The Indy Thunder from Indianapolis will be pursuing its fourth straight national baseball championship starting Sunday. The team, as highlighted on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick, is different. Its players are blind and visually impaired and play a specialized game on soccer fields.
The Thunder will be defending its title in the World Series of Beep Baseball, being held in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The game is modeled after conventional baseball, but there are differences. The 16-inch ball, for example, makes a distinct sound so players know when and where to swing. Likewise, the bases make a buzzing sound to help guide the runners.
“The players, the batters and the fielders all have to wear a blindfold to make the playing field equal. It’s like a race between the batter and the fielders, if the batter gets to the beeping base before the fielders track the ball, they score a run for their team,” Darnell Booker, coach and general manager for the Thunder, told Inside INdiana Sports host Bill Benner.
There are spotters in the field to help direct the players as they chase down a ball.“Once the batter hits the ball, the base operator determines what base the batter runs to. The pitcher and the batter on the same team. It’s not like a regular baseball where the pitchers tries to strike you out,“ explained Booker.
Booker started the Thunder in 2000, but he’s been playing the game since 1985. “I was drafted off the stage of the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. One of the people found me as I was doing sports in school and said “hey, I want to introduce you to the sport called beep baseball.” Booker says he’s loved the game ever since.
Despite the team being named Indy Thunder, Booker says it’s actually a statewide squad with players from Fort Wayne, Evansville, and Muncie. The team is 13-and-one heading into the series. Coach Booker says his starting lineup ranges in ages from 16 to 22 and some already have championship rings on their fingers. They hope to bring home additional hardware next week.