How to Play, Join, Donate

Kirstyn “Kiki” Smith is a founder of the Rochester Area Blind Athletes, a non-profit organization based in the Greater Rochester region.

The nonprofit, Smith said, is a mental and physical health vehicle for people with vision loss. The organization also provides skills building and education as a corollary.

“Growing up as a legally blind youth, my position was always on the bench. Beep Baseball got me off the pine tree and onto the field, on equal terms with my blind competitors and teammates,” said Smith.

Smith is also a member of Rochester’s Beep Baseball team, the Rochester Area Pioneers, which was founded in 2015, when the Beep Baseball World Series was held locally. Teams from around the world gathered in Rochester for the event.

“Other members of the blind community and I made our first team, we came in last. We had so much fun though. We created a network and have been doing it ever since,” Smith mused.

The National Beep Baseball Association was founded in 1976 in Chicago, according to its website. The sport is a modified version of baseball where the ball makes a beeping sound, the bases make a buzzing sound, and the players—no matter how much vision they have left—wear a blindfold to level the playing field.

People with vision loss rely on face-to-face interaction to meet and learn from other blind people—for those left without them to navigate their world without perspective.

Over the past two years, indoor gatherings have been restricted to varying degrees, but outdoor sports — a social lifeline for the blind community — have held out.

Baseball as a lifeline

Kirstynu

Smith was born seeing. At the age of eight, she was diagnosed with uveitis, a degenerative autoimmune disease.

Progression was steady and over the years Smith eventually lost total light detection.

“I refused to admit that I was blind for most of my life until I found Beep Baseball,” she said.

After the team’s debut and first loss in the 2015 Beep Baseball World Series in Rochester, Smith kept the group organized to keep trying.

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