Roger Keeney, 67, has played Beep baseball for 38 years, making some 20 World Series appearances. Growing up, Keeney's sight was considered "low vision." He was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a disease that leads to a decrease in vision over the course of several years.
Through college, Keeney was still driving and riding motorcycles legally, but that changed in 1990 on his farm in New York. A piece of machinery broke and hit him in the head. When he woke up, he couldn't see.
These days, hitting a ball he can't see comes easier to Keeney than finding a paying job. The father of two has a master's degree in therapeutic recreation and is working on his doctorate in adapted physical education. He is the founder and volunteer executive director for a non-profit group that organizes adapted sports activities in Athens and surrounding areas. Keeney hopes that as the group's funding increases, he'll be able to draw salary.
Keeney said he has often passed over for jobs because he's blind.
"Blind folks can do nearly any job that you can do except for maybe drive down the road. It is hard for employers to believe that we can do the job," said Keeney from his home in Athens, a college town about 70 miles east of Atlanta.
"On paper, I'm number one or number two every time I apply for anything. But as soon as I walk through the door of the office to the interviewer with my white stick, you can feel the mood in the room change," he said. "You can physically feel the change. And the attitude is prevalent that this person can't do the job they've applied for."
Many afternoons, Keeney practices in his front yard, swinging a baseball in the air. No ball is thrown, no bases are run. It's just Keeney with his 9-year-old daughter Alexis yelling "ball!" to emulate the words of the pitcher before the windup.
Keeney approaches the sport as seriously as he would a job, hooked on the belief that he can achieve things that at first may have seemed unachievable, even to him.
"It's hard to believe that you're going to be able to stop that ball out in the field with your body and pick it up when it's been hit and it's rolling hard or flying hard across the field," said Keeney, smiling. "It's a rush you will never forget. Do the impossible and then nothing is impossible."
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