It’s time for blind athletes in southern California to lace up their cleats and step into the box.
With the formation of the San Gabriel Valley Panthers, and the dream of many more teams on the way, Darren Keepers is working to ensure blind and visually impaired athletes across California have an outlet for competition and comradery for many years to come.
- Blind baseball team keeps their ears on the ball. South Pasadena News (August 16, 2018)
- South Pasadena blind man has vision for a beep ball team. – KTTV (August 17, 2018)
Having lost his sight at the age of 5, Keepers is a huge baseball fan and loves the opportunity for athletic competition. He started the Panthers with an email to the league’s outreach team in January 2018, and only a few months later, the team held their first practice on May 2.
“Southern California lacks most of the sports for the blind,” says Keepers. “I really think SoCal has a huge void to fill, so my group is planning to add as many as 10 teams in California including the Stingrays.”
Now, almost nine months later, the Panthers have seven consistent players, a pitcher and a couple of dedicated volunteers. Their biggest challenge has been finding a convenient location to consistently hold practice.
“In SoCal, we can practice year round,” says Keepers, “The main challenge has been locating a field. Los Angeles is not spread out like other Beep Ball areas. We have parks, but they are constantly being used for Little League, Soccer and other sports.”
Keepers hopes the team will soon find a location to hold practices on Saturdays, which should help draw a larger crowd of players and volunteers. The team hopes to send 12 players and eight volunteers to the 2019 World Series next July.
“Our hope is to build out the California league, so we can compete a few times a month. Playing other teams competitively, will get our players ready for the World Series and other regional tournaments. We want to raise as much awareness of our sport we can and hopefully SoCal will host a World Series in the next 3 to 5 years,” says Keepers.