high school sports

Baseball for the Blind: High School Senior Raises Awareness Through Senior Project

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One high school senior took on a project he hopes will lead to the creation of a Baseball for the Blind League in the United States and ultimately get the sport into the Paralympic Games.

The New York Lions and Connecticut Chargers took the field in Franklin on Saturday for a baseball game for the blind. It's part of Parish Hill senior Joseph Landolphi's capstone project.

Landolphi coached his friends who wore blindfolds against a blind/visually impaired team from New York.

"I started playing blind baseball in 2016," said Robert Weeks, a member of the New York Lions.

The game's purpose is to raise awareness for the sport, with the goal of eventually creating a Baseball for the Blind League in the United States and ultimately getting the sport into the Paralympic Games.

"I just loved their reactions to how they played," Landolphi said after watching the game he organized.

"It's a great honor for us to play these sighted kids," said Braulio Thorne, a player on the New York Lions.

"It's different than what you think it is," added Ellis Technical High School student Philip Johnson. "You hear the term blind baseball and you're like 'how do you play this sport?'"

There are no pitchers or catchers, and batters hold the ball in one hand and it hit with the other. A team consists of five blind players, one sighted player and a sighted defensive assistant.

"So when a ball is hit, it has to make it past a certain line between second and third and if it goes over that line, it is a fair ball," said Landolphi.

Fielders drop their bodies and move to try and find the ball, which has bells so they can react to it quickly. The ball is then thrown to a base or target with a sighted assistant calling for and catching it.

"It's all about listening," said Weeks.

"They would call out first, second, third," said Landolphi. "There are clappers and beepers to guide the runners."

"Also the fact that they can run, a lot of blind people can't run because they're afraid of running into obstacles," said Damaris Soto, a Lions coach. "Here, this is a safe environment."

The first game of baseball for the blind was played more than 25 years ago in Bologna, Italy.

"The players themselves get such a feeling of confidence and achievement," said Donald Landolphi, who has been working the blind since 2014 in Brescia, Italy. He's trying to increase interest in the U.S.

Saturday's event was open to the public and Donald helped explain the rules to those in attendance while the game was being played. The opportunity for the Lions to play the sport they love is only part of the experience.

"It's not only the baseball aspect of it but also the inclusion part of it where we're communicating with them and they're communicating with us," said Thorne.

The Connecticut Chargers High School team put on some blindfolds and played against a visually impaired team - the New York Lions.

The high school students were very impressed with the Lions abilities, and they left the field with a new perspective.

"You never really think that someone who doesn't see too well or is fully blind could be able to play baseball," said Andrew Landolphi, who played on the Connecticut Chargers. "It's just insane to think about, it's insane to watch."

"You would think sight is the most important sense you can have in baseball," said Joseph Landolphi. "Just the possibility of being able to play it opens up opportunities for everyone else."

The New York Lions defeated the Connecticut Chargers 2-1 and all involved hope the game continues to grow.

"Just like this, we want to spread blind baseball around," said Weeks.

"We're here now to continue to push it forward," said Thorne.

"We were all here to have fun and that turned out at the end of the day and I think we accomplished that," concluded Johnson.