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Meet the Toronto Blind Jays, Canada’s only blind baseball team
In ‘beep baseball,’ visually impaired players use a softball that emits a
by Jonathan Ore.
CBC Radio, Sept. 23, 2018
It’s the bottom of the third inning, and the Toronto Blind Jays are not
It’s August, and they’re 14 runs behind the Minnesota Millers at the
National Beep Baseball Association World Series in Eau Claire, Wis.
“In reality, the odds of us coming back and winning this game are slim,”
coach Arthur Pressick tells his team. “But for us, we’ve paid all the money
to get here. We need as much experience as we can because this is the only
chance we ever get to play this game.”
That game is beep baseball, an adapted form of baseball for visually
The Blind Jays are the only Canadian team in the U.S.-based NBBA. August was
their third appearance at the world series; 2015 was their first.
Rained out in the middle of the game, they are faced with a choice: forfeit
or continue the next morning, knowing their chances of turning things around
are slim at best.
To Pressick — who is also the team’s manager, pitcher, driver, cook and
co-founder — giving up wasn’t an option.
“We didn’t spend 16 hours in a van together to call a game because of rain,”
They choose to come back next morning, no matter the outcome.
Play it by ear
Beep baseball traces its origins to 1964, when a telephone company engineer
implanted “a small beeping sound module” into a softball, so blind players
could detect the ball.
Each team has up to four sighted players — the pitcher, catcher and two
spotters — and all other players wear blindfolds. Since players may have
different degrees of visual impairment, this puts everyone on an equal
“Honestly, batting with a blindfold on is hilarious,” joked Jays player Ben
Ho-Lung, 19. “It’s really satisfying when you actually hit it. It’s great.”
To play, a sighted pitcher lobs the ball at the batter, who then runs to one
of two “bases” — four-foot-high padded cylinders — that emit their own
high-pitched buzzing noise.
It’s incredible. It’s a rush. Have you ever ran blindfolded? It is something
– Amanda Provan
Fielders from the opposing team must retrieve the rolling, beeping ball
before the runner reaches the base.
“There’s no better feeling than when your bat hits the ball — except for
when you hit that base and it’s a run,” said player Amanda Provan.
“It’s incredible. It’s a rush. Have you ever ran blindfolded? It is
Amanda Provan has made new friends through sports. (Sinisa Jolic & Ben
Blind sports communities
For Provan, 24, who always wanted to play baseball but couldn’t, joining the
Blind Jays was a dream come true.
“I had a really hard time accepting my visual impairment. I was born with
it, and blind sports helped me come to terms with it,” she said.
Her mother Lisette Melantie, who drove her from Sudbury, Ont., to Toronto
for practice, is especially touched to see her daughter’s growth. Melantie?
says when her daughter was younger, she played sighted hockey, but refused
to tell anyone about her condition.
“It was almost like she was embarrassed because she didn’t want people to
treat her differently — and they did, I guess, when they would find out. She
just didn’t want to stand out and be different.”
Now Provan can enjoy sports without those reservations.
“I haven’t spent a lot of time around visually impaired or blind people, and
the community is incredible.”
‘We’ll be back next year’
For player Meghan Mahon, blind sports offered the chance to meet others with
stories similar to her own.
“I myself have a very rare genetic eye condition [called achromatopsia],”
the 22-year-old told CBC Radio. “The doctors said, ‘You won’t meet many
other people with the same condition.’ But they didn’t really bank on me
playing blind sports because I’ve met quite a few people with the same eye
Blind Jays catcher Meghan Mahon also played goalball, a soccer-like sport
for the visually impaired, for Canada at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de
Janiero, Brazil. (Sinisa Jolic & Ben Shannon/CBC)
Mahon is a veteran of multiple blind sports, including track and field,
blind hockey and blind soccer. She represented Canada at the 2016 Rio de
Janiero Paralympic Games in goalball — but the beep baseball World Series
still gives her jitters.
It’s the morning after the Jays-Millers game was rained out. The Jays fight
it out to the end, but ultimately lost 17-3. They end this World Series with
a 2-6-0 record, landing at 19th place out of 22 — one worse than the year
But their resolve didn’t go unrecognized: they won the event’s Sportsmanship
Mahon’s pride is a little bruised by the final score, but she says the team
managed to come out of the trial by fire stronger and with a greater resolve
for future competition.
“You know what? As much as it hurt — it hurt us all to go down that much and
to just let our game slip like that —but I think we pick each other back
up,” she said.
“We’ve definitely grown a whole bunch as a team. We’ve gotten closer as a
family and just our whole team atmosphere has gotten more tight-knit.”