters” from one team, and the pitcher, catcher and batter from the other team. Fielders and batter are blindfolded. There is also a designated hitter and designated fielder, who must be legally blind in most cases. Catcher, pitcher and spotters do not wear blindfolds and are usually sighted, although there have been a few who are partially blind.

The ball beeps and is a modified, and oversized, softball. The bases are blue, nearly 5 feet tall, and have mostly foam interior with the electronics that cause it to buzz steadily when a switch is thrown. They are each placed 100 feet from home plate and are in the equivalent positions to first and third bases in regular baseball.

“Our team will have to compete with elite competition when we start regional tournament play later this season. So it would be great if we could get UGA students and faculty members to come out and play with us,” said John Dunne, marketing consultant for the group and a master’s student in sport management and policy in UGA’s College of Education. “We will work to provide lunch to those who participate. We can also provide community service hours to those who need them.”

Games will be played on a home-and-home schedule among the five Georgia teams: Athens, Augusta, Atlanta, Columbus and Albany. There will be additional games with teams from the Carolina League.

A tournament will be held the first weekend in March. The season will run through the middle of July. The World Series of Beep Baseball will be in Columbus beginning July 29. The week of competition will conclude a World Championship game. The defending champions are the Taiwan Homeruns.

Beep Baseball is being coordinated by Athens Inclusive Recreation and Sports, a non-profit organization that provides adapted sports activities for people with disabilities in the Athens area.

AIRS was formed and is led by community volunteers, most of whom are UGA graduates or students. The organization provides recreation and sports programming to promote greater wellness and quality of life for its participants and their communities. It is inclusive of all individuals and all abilities, regardless of limitations, with the goal of expanding understanding and recognition through adapted activities.

Tom and Barbara Smith of Athens have provided the use of Smith Field for Beep Baseball practices and games for the season. Equipment has been donated and even designed and built by members of the AIRS board and other helpers in the community.

Roger Keeney, director of AIRS, has been actively involved and playing Beep Baseball for 37 years. He organized the Atlanta Eclipse team in 2010, and helped initiate teams in Columbus and Augusta, and many others across the U.S. and abroad. He has a master’s in therapeutic recreation and has done postgraduate work at UGA.

AIRS staff members include Kim Keeney, program coordinator; Ron Seerley, accountant and chief financial officer; and Harris Blackwell, manual chair sports.

The AIRS board of directors includes Neil Hefner, chair; James Mooneyhan, vice chair; Ron Seerley, treasurer; Kevin McCully, secretary; and Anne Morrison, Nancy Vara and Sherrie Truelove.

Over the last year, AIRS has been developing a variety of adapted sports programs, which include power soccer, beep kickball, goal ball, kayaking, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis. For more information, see www.airs-ga.org/.