The world’s first Beep Cricket Match will take place in Morayfield this weekend and could open up sport for the blind and vision impaired.
Sunday will be the debut of a revolutionary ball which, for cricket, emits different sounds to help batsmen, bowlers and fielders locate it.
However, the same microchip technology is also being adapted for soccer and 22 other sports including basketball, hockey, golf, oztag and baseball.
Blind Bats Inc, in Burpengary, is driving the program providing inclusion and an active lifestyle for those with impaired vision, as well as transport to and from events.
Long, hard road
“It’s taken four years and has been a long hard road, but we’ve got there,” Blind Bats Inc President Paul Szep who is vision impaired, said.
The first match will be between a Moreton Bay Regional Council Mayor’s XI and Bats at Devine Court Sports Fields, Morayfield on Sunday, 10am-3pm.
Among the players will be former Australia Test and Queensland wicketkeeper Ian Healey, who is a big supporter of Blind Bats and has made a donation to the organisation.
“Ian Healy is my absolute hero and meeting him was a dream but receiving a donation and being able to chat about the future of Blindies means the world,” Szep, a keeper like Heals, said.
A four-team league will begin next week and go to December with squads having three sighted players and three from each of three different groups of players with impaired vision.
“We’re pulling people in from everywhere. From grassroots. Come in and have a go,” Szep said, of a sport which is for all ages and ability.
Soccer starts in January at Devine Ct and the new technology is already drawing interest from overseas with the US likely to be the biggest market for vision-impaired baseball.
The balls will vary for each sport, but key electronic components - a microchip, battery and speakers embedded inside – remain the same.
It has been adapted from a device already used in cricket, which gave real-time feedback on the speed and revolutions of a ball being bowled.
Blind Bats worked with Gold Coast-based Sportcor on the beeping technology and Kookaburra on the rest of the ball, which has a honeycomb interior to channel the beep sound out.
“iPhone has software to turn ball on and off and Apple is involved in software to select tone of ball you want for each thing it is doing,” Szep said.
“Bounce makes one pronounced sound, going through the air a different sound, on grass … a different sound again.
"Blind people tune in to hear it … and duck before it hits you!” he joked, before showing a traditional ball used for blind cricket, with washers to make a noise.
Rules even out the levels of impaired vision. Those with less sight get more runs for hitting the ball to blue and black circles or out to the white boundary rope.
Initially, funding was in small amounts until a Federal Government grant of $350,000 was secured with help from Member for Longman Terry Young.
Moreton Bay Regional Council has provided and maintains much of the Devine Ct grounds, while Caboolture Sports Club covers the lease and helps Blind Bats.
Blind Bats is partnering with Lions to spread the word and hopes to help set up other centres, using the Moreton Bay template, in such as Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.
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