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Batter (and blindfold) up! Beepball game set for Ballpark Village

It's a little early for baseball at Busch Stadium, but this weekend you can catch a game of beepball just outside the stadium.

Beepball is a version of softball, adapted for people who are blind or visually impaired. Along with some slight modifications of the rules, it features a beeping ball and two buzzing bases. Players wear blindfolds, except for the pitcher and catcher, who are actually on the same team, and two spotters.

JonathanClemons was the 2013 Ultimate Beepball Tournament MVP. An ACL injury took him out of competition in 2014, but he will be playing in Saturday's tournament.

Clemons has Retinitis pigmentosis, a rare disease that causes retinal degeneration. He grew up playing baseball, football and running track before his vision became too impaired to play sports. He discovered beepball through work, Lighthouse for the Blind–St. Louis. That youth baseball experience has come in handy in beepball, he said.

“Truth be told it’s really not challenging to me because I played baseball for so long,” Clemons told “Cityscape” host Steve Potter on Friday. “I just had to learn how to visualize in my mind where the ball was going to be.”

Lighthouse for the Blind–St. Louis provides employment, education and support services for the visually impaired. 

“Seventy-five percent of blind and visually impaired people are unemployed, which is why our mission is so important,” said Brian Houser, Lighthouse's director of marketing and sales.

With two manufacturing plants, one in Overland and one in Berkley, Lighthouse employs 8o workers, 50 of whom are blind or visually impaired. 

“We’re not a workshop,” Houser said. “We pay prevailing wages. It’s a great place to work, and a great place to be a part of.”

Minds Eye Radio also provides services for the blind, and has about 13,000 listeners in the St. Louis metro area. It airs local newspaper and magazine stories, as well as grocery ads, to help keep listeners independent and self-reliant, said Jason Frazier, Minds Eye's community outreach coordinator. Listeners can stream Minds Eye Radio online, download an app, or use a specially-designed handheld box radio that plays the station.

In the last nine years, the local beepball tournament has grown from four to 24 teams. And it's not limited to those with visual impairments: Anyone can play, Frazier said. Saturday’s game will include a brief ceremony to honor those who have helped spread the world of beepball.  

Related event

Vision for the Game Celebration

  • When: 9 a.m. April 4, 2015
  • Where: Infield of Busch Stadium II at Ballpark Village, 700 Clark Ave., St. Louis
  • More information

“Cityscape” is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.

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