DENVER – From beeping softballs to blindfolded batters and bases that look like football pylons, it’s clear that Beep Ball is not the ordinary ball game.
But it’s a game with deep roots in Colorado.
The Baseball Hall of Fame credits the creation of the game to Colorado telephone engineer Charles Fairbanks. The Hall’s website says Fairbanks created the game in 1964 and that 12 years later, the National Beep Baseball Association was founded.
“I think it was his daughter who was visually impaired and wanted to play baseball,” lead Beep Ball volunteer John Cruz said.
Cruz now leads the volunteer team that assembles the special balls and bases that are used in games around the world. They meet every week at the Colorado Talking Book Library, and the equipment they make is shipped to 42 teams all over the world.
“I ship balls to Taiwan, Canada, Costa Rica. I've had interest from Australia, Europe,” Cruz said.
Creating the beep balls is not quick. First, they have to meticulously remove the factory stitching before drilling a carefully measured hole into the core of the ball. Inside that hole, they place a cylinder with a circuit board that has the battery-operated beeper. At that point, they need to stitch the ball shut and drill more holes so the beeping can be heard.
“I love doing this. Hopefully, you know that they can get out there and have fun play,” said volunteer Carlos Estrada who, like Beep Ball’s founder, used to work in the telephone industry. “It's incredible what those people can do.”
State Librarian Nicolle Davies said it’s fitting that the Colorado Talking Book Library shares its space with the Beep Ball volunteers. She said the staff of both share a passion for serving the state’s low and no vision community.
“They're bringing joy to people, and they're bringing an opportunity for individuals who wouldn't normally be able to access athletics,” Davies said. “They're bringing that opportunity together, and, again, there's great passion with this group.”
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