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Blind baseball club strikes it lucky with lottery funding

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National Lottery funding has been used to help create Wales’ first Blind Baseball Club.

The Swansea-based South Wales Dragons have been set up by RBI Wales, an organisation dedicated to providing more opportunities for playing baseball and softball across Wales.

Last year, RBI were awarded a £4550 grant from Sport Wales’ Be Active Wales Fund – which uses National Lottery money – so that they could buy the equipment needed to run Blind Baseball sessions in Swansea as well as youth baseball sessions in Barry.

Both sessions have since snowballed in popularity, leading to the creation of two fast-growing clubs.

Holly Ireland, Director of RBI Wales, said: “From our initial Blind Baseball sessions, we’re absolutely thrilled to have gradually gained enough players so that we can now create a Blind Baseball team which will be competing in the national Blind Baseball league. This is so powerful because the players on this new team are so excited about being part of something positive, and they’ll potentially be representing their country in international events too.”

Holly added: “What we try to do is give everybody the opportunity to feel that they belong in sport. Nobody should have a barrier to play.” 

In Blind Baseball, each player wears a visor to ensure that they’re all playing with the same level of visual impairment. The sport is played with a ball that has a bell in it, and the batter throws the ball to themself before hitting it. At each base, a facilitator sounds a different noise – either a beep or a clapper – to help the player know in which direction to run on their way to... hopefully... a home run! 

eight players of the baseball team pose for photo
“What we try to do is give everybody the opportunity to feel that they belong in sport. Nobody should have a barrier to play.”
Holly Ireland, Director of RBI Wales

Owen Hathway, Sport Wales’ Assistant Director for Insight, Policy and Public Affairs, said: “Our insight from numerous surveys tells us that people with impairments and disabilities are less likely to participate in sport, so we were pleased to support RBI Wales’ plans for creating a Blind Baseball team. Sport should be accessible for all, and blind baseball is an excellent example of how a sport can be adapted to make it suitable for people who are visually impaired.”

The funding awarded to RBI Wales has also helped them to establish a new youth team in Barry, as Holly explained: “While we were initially planning to run sessions aimed at girls in Barry, we attracted a much larger number of boys than we expected so have been able to create what we hope will become the first competitive American-style youth baseball team coming out of Wales. 

“We’re really grateful for the funding support we have received from Sport Wales and the National Lottery to help grow the sport of baseball. It has been great to see how our players in both Swansea and Barry have developed, not just in terms of their baseball skills but also their confidence, motivation and leadership skills too. Our ambitions for more girls’ baseball aren’t over though – watch this space!”

To find out more about RBI Wales’ opportunities for playing baseball and softball, please visit rbiwales.com or blindbaseballwales.wordpress.com.

Thanks to players of the National Lottery, more than £30 million a week goes to good causes across the UK through initiatives such as Sport Wales’ Be Active Wales Fund. If you would like to find out more about how the Be Active Wales Fund could be used to help develop more sporting opportunities for all members of your local community, please visit www.sport.wales.

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