Vision-impaired baseball team heads to tournament

August 1, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
While San Francisco Giants fans hope for a repeat of World Series glory, another group of Bay Area baseball players are chasing a series title of their own and they're hoping to win without the benefit of eyesight.

There was a last-minute batting practice held for members of the West Coast Dawgs. And one phrase you won't hear is, "keep your eye on the ball."

The Dawgs, based in Concord, are one of the nation's premiere beep baseball teams, made up entirely of blind and vision impaired players. Long before you hear the crack of the bat, you'll hear the electronic beeper hidden in the ball. Blindfolds level the odds between partially sighted and completely blind players, but playing it by ear can be learning curve.

"It took little bit for me to get comfortable to be able to listen to the ball to actually recognize where it is," said Lex Gillette from the West Coast Dawgs.

Defenders record an out by fielding the ball before a runner reaches the base. And even without a throw to the bag, center fielder Michael Finn says there's plenty of action.

"Sometimes people think of baseball as being kind of a slower sport and with beep baseball, the ball is put into play about 70-75 percent of the time," said Michael Finn from the West Coast Dawgs.

It is, in many ways, a game of timing both for players and fans. Cheer before the play is over and you distract the defense from hearing the ball.

"First time people will scream when they're not supposed to. Then they get told," said Mac Mazariegos the coach of the West Coast Dawgs.

But for the Dawgs, hard work has led to success and titles in the last three beep ball world series. Eric Mazariegos is an original team member.

"There's been maybe two or three dynasties in beep baseball and we are one of the dynasties," said Eric.

And now, blind-folds in place, they have their sights set on yet another championship.

The Dawgs will play their first game in the series tournament on Tuesday night in Indianapolis.

Written and produced by Tim Didion

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