Listen for the Beep! The Rich History of Beep Baseball in Colorado
Enriching the lives of the visually impaired is a Pioneer legacy. From the creation of the original beep ball to continuing to work with the National Beep Baseball Association (NBBA), Pioneers are in the trenches ensuring the blind and visually impaired can participate in America’s greatest sport.
From beeping softballs to blindfolded batters and bases that resemble football pylons, it’s clear that beep baseball is no ordinary baseball game. But it’s a game with deep roots embedded in Pioneer volunteer history and Colorado history.
The Baseball Hall of Fame credits the creation of the game to Colorado telephone engineer and Mountain Bell employee, Charles Fairbanks. In 1964, he created a “beeping” baseball when he modified the core of a regulation-sized softball to emit beeping sounds. Twelve years later, the National Beep Baseball Association was founded.
“I think it was his daughter who was visually impaired and wanted to play baseball,” lead Beep Ball volunteer John Cruz said. Cruz now leads the Pioneers volunteer team that assembles the special balls and bases that are used in games around the world. They meet every week at the Colorado Talking Book Library , where the equipment they make is shipped to 42 teams all over the world.
“I ship balls to Taiwan, Canada, Costa Rica. I've had interest from Australia, Europe,” Cruz said.
Creating the beep balls takes time and patience. First, the volunteers meticulously remove the factory stitching before drilling a carefully measured hole into the core of the ball. Inside that hole, they place a cylinder with a circuit board that contains the battery-operated beeper. At that point, they stitch the ball shut and drill more holes so the beeping can be heard.
“I love doing this. Hopefully, you know that they can get out there and have fun playing,” said volunteer Carlos Estrada who, like Beep Ball’s founder, used to work in the telephone industry and volunteers his time through the Pioneers Volunteer Network. “It's incredible what those people can do.”
State librarian Nicolle Davies said it’s fitting that the Colorado Talking Book Library shares its space with the Pioneers Beep Ball volunteers. She said the staff of both share a passion for serving the state’s low and no vision community. “They're bringing joy to people, and they're bringing an opportunity for individuals who wouldn't normally be able to access athletics,” Davies said. “They're bringing that opportunity together, and, again, there's great passion with this group.”
Here is the original story and video showcased last fall on a local Colorado television station as part of their “Everyday Heroes” campaign.