Visit Wichita collaborates with Envision to score international series for athletes who are blind or visually impaired.
Wichita, Kan. (Aug. 7, 2019) – In 2021, the National Beep Baseball Association (NBBA) will bring its World Series to Wichita. The last time Wichita hosted the series was in 1978.
The series offers individuals who are blind or visually impaired an opportunity to compete for a championship, and is one of the most renowned sports events for athletes who are blind or visually impaired. The sport is played with an oversized softball that beeps and lets the batter time their swing.
Visit Wichita was awarded the NBBA World Series of Beep Baseball after a competitive process, which included a bid in Braille and a presentation in front of the NBBA Board of Directors and tournament committee in Tulsa (site of the 2019 NBBA World Series) earlier this month. Envision partnered with Visit Wichita to help create the bid in Braille and will also provide support for the World Series when it takes place in Wichita through promotional assistance, sponsor recruitment, volunteers and sponsorship of the participating Wichita Falcons Beep Baseball team.
“Winning the bid for the 2021 NBBA World Series of Beep Baseball is a testament to the thoughtful bid created by Visit Wichita in collaboration with Envision, and will provide a significant economic boost for the Wichita tourism and hospitality industry,” said Josh Howell, sports sales manager at Visit Wichita. “We are honored and thrilled that the NBBA will bring its most prestigious event, showcasing some of the sport’s most extraordinary athletes, to Wichita in 2021.”
The event will take place July 25 through Aug. 1 at South Lakes Soccer Complex. One team from Kansas – the Wichita Falcons – and approximately 20 teams from across the United States, Canada, and other countries from across the world are expected to travel to Wichita in pursuit of a world championship. Additionally, more than 400 beep baseball players will compete, creating a considerable tourism boost to the local community. The event is expected to generate an estimated 1,500 hotel room nights and nearly $1 million in local economic impact.
“Wichita’s selection for the 2021 World Series of Beep Baseball is a big milestone for our community and its diversity and inclusion initiatives that embrace and promote the talents and contributions of individuals who are blind or visually impaired – which was a major selling point with the NBBA board and selection committee,” said Michael Monteferrante, president and CEO of Envision. “Through Envision, Wichita is already one of the largest providers of services, programs and employment for people with vision loss in the nation. Hosting this tournament will only increase our city’s stature as a destination for people of all abilities.”
Beep baseball originated in 1964, when Charlie Fairbanks, an engineer with a telephone company, implanted a beeping device in a softball as a way of encouraging athletes who are blind to become involved in recreational activities. Eleven years later, beep baseball enthusiasts formed the National Beep Baseball Association (NBBA) in Chicago. Ever since, the league has played a full schedule of games that begins in the spring and ends in late July or early August.
“Beep baseball empowers individuals to learn about being part of a team, how to build a team, becoming physically fit, increasing self-confidence and competing against others across the United States, Canada, and various other countries annually, for the honor of being champion," said Blake Boudreaux, President of the NBBA.
During the NBBA World Series of beep baseball, teams first compete in grouped round robin play to determine seeding. The tournament then continues as a double elimination tournament to determine the champion. Under this format, teams are guaranteed a minimum of six games, with most teams playing an average of nine.
Beep baseball has many distinctions from the traditional format of baseball. Listed here is a summary of the differences:
- A beep baseball game lasts six (6) innings. Each game involves a 16-inch softball that contains a noisemaking “beep.” When a pin is pulled from the ball, the beeping noise begins, allowing players to better follow the ball.
- All players wear blindfolds. While some players are completely blind, others have very limited sight capabilities. The blindfolds serve as an equalizer, a fair way to level the playing field, ensuring that all players are essentially sightless when playing the game.
- The pitchers, who are typically sighted, throw the ball from 20 feet away. Pitchers are teammates of the hitters, so they actually try to groove each pitch toward the same spot to maximize the hitter’s rate of success. According to baseballhall.org, the only sighted players on the field are "pitchers, catchers and spotters that help to prevent serious collisions."
- Each hitter has up to four strikes, instead of the usual three. When a hitter makes contact, he or she then runs to one of two “bases,” which are located to the left and right of where the first and third base bags would normally be. If the batter reaches one of the two designated bases before the fielding team gains control of the ball, a run is tallied for the offensive team. If the fielding team controls the ball before the batter reaches the goal, the batter is considered out. As in regular baseball, each team receives three outs before having to take its defensive position in the field.
- There is no second base. First and third bases, four-foot padded cylinders with speakers, are placed one hundred feet down the respective lines and ten feet outside the foul lines. The bases contain sounding units that give off a continuous buzzing noise when activated.
- A player does one of three things when batting: hit the ball and be put out by the defense, hit the ball and score a run, or strike out. A batter is allowed four strikes and one pass ball.
Visit Wichita is proud to host the World Series again, bringing it back to Wichita after more than 40 years. "The players’ entire families come with them. They'll likely visit iconic Wichita landmarks like the Keeper of the Plains, the city’s distinct downtown districts and many of our world-class museums and attractions,” said Brian Hargrove, executive director of sports development at Visit Wichita. “It’s another opportunity for a sporting event to draw in visitors from across the country and showcase what an amazing sports city Wichita is, and we can’t wait to play host in the summer of 2021.”
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About Visit Wichita
Visit Wichita markets the Greater Wichita area and advocates for the city as a destination, increasing travel and tourism as a key economic driver for the city, county, region and state. Visit Wichita is led by president and CEO Susie Santo, and in 2018 travel and tourism contributed more than $1.1 billion in economic impact to the greater Wichita area.