The Cashin advisory tests out their blindfolds. Photo by member of the Athens Timberwolves.
“Ready, set, ball,” Upper School French teacher Jami Cashin calls out as she pitches the beeping ball to her advisee Steven Holder. Holder sits at home plate, blindfolded, waiting to hear the ball so he knows when to swing. If he hits the ball, a base will begin to buzz and Holder will have to run blindly to the base before the other blindfolded people in the outfield pick up the ball.
This past month, Athens Academy asked Upper School advisories to participate in random acts of kindness for both the Athens Academy community and the greater Athens community. My advisory, the Cashin advisory, decided to connect with the community through blind baseball.
My advisory joined the Athens Timberwolves blind baseball team at Southeast Clarke Park on Feb. 23 for one of their practices. We got to try out the sport with people like John Still, who has been playing the sport since 2014. Still was born with ocular myopathy, which caused a deformation of his eyes and his loss of eyesight.
When asked about why it is important for those with sight to try the sport, Still said, “It is important because it gives them a sense of what it is like to be physically challenged.”
After playing against Still and his team, Holder was the only one on the Cashin team able to hit any runs and was also the only one with baseball experience.
“I think it was a very good opportunity to get out there and see what it was like, but also we need to compete better next time and win some ball games,” Holder said.
The team was completely blindfolded while we were out in the field and whenever we came up to bat. The only people who were allowed to not have a blindfold on were the pitchers, catchers, and the spotter in the outfield; everyone else on the team was sightless.
The advisory did their best to work around not having sight, but being blindfolded came with a lot of challenges. Some of these challenges were hard to overcome. For example, we struggled with communication across the field, and even small things like walking out to the outfield became difficult.
Wyatt Sears (middle) hits a baseball while blindfolded; Jami Cashin (left) pitches. Photo by Alexis Keeney.
“It is kind of disorienting to not know where you are. Sometimes I took off my blindfold and realized I was facing the other way,” Holder said.
Nylah LaVigna, another Cashin advisee, refused to take her blindfold off and wanted to be fully immersed in the sport. LaVigna was fully committed to trying her best in the sport, even when she did not have any experience playing regular baseball.
“It was cool to be put in the shoes of the blind people and be able to enjoy the experience with them,” LaVinga said. “(My favorite part was) being submerged fully in the whole thing and just knowing we made them a little happier by being a team they could practice with.”
The Cashin advisory experienced something they had never done that day. We had our challenges, and we played far from perfect baseball, but we were opened to a whole new world of sports because Athens Academy gave us the opportunity to go out and spread kindness. Now more than ever, we need to find ways to spread kindness and explore new opportunities, even while sheltering in place.