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September 14, 2017 • Headline News
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Milan Lions welcome Indy Thunder, Beep Baseball World Series Champs

Jared Rogers

“The balls beep and the bases buzz.” “Applause is necessary, but silence is golden.” “Ready, set, pitch!”

Every sport has its lingo, and these unique phrases hail from the world of competitive beep baseball. The game is an adaptation of baseball and softball for the visually impaired, and it just so happens that the best team in the entire world calls Indianapolis home. The Milan Lions Club welcomed the championship team to the Daren Baker Memorial Park in Milan on September 7 as part of an exhibition tour the team is doing to raise awareness of the sport and their success.

Lions Club International is a sponsor of the Indy Thunder, and has long supported vision-related charities as part of its mission. Willing members of the Milan Lions dawned sleep shades to try their hand with the Thunder, taking turns batting, running to bases, and fielding the ball. Thanks to the skilled pitching, most were able to put the ball into play, but the speed of the Thunder fielders was no match for Lions trying to located the buzzing bases. Although the sport may sound new to many outside of its culture, claiming the title of “best in the world” is no small feat for those in the know. The 2017 World Series, held near West Palm Beach, Florida, hosted 22 teams from around the U.S., as well as three international teams from Canada, the Dominican Republic, and Taiwan. The Thunder went 10-1 in the double elimination tournament, handing Taiwan two consecutive defeats in the finals. Taiwan, historically known as a powerhouse in the league, has won five championships. They were favored in the final matchup, even though the Thunder won the World Series in 2016, too, making them reigning champs.

“Everyone said, ‘Indy only won since Taiwan wasn’t there in 2016,’” Thunder founder, general manager, and coach Darnell Booker said, “But they were here in 2017, and we proved we’re the best.”

Prior to the world series, the Thunder had won 28 consecutive matches throughout the regular season. After incurring an early-tournament loss, they battled back to win seven in a row. Three players from the team were present on each of the Offensive All-Star and Defensive All-Star teams, and longtime pitcher Jared Woodard, along with catcher Avery Hunsaker, earned the Pitcher/Catcher award for their accuracy.

Interestingly, the pitcher in a beep baseball game is on the same team as the hitters. The goal is to place the ball in a spot consistent with the player’s swing to ensure a hit into fair territory. This is because all of the athletes, on both sides of the ball, wear blindfolds to ensure a level playing field. (Full blindness is not a requirement to play the sport, though a certain degree of visual impairment is.)

The ball, slightly larger than a softball, contains a beeping mechanism to aid in fielding. Upon a hit into fair territory, one of the two bases, either first or third, randomly selected, begins buzzing to signal to the hitter where to run. If a hitter traverses the 100-foot distance between home plate and the buzzing base before the fielding team locates and gains possession of the ball, a run is scored for the hitting team. If the ball is fielded first, the player is out. The only players not blindfolded are the pitcher, catcher, and two spotting volunteers that are allowed to call out field “zones” to fielders to direct them towards the ball. Games are played for six innings. Due to the auditory nature of the game, fans withhold applause until after the play is over.

The National Beep Baseball Association (NBBA) was founded in 1976, and the Indy Thunder was organized in 2000 by Coach Booker. “We took our lumps in the formative years,” he shares, “But now we’re a true force in the league.” At the highest levels, the sport is indeed fiercely competitive, but there is still a place for everyone.

The ages of players for the Thunder range from 13 to 56. In the NBBA, the oldest active player is 78 years old. The league is co-ed; both men and women play together. Volunteers are necessary for the success of the game, too. From scorekeepers, spotters, and drivers, several members of the Thunder team are quick to praise the volunteer efforts that make their game possible.

The NBBA states that, “Perhaps the greatest contribution of the sport is the important bridge it is creating between the sighted and the visually impaired. Sighted people go away from a beep baseball game with a new appreciation of what blindness is all about. A blind person goes home with the deep satisfaction of overcoming a physical handicap, knowing that they too can play the great ‘American Pastime.’” On a personal level, Adam Rodenbeck, team caption for the Thunder, sums up his appreciation for the sport: “What is most awesome is the freedom to run on your own, with no guide.”

Breaking barriers, building relationships, and fostering passion through sport: this appears to be the essence of beep baseball. To learn more, visit

Versailles man wins State fishing title, heads for national competition

Wanda English Burnett

Chris Scarber, 42, Versailles, is excited about a national fishing contest that is coming up in October. He has won the Big Bass World Championship and will represent the State of Indiana for the second year in a row.

Chris Scarber of Versailles Indiana SUBMITTED PHOTO
Pictured left is Chris Scarber, Versailles, holding one of his big catches

Some people say they are born with a silver spoon in their mouth. Scarber laughs and says he was born with a fishin’ pole in his hand. He said he learned his techniques from his father and grandfather on both sides of the family living right here in Ripley County. Of course, he won’t divulge his techniques or his fishing spots, but over the years, Scarber has enjoyed the sport and brought home some mighty big fish.

He said he fishes about 150 days a year. He said, “Once it’s (fishing) in your blood, it’s in your blood!” And, he added a motto of his own that says if you get a kid hooked on fishing, he won’t have time to get hooked on drugs.

His winning fish this year in Indiana was only 19.5 inches in length and weighed in at 5.39 pounds. He said last year’s was over 10 pounds. Scarber believes the overall scores from the states were smaller this year than usual. He explained that you can compete in more than one state and he has won in Idaho before as well.

At the tournaments sometimes he’s competing against local fishing guides from states where fishing is ongoing year ‘round, some biologist and some pretty seasoned fishermen. “It’s a tougher tournament than you might think,” he noted.

At the upcoming event in Wagner, Oklahoma on Fort Gibson Lake, Scarber stands to win up to $75,000. He noted that this tournament has the largest amateur prize nationwide. Last year he won from Indiana, as well, and met up with a fishing buddy he met in 2000, Kenny Cobb, from Caney Creek, Louisiana. He said they drew for boat partners, and it was neat that 16 years after meeting Cobb they drew and were able to compete on the same boat.
October is a special month for Scarber this year. He’s competing in the national championship, will get to see friends from previous years, and, yes, he’s also getting married. He’s looking forward to the event saying somebody has to win it and he has a one in 52 chance of doing so.

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