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The Long Island Bombers team plays with the Sea Cliff Glen Head Lions Club. (Photo courtesy the Long Island Bombers)

Long Island Bombers To Play Fundraiser Game In Glen Cove

Educating the community about blindness

On May 11, the Long Island Bombers Beep Baseball team will play the Sea Cliff Glen Head Lions Club at 2 p.m. at John Maccarone Memorial (City)Stadium on Morris Avenue in a fundraiser game.

According to the Long Island Bombers website, beep baseball is played by athletes who are blind or who have a vision disability and are considered legally blind. All players wear blindfolds to even the playing field. They have to sense the ball by hearing it as the ball continuously beeps.

“It’s much like baseball, but it’s modified in that the pitcher pitches to their own team,” President of the Long Island Bombers James Sciortino explained. “You’re helping the batter hit the ball rather than strike them out. So it’s a sighted pitcher and a sighted catcher pitching to the batter, and you’re on the same team… It’s a matter of timing and cadence and putting the swing as consistently as possible in the same place, and the pitcher has to put it there so they can hit it.”

There are only two bases, Sciortino further explained, first and third. The bases have a buzzing mechanism, and the batter has to run to the buzzing base.

“If you score a run, you have to get to the base before the fielder fields the ball, and that’s the run,” Sciortino said. “There’s no base running after that, and it’s a 100-foot base. A pro-baseball base is 90 feet, so it’s 10 feet further than regular baseball. So that’s how a lot of people score a run, to get to the base and score contact before the fielder fields the ball.”

The field is split up into zones, and the fielder will yell out a zone to tell the defense where to converge.

“After that, it’s all based on the beeping of the ball,” Sciortino said. “The ball has a constant beep sound from it. That’s how they field the ball, and if they pick up the ball before the guy gets to the base, it’s an out. If not, it’s a run. And that’s pretty much the game in a nutshell.”

Playing this game requires practice, Sciortino said, and players who are blind from birth adjust quicker to the fielding.

“There’s a lot of fear in that, running into each other,” Sciortino said. “[Players who are blind from birth] adapt quicker to that, where the batting is the other way around, because somebody who is blind from birth may have never batted a ball.”

Sciortino said the approach varies depending on the condition, but all the players wear blindfolds to ensure fairness.

The goal of the Long Island Bombers is to provide athletes who are blind or have a vision disability the opportunity to compete and enjoy a support network while also expanding educational clinics, speaking engagements and demonstrations throughout the entire region.

It was founded by the late Ted Fass in 1995, who led the team until he passed away last September.

“It offers the opportunity to be competitive in a game, which is hard to find for blind people,” Sciortino said. “Beyond that, it offers networking, to be with people like themselves. We have different generations, different ages, it’s from 16 to 60. There may be an older player who’s experiencing a degenerative disease and loss of sight and there may be a younger player going through that, and they offer support.”

Part of the game is also getting over the fear.

“We always challenge sighted people to put the blindfold on and try running to the base,” Sciortino said. “Try experiencing this… It’s a tough thing to do.”

When playing with a team that is not experienced with Beep Baseball, the game is modified so that players do not have to wear blindfolds on the field.
“That would be too dangerous,” Sciortino said. “It’s an all-around fun game.”

Oftentimes, Sciortino added, respect is gained for the Long Island Bombers.

“I’ve been involved with Beep Baseball for 35 years,” Sciortino said. “I can tell you about it, but to experience it is really the seller. When someone comes and really sees how the game is played or even tries it, they’re really impressed.”

Oyster Bay resident John Alutto, a volunteer, fundraiser, and umpire with the Bombers, heard about the team when he was in a tournament in Florida and convinced a friend of his who has a blind son to join.

“I went to the first Bombers practice and I was overwhelmed about what I saw,” Alutto, who leads the Sunset Mets of L.I. Midweek Baseball team, said. “I started talking to Teddy [Fass], and I got some information, where do you play? Who do you play? So I decided I was going to have my Mets team play against his Bombers to raise some money. Then, when I started gathering my players, Pete Munda, a chiropractor in Glen Cove who is one of my players, got really excited because he is a member of the Sea Cliff Glen Head Lions Club, and they’re very active with the blind. Pete convinced me to have the game in Glen Cove, so that’s how it started in Glen Cove.”

Describing baseball as his life, Alutto plays on three teams and sells baseball cards. Giving back to something that was related to baseball was a “no-brainer” for him.

This will be the third year the Bombers compete with the Sea Cliff Glen Head Lions Club in Glen Cove. Alutto said the reception has been “very good.”

“We got a bigger crowd last year than the first year, and I hope we will get a bigger crowd this year,” Alutto said.

Funds raised from the game support the team and its practices, equipment and travel expenses.

“There’s five teams on the East Coast,” Alutto said. “Two in Boston, one in Philly, one in Jersey and us. So when you play somebody, there’s traveling involved. It’s very difficult.”

After the May 11 game, the Bombers will be playing a game in Central Park on May 18, a tournament in East Meadow on June 12 and then another tournament in New Jersey.

“There’s a world series in August and hopefully we’re going to go this year,” Alutto said. “We have enough guys to go, and that’s in Texas. It obviously costs a lot of money to send our team there.”

Whether a fan of baseball or not, Alutto said, spectators get a lot out of these games.

“Everybody stays till the end,” Alutto said. “It’s an awesome thing.”

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