It had been a frustrating morning.
Back in May I was made aware of a baseball team in my home city of Atlanta that played every Saturday during the spring. The team was special for a powerful reason: each of its players was deeply visually impaired, if not completely blind.
At the time I anticipated a tremendously moving story, but I could not find a day to shoot it before their season ended. However, I was told, the team — named the Atlanta Eclipse — would be a part of a truly special event in late July: the World Series of beep baseball.
(The sport is called “beep baseball” because the ball beeps, so that the players can hear it.)
I then learned that the World Series would feature 19 teams from around the country, as well as the defending world champions from Taiwan. Beyond that, it would be held in Columbus, Ga., a mere 90-minute drive from Atlanta.
I got excited. The story, I felt, had great potential; I would simply have to cool my heels for two months until the Series arrived.
But now, nearly two months later, I was frustrated.
I had arranged to shoot a practice several weeks before the Series, but the day beforehand I learned that a majority of the players would be unable to attend, for various reasons. I showed up on a rainy Saturday morning to find just three players — along with their aides and the team’s volunteers and coaches.
Because of that, and because of the weather, I did not have much to shoot. I got whatever video I could, but I knew it would pale in comparison to what I would see at the World Series.
Hence the frustration. No one was to blame, but I found myself spending valuable weekend hours on a shoot that had produced disappointingly little.
So I decided to play.
If I could not get a feel for the game by watching the team practice, I reasoned, perhaps I could learn by doing. I asked if I could take a few swings of batting practice, and the Eclipse players and volunteers happily obliged. One volunteer even recorded it on my iPhone.
OK, a couple of things about this video:
1. It does not show the two minutes that took place beforehand, consisting entirely of swings and misses.
2. At one point, the cameraman says under his breath, “It’s the worst.” I have no idea what he is referencing. My swing? My stride? My shorts-and-sneakers combo? Who is to say …
Mostly, I was struck by how much confidence I lost while blindfolded. When swinging, I learned I could not simply try to crush the ball; I had to control my swing to aim for the same spot every time, so that the pitcher could target that spot with the ball. With running, I felt entirely unassured, and it shows on the video. No longer able to see the ground in front of me, I suddenly felt a good deal of nervousness with each step.
Once I took the blindfold off, I noticed so much more about how the players conducted themselves. I had a greater appreciation for their physical acumen, for sure. But I also realized the faith they needed to have in the volunteers and coaches around them, a quality that applies both on the field and in their general lives. Because they cannot see, they often have no choice but to trust others in certain matters.
I left that day with little video but a lot of perspective.
As it turned out, I did not need the practice video after all. I spent two days at the World Series and recorded more than enough video for a four-minute piece. I do not love everything about this story — I occasionally struggled, for example, to capture the right color and lighting while shooting in the scorching Georgia sun — but I feel like I told a three-dimensional story about three-dimensional people, and I owe quite a bit to the two minutes I spent under the blindfold.
Check it out by clicking on the video at the top of the page, and let me know what you think.
Matt Pearl is the author of the Telling the Story blog and podcast. Feel free to comment below or e-mail Matt at email@example.com.