Virus May Wipe Out 2020 Beepball Series

by Kevin Burton

   A longstanding tradition in sports for the blind could become the latest casualty of the Coronavirus in 2020.

   The National Beep Baseball Association’s Board of Directors at its regular meeting Saturday, is expected to decide whether the league’s annual World Series will be held.

   The tournament is scheduled for July 26-Aug. 2 in Ames, Iowa.  All the reginal tournaments held by member teams around the country in preparation for the World Series have either been cancelled or postponed because of the virus.

   The NBBA has staged a World Series each year since 1976. It has battled through weather, equipment and logistical issues, but of course, never faced an obstacle on this scale.

   Organizers in Ames have asked the league to decide about the tournament by June 1, according to Jared Woodard, a board member and pitcher for the four-time defending World Champion Indianapolis Thunder. 

   Most players and board members who spoke to Page 7 and who have been talking to others in the league, predict the series will be cancelled. But holding the tournament is still a possibility.

   Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Wednesday removed restrictions on venues such as zoos and museums, provided health measures such as social distancing are observed. Beginning Monday, high school baseball and softball practices will be permitted. 

   In the seven-day period ending last Friday, 11 new Coronavirus cases were recorded is Story County, according to the Ames Tribune.  That is the lowest number of new cases since the week of April 20.

   “We are seeing a stabilization,” Reynolds told the Des Moines Register.  “We have to move forward. We have to recognize that the virus is in our communities and we have to learn to navigate that until or if a vaccine is discovered.”

   “To me it’s not worth it,” said NBBA Secretary Steve Guerra, one of 15 voters who will consider the issue.

   “So far beep baseball has not been hit too hard by this. Let’s keep it that way,” Guerra said.  “If one person contracts Covid 19 (at a potential 2020 series), then we have failed.”

  The board must consider several factors. Will some teams vote not to attend because of the virus? Can teams make flight and other logistical arrangements in the eight weeks remaining before the series is due to start?  What safeguards, such as additional sanitizing stations or additional canopies to allow for social distancing, could be put in place in time?

   Woodard is expecting a good discussion and a close vote.

   “Are we going to have teams that will even come to it?  I don’t know. We’ll have to figure that out over the next week,” Woodard said.

   The Cleveland team for one, is focused on 2021 and will not attend if the series is staged this year, said pitcher Todd Simmons.

   Greater beep baseball is a family. The World Series is an athletic, mostly-friendly, ultra-competitive, boisterous, memory-making family reunion.

   About 500 people converge on the series site each summer.  A host city can expect to see about $500,000 flow through its economy from hotel, restaurant and other purchases, according to Guerra.

   Ames has hosted two World Series before.  It would miss out on the economic infusion if the series were cancelled. One idea raised, is to hold a regional tournament in Ames next spring.

   After the board’s decision, whichever way it goes, will come the continuing discussion of figuring out how a game so heavily dependent on close contact between players, coaches and others, can move forward safely.   

   “Business as usual will probably never be again going forward,” Guerra said.

   Traditions such as the pre-series general assembly meeting and the post-series awards banquet may never be the same. Those functions will be handled differently.

   “We’ll have to learn to crawl, then walk, then run,” Guerra said.

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