The cigarettes of the bases and the telltale sounds of the assistants who clap their hands marking the path and dimension of the diamond, are the first sign that one is witnessing something surreal, on the verge of being trapped in a baseball atmosphere that touches the most sensitive human being.
Face to face, two mixed teams of women and men roll a rubber ball with several holes and a bell inside, which seems to explode when it hits the aluminum bats. It’s baseball, it’s baseball, that passion that we Cubans have in common, although in this particular case it presents some differences with the traditional game.
In baseball for the blind and visually impaired, to begin with, there are no pitchers, the figure that usually serves as the starting point in the middle of the diamond. Here the batters are the main protagonists, those who have the key to activate the magic of the sport of balls and strikes with their connections.
At home plate, the offensive player bats and has three swings to put the ball in fair territory. If he hits three fouls he’s out, if he swings three times in the air he’s also retired via strikes. For the rest, the principle of the game is the same as we know: the team that scores the most runs wins.
A priori, it does not seem so complicated, but we must bear in mind that this is done by people with total or partial vision impairments. In addition, everyone is given a mask to stimulate and develop orientation, coordination and hearing, vital skills in their day to day life, far from the spiritual and mental refuge that the baseball field represents.
Yes, because the ball has been for more than 20 years an ideal space for the growth, improvement and satisfaction of blind and visually impaired people in Cuba, where this modality came from Italy. In the European country, it emerged as an official sport with its rules and adjustments according to the condition of the competitors, although before – it is estimated that in the 70s – it had already been played recreationally in the United States.
Cuba, land of baseball, took its first organizational steps at the beginning of this century in order to contribute to the social inclusion of the blind, who found a new opportunity and the way to fulfill their dreams as baseball players.
Since then, the movement has been growing gradually on the basis of technical references and personnel with experience in the modality. After years of preparation, organization and development, more than ten teams are involved in the practice of the discipline, which has given Cuba international medals in 2015 and 2017.
At the first of these events, held in France, our squad arrived with the debutant poster and returned with the crown, and later they obtained a silver medal in another tour of foreign diamonds, proof that baseball runs deep in the Cuban the soul.
With these evidences of growth, baseball for the blind and visually impaired seeks to establish itself in the country, where they have the support of the Cuban Baseball Federation, although they are not yet part of it, a step they aspire to take in order to have stronger support.
At the moment, and after a prolonged period of inactivity due to the pandemic, they have already managed to reactivate projects and return to competitive games on the field, where you feel that each run, each batted or fielded ball is a dream come true and achieved. There, trapped in the infinite magic of the diamond, each moment is full of infinite energies that make you reflect and confirm that life is beautiful.