MSOE baseball giving visually-impaired kids a chance to play

With the world changed because of COVID-19, the return of events that had to be canceled is so special.

That’s the case this year for dozens of kids.

For the first time since 2019, the sounds of baseball, Beep Baseball, are back on the Milwaukee School of Engineering campus.

“We’ve got a baseball, or a beep game over here and skills over here,” said MSOE baseball coach Steve Sanfilippo. “So, it’s really exciting this morning.”

Always an energetic guy, Sanfilippo has some extra juice with kids here again.

“The energy that these kids are giving me this morning, the smiles, the excitement, it hits close to home to my heart, and it feels really good to do,” Sanfilippo said.

Second-grader Norah Spindler is loving the opportunity Vision Forward and MSOE are providing her with this program.

It’s something very special for her mom Andrea as well.

“I love it,” said Andrea Spindler. “It really warms my heart that she has the opportunity to come to these things. And for them putting it on is so special.”

Norah and about 50 other kids who are blind or visually impaired are getting the chance to play a game they might not be able to play otherwise.

“We have a number of the different pieces of equipment that use auditory cues,” said Vision Forward Director of Operations Jaclyn Borchardt. “So, beeping balls, beeping bases that allow kids to their sense of hearing to be able to participate. So, it’s a nice way we can make this sport accessible.”

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Helping the kids play are the MSOE baseball players like senior pitcher Cole Wilson.

“I’m in class right now, but I took it off to be able to come out here and see the people and be around the people,” said Wilson. “This is more important than anything I’m going to learn in the classroom or anything that I’m going to do on the baseball field. This is bigger than sports.”

Wilson and his teammates are having a huge impact on these kids and their families.

“It helps to build confidence as well,” said Spindler. “They get that special one-on-one, and they feel like they’re a part of something, and it’s really neat.”

“I think that this is something that shows the kids what they can aspire to and who they can become,” Borchardt said. “I can’t say enough about the commitment of the MSOE baseball team and their players. And they’re just so dedicated to making this fun for the kids.”

And they’re all hoping the experience will stay with the kids well after it ends.

“If they get an opportunity to do this again, hopefully they will go out and play baseball,” said Sanfilippo.

“I hope that they take that they can do more than they think they can,” Wilson said.

According to Vision Forward, 70 percent of school-age children who are blind have never participated in any sport or physical activity.

So, with programs like this, they’re trying to reduce that number.

The last time they had this event, 18 kids participated. This year, 51 kids came out.

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