Friday, October 02, 2009

Saturday in the (Ball)Park

With a nod to that quintessential Chicago tune, the CHEN gang gathered on the last September Saturday at Watertown's Filippello Park. While there wasn't “a man selling ice cream,” there were certainly people “really smiling” and it wasn't solely due to the glorious Fall day we all enjoyed.

Filippello is home to the Association of Blind Citizens Boston Renegades. The Team plays Beep Baseball, an adaptive version of baseball for blind and visually impaired individuals. “Beep Ball,” as it is known, is one of several programs operated by the ABC, a nonprofit organization which enhances the social, political, and economic well-being for all people who are blind or visually impaired.

As you can imagine, affording these athletes opportunities to compete in tournaments sanctioned by the National Beep Baseball Association - the sport’s governing body - requires a great deal of financial support. Additionally, a busy 2009 tournament schedule, which included travel to Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and Stockton, California requires tremendous dedication and commitment not only from players, but also from numerous volunteer coaches. And I've been fortunate to be an assistant coach with the Renegades for the better part of seven years.

During this time, CHEN has been incredibly supportive of my involvement - and patient and understanding with respect to my work schedule. Tournaments typically require the Renegades to travel on multiple Summer Fridays, and participate in a full week of competition at the end of July/beginning of August.

Notably, last year CHEN made a generous donation for the opportunity to play against the Renegades. And on September 26, the CHENers once again donned blindfolds in the spirit of charity and competition - OK let’s be honest, mostly charity.

There were “people reaching” to field the ball and “people laughing” at our attempts to hit and run to the (correct) bases. And though CHEN didn't win, suffice it to say, we all had a blast.

So if we've piqued your interest in learning more about beep ball, please read the Wall Street Journal piece by CHEN friend Ben Worthen, who reported from the NBBA World Series. Also, be sure to click on the video, which captures Ben hitting off Renegades’ battery mates Ron Cochran and Rob Weissman.

And on a related note, I’m also involved with the Vision 5K, a run and walk benefiting several local organizations - including the Carroll Center for the Blind, which employs several members of the Renegades - that, like the ABC, offer programs for the blind and visually impaired. In addition to having fun, the Vision 5K is designed to educate participants that with the proper tools and assistance, the blind and visually impaired can be just as successful in all facets of life as their sighted peers.

“Can you dig it?” After an afternoon with the Renegades, yes, we can.

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