Lighthouse Guild Announces New York City Blind Baseball Team
August 28, 2023
Posted by CBS New York
Baseball is traditionally all about hand-eye coordination, but a growing group is proving you can play without keeping your eye on the ball.
An adaptive version of the sport is opening opportunities for the blind and visually impaired.
At a clinic at Central Park on Sunday, the Lighthouse Guild and the U.S. Blind Baseball Association helped new players beat the odds.
Wearing blindfolds, players navigated bases, each making a different sound to signal which direction to run. The second baseman, the only sighted person on the field, claps more quickly the closer the batter comes.
“Our goal is to get our runners to make it from home plate to first base running at full speed with a mask on in 11 seconds,” said USBBA president and Lighthouse Guild adaptive technology specialist Ed Plumacher.
Plumacher discovered the sport after losing his sight at age 49. Last year, he helped lead the national team to bronze in the International Blind Baseball Cup.
Teammate Kiana Glanton makes it look easy. Within three months of picking up a bat, the mother with partial sight was one of the top hitters.
“The first time you run like Frankenstein,” Glanton admitted. “You literally put your hands out because you’re scared. I mean think about it. I’m going to tell you to run as fast as you can without seeing. You might run into a pole. You might run into a pothole. It’s frightening.”
She said her daughter has inspired her to overcome that fear.
“I concentrate,” Glanton said. “I think about what my daughter must be seeing watching her mom and then I run as fast as I can around those bases and I challenge myself.”
With more than 200,000 visually-impaired people across New York City, more access means more opportunities for success. At Sunday’s clinic, the Lighthouse Guild announced its new team called the Lightning, as the USBBA encourages other states to build baseball programs for better competition throughout the country’s blind community.
“It gives New York another sports team to root for!” said Lighthouse Guild president and CEO Dr. Cal Roberts. “This is about access and inclusion.”
Through practice and persistence, these athletes are cracking open unlimited potential.
“I can’t see smiles anymore but I can hear it in their voices and that’s a wonderful thing and I heard a lot of happy people,” Plumacher said.
They hope to encourage more blind and low-vision New Yorkers to swing for the fences themselves.
The Lighthouse Guild aims to find a permanent home for the team to practice, with a turf field the players do not have to worry about tripping over.