Austin blind baseball team headed to World Series


by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and Photojournalists J.P. HARRINGTON

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

Posted on July 21, 2013 at 5:54 PM

Updated Sunday, Jul 21 at 6:03 PM

AUSTIN, TX -- From a distance, they look like any other baseball game. But if you get closer, you will hear a beeping sound. Then you'll realize, you're not watching your average baseball game. You're watching beep ball.

"When you hear beep baseball or baseball for the blind and you see it in your head, it's not at all how it is," said Austin Blackhawks pitcher Kevin Sibson. 

With the exception of the pitcher, catcher and two spotters, the players are all legally blind. They rely on the beeping sound of the ball to know when to swing. After a hit, they take off toward two beeping bases. Instead of catching the ball, players capture it. If they grab it before the batter makes it to the base, he or she is out.

"People have different equities of blindness so everybody has to wear a blindfold. That way it makes the sport equal for everybody," explained Austin Blackhawks team captain Wayne Sibson.

Sibson has been legally blind since the age of 7. He started playing the sport in 1978. And in 1986, he and his younger brother Kevin started the Austin Blackhawks.

"This was the one sport we could both participate," said Kevin. 

And they're good! The brothers have led the team to 26 world series, seven of which they've won.

"We've got some good players," noted Wayne. 

The Blackhawks will enter the World Series as the number two seat. The number one is Taiwan and that's bittersweet for the team. Back in the 1990's, 14 Blackhawks players traveled to Taiwan to teach blind people there how to play the sport. Taiwan beat the Blackhawks in the series last year, but this year the Blackhawks say they're taking home the trophy.

"We've got the best defensive team out there. Defense wins," said Kevin. 

But defense, the players say, is the hardest part of the game.

"Locating the ball is not the problem, it's getting down there fast enough to actually stop the ball," said Faith Penn. "It's like I'm listening to it, it's right there and I'll go to dive and it'll like, go around me," she laughed. 

Penn, a former track athlete, wrestler and cheerleader, was born legally blind but completely lost her sight ten years ago.

"I actually got hit in the face with a soccer ball," she described. "Going from having some sight to no sight was a big huge change."

Penn started playing beep ball two years ago. This will be her first world series. And just like her teammates, she's set on winning.

"We got this," exclaimed Penn. 

"We're winning this year," agreed Kevin. 

Twenty teams will play in the World Series. The games begin Tuesday, July 30 and run through August 4.