Photo by Steve Shay
Burien resident Kevin Daniel, 46, has been visually impaired his whole life due to a genetic condition. He is the Lighthouse for the Blind job recruiter in Seattle, & is organizing Seattle's only blind baseball team. The balls beep to help the visually impaired hear the ball before swinging.

Blind baseball expansion team to come; Burien man to organize

While the anticipated return of the NBA Sonics is still a jump ball, an expansion team from the NBBA league should arrive in Seattle shortly. The NBBA is the National Beep Baseball Association, and although it may not garner the same excitement citywide as an NBA team, those who will participate, the blind and visually impaired, will probably be as thrilled as anyone playing on a court, or field. The 'Beep' refers to the beeping devise contained inside a one-pound, 16-inch softball that allows players to hear a ball they cannot see.

Burien resident Kevin Daniel, 46, has been visually impaired his whole life due to a genetic condition. He is the Lighthouse for the Blind job recruiter in Seattle, the home office serving Spokane, Colorado, Northern California, San Diego, and other areas. Before he was transferred to Seattle he worked at their Spokane location. There, he began the Spokane Pride, a new NBBA team. Now he is at it again. The Lighthouse for the Blind and the NBBA are not affiliated.

The Seattle South King Sluggers will be the 28th team in the 35 year-old NBBA league, he said. Every year this culminates into a world series championship. This year it will be in Columbus, Georgia. The South King Council of the Blind has started the Seattle baseball program. Daniel, a member, has been asked to lead it.

"Our goal is to be the best in the country," said Daniel of his team. "I love the competition. Being visually impaired in competition, I just get excited. If it was just for fun I wouldn't like it. I want to capture any blind individual who wants to have fun, and also wants to be part of a competitive team. We need great people to work together to bring the world series back to Seattle. Talent isn't a prerequisite."

He said those with the desire can learn. Rules differ from traditional baseball. Men and women play together. The game is played with six fielders, a first baseman, (no second base exists) third baseman, shortstop, left fielder, right fielder and center fielder, and two "spotters" who are sighted. The pitcher and catcher are on the same team as the batter. Fielders and batters are blindfolded to make things equal as some of course have partial sight.

Daniel explained, "The pitcher says, 'Ready, ball, pitch', so we detect the timing by listening. If a line drive is coming toward someone's face, the spotter can get in the way to protect them, or yell, 'Duck!'

"We want to broaden everybody's understanding through beep baseball," he said. "We're competitive, spirited, and love to be around each other. We are going to try to let everyone know, even in the blind community, that all the team work and team concepts you get by playing sports growing up can not be devoid of the blind community."

Daniel was raised in Indianapolis. His mother was a nurse and his father worked in the Chrysler foundry for 33 years. His dad idolized Lee Iacocca and always got to drive the latest Dodge Charger. When they learned of their son's blindness, they enrolled him in the Indiana School for the Blind, located in their home town. Daniel was a good wrestler there, and learned beep ball at age 12 or 13 and loved it. The school was introduced to the sport by the civic volunteer organization, the Liberty Bell Pioneers, now the Verizon Liberty Bell Pioneers.

When Kevin, his wife, Marsha, and their 15 year-old son, Thadius, moved here from Spokane, he didn't know many people here. He credits Burien resident Marlaina Lieberg, an activist for the blind, and an officer of the American Council of the Blind, for opening the door to the blind community here for him. The Highline Times featured Marliana and her husband, Gary, a Vietnam pilot paralyzed and now in a wheelchair, in an Oct., 2012 article. The Liebergs moved into a Burien Town Square condo with ADA standards and became active with the Burien Lions Club thanks to their neighbor down the hall, the iconic Georgette Valle.

Daniel said he hopes the Seattle South King Sluggers will play its first game May 18, and that Mariana has been a help on the organizing committee. They are applying for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, and are searching for sponsors to help with uniforms, bats, and beeping bases and balls.

"Baseballs cost $35 a piece, and $20 to repair," Daniel said. "Some of our bigger hitters can hit the beeper out of the ball."

To sponsor the team, donate money for equipment, or to play or volunteer, contact Kevin Daniel at (206) 979-5616, or email: kdaniel29@ymail.com

Visit: www.NBBA.org.

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