Frankfort will play host to the world’s first ever visually impaired baseball field! It was an exciting day as movers and shakers from several counties came together to break ground on permanent dedicated Beep Baseball field. “What is Beep Baseball?”, you ask. Simply put, it’s baseball for the blind. And it was the vision of David Wickstrom to bring a Beep Baseball League to Kentucky for both adults and children with visual disabilities after seeing this ESPN E-60 segment less than a year ago:
David is an ambitious, energetic and giving young man. He’s the President and Founder of Beep Baseball Kentucky, as well as a two time Governor’s Citation Award Recipient for his work with individuals with special needs. He’s also a member of the Lexington Mayor’s Commission for Citizens with Disabilities. So, it was natural for him to take an interest in bringing beep baseball to Kentucky!
“When I was growing up, I always enjoyed hanging out with my friends. And sometimes, because of their disability, they couldn’t play with me at the park”, he recalls.
But this park, which will be located at the Panther Athletic Complex on Old Lawrenceburg Road, will be so much more than just baseball for the blind. It will have a playground that is touted as being, “one of the best accessible playgrounds in the nation when we open in the Spring of 2015”. The park will also include a shelter and ADA accessible restrooms, thanks to Frankfort Parks and Recreation. A walking track encompassing the facility will promote healthier life choices and a safe environment for people with disabilities to enjoy.
Among the VIPs on hand at today’s groundbreaking, US Congressman to the 6th District, Andy Barr. Mr. Barr was instrumental in helping David obtain the necessary 501c3 non-profit status to secure a grant from the Kesler Foundation. This grant will help provide the organization with the funds necessary to make this dream a reality.
This park Beep Baseball park, has started conversations that could bring tourism dollars to Frankfort. Since this baseball facility will be a dedicated field for the visually impaired, talks have begun to make Frankfort the permanent home to the World Series of Beep Baseball beginning in 2017. Usually beep baseball is played on a random open soccer or football field. David says of this endeavor, “Kentucky will be setting the standard to how we treat those with little to no vision.”
Jefferson County District Court Judge David Holton heard Wickstrom on the radio about a year ago talking about his vision to bring beep baseball to Kentucky. Holton, himself blinded at age 10 years old, was curious and made contact with Wickstrom and a bond was soon formed that helped bring this park to fruition.
Says Holton on the importance of having a field dedicated to the disabled, “I lost my eyesight at the age of 10 to a brain tumor. Before that, I had participated in all kinds of sports – baseball, football, basketball. And to have that opportunity taken away from you is really a loss. And this represents the opportunity to give back to those without their eyesight.”
When David Wickstrom imagined bringing a blind baseball league to the commonwealth, he thought that they could probably get enough people together to form a couple of teams. He was sadly mistaken! When they open up their Louisville League this year on September 16th, they will have FIFTY-ONE TEAMS total!!! Forty-six of those teams will be comprised of Wounded Warriors from Fort Knox! When the Frankfort park opens next Spring, they hope to have SIXTY or MORE teams from the Central Kentucky area. Kentucky is attempting to do something that has never been done before by creating both a Children’s and an Adult Beep Baseball League.
Many thanks were given to individuals and organizations including the City of Frankfort, Frankfort Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites, Frankfort Independent Schools, Real Properties, Franklin County Fiscal Court, the Frankfort City Commission, the VFW, the Frankfort Plant Board, the Kentucky River Authority and the Army Corps of Engineers.
Wickstrom states, “Together we’re going to continue to share vision and build one more relationship with this community. We’re going to bring more opportunities to individuals with disabilities as well as the people of Frankfort and the surrounding communities. We look forward to working with everyone here in an effort to make this world a better place for our friends with disabilities.”
Wickstrom quoted Margaret Mead in his closing statement, who said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed. It is the only thing that ever has.”
After all the speeches, the ceremonial groundbreaking was performed by (Left to Right) – Ted Collins (Franklin County Judge Executive), Derrick Graham (Kentucky State Representative), Robert Roach (Mayor Pro Tem), Jim Parrish (Co-Director Frankfort Parks Recreation and Historic Sites), US Congressman Andy Barr, David Holton (Jefferson County District Court Judge), David Wickstrom (President and Founder of Beep Baseball Kentucky), and Rich Crowe (Frankfort Independent Schools Superintendent).
Both visually impaired and sighted people were able to demonstrate a game of Beep Baseball at the end of the event. The playing field is leveled by everyone wearing a mask. A sighted person, on the same team as the batter, pitches the ball which makes a beeping noise. The pitcher gives the batter a verbal cue on when to swing. When the batter hits the ball, he then runs to one of two padded pylons on the field of play. He/She follows another distinguishable sound to the pylon. If the ball is not in control of the opposing team, which remember is blindfolded, by the time the runner reaches the pylon, then it is considered a run. Otherwise, it’s an out.
Enjoy the videos of the Beep Baseball demonstrations: