by Kevin Burton
Tomorrow is Getaway Day and there’s just nothing like it.
It’s World Series week in the land of beep baseball, baseball for blind players. Getaway Day is about heading to the competition site and into another world.
If you’ve never seen beep baseball, check it out on You Tube. There are lots of videos, many of which explain the game. They explain how it differs from sighted baseball and the technology needed to make it all work.
But for me it goes well beyond the games and competition.
In the larger world there is a lot of ignorance about blindness and blind people. Problem is, this is ignorance in action. People get ideas about blind people from somebody’s bad movie depiction and try to relate to us on that basis. It doesn’t take long to get really, really weary from that.
People assume that if they can see better than you, they can think better than you, they can think for you.
That position is intellectually bankrupt, but it’s common.
I used to ask sighted people, occasionally when I felt it warranted, “If, God forbid, you went blind overnight would you also wake up stupid?”
My line of reasoning is correct, but it’s also a heavy weight to be lugging around with all the other things blind people need to keep with them to get along every day.
Come Getaway Day you leave that all behind, at least for a week. It feels like you’re shedding a snakeskin.
In beep baseball, sighted pitchers, catchers, spotters, official scorers and umpires interact with blind players as equals. That patriarchal, dismissive attitude is virtually unheard of in the game, very rare.
If you loved baseball as a child as I did, if you love athletics, the competition, the challenge, the fresh air, the sunshine, what’s not to love? And when you realize over time what the game represents in terms of the status of blind people, it takes on a whole other element.
You compete against and get to know peers from around the country and around the world. This is family in the finest sense of the world. They call it “the annual family reunion.”
Many beep baseball teams are on the razor’s thin edge of existence, financially and often in terms of players as well. You spend the spring and summer scraping together enough dough for the travel, a week of hotel bills, probably big 12-passenger vans and the gas to run them.
You fight through it all for love of the game, fight through injuries, distractions. Gradually, then suddenly comes Getaway Day, all the sweeter for having gone through the struggle.
I think of getaway Day and I think of Jazzman, you know, the Carole King song. Why?
Well I just love the song anyway but the lyrics begin with “Lift me, won’t you lift me, above the old routine….”
That’s it. That’s Getaway Day. The saxophone says the rest. What a celebration!
Plus, on getaway Day, everyone’s undefeated! No bad calls have gone against you. No equipment has malfunctioned. It’s all good and it’s all systems go.
If you think I’m some kind of “inspiration” as a beep baseball player, you haven’t been paying attention and you just don’t get it.
I am a right-handed batting infielder, trying to help my team win games, trying to stay hydrated. I’m in the moment, on task and on target. And I’m having fun. I am a regular guy who doesn’t see well.
Are you an “inspiration” when you play on your church league softball team?
Anyway. No Getaway Day for me this year. I came out of retirement last year to play for the USA Legends in a tournament played in a city within easy driving distance of my house. That was a blast, but because of some family stresses and obligations I didn’t have time to get in proper shape for it.
Next year the World Series will be in Norman, Oklahoma, pretty close to home. I’m hoping to play at that series. We will see.
Even though I’m not a prominent player any more, I can still have Getaway Day. Beep baseball is the best thing going for blind athletes and their sighted team mates. God help me not to ever take that for granted.