Adelphi hosts Camp Abilities, a weeklong sports camp for young people with visual impairments. There, Matthew Puvogel and the Long Island Bombers, in a demonstration of beep baseball.

By Charity Shumway

“It’s a dangerous sport, I have to admit it, but it’s a lot of fun.”—Matt Puvogel ’06

Enabled by a Beeping Ball and Buzzing Bases

Each summer, Adelphi hosts Camp Abilities, a weeklong sports camp for young people with visual impairments. At Camp Abilities this year, as he has for the last eight years, Matthew Puvogel ’06 will join his team, the Long Island Bombers, in a demonstration of beep baseball.

Beep baseball is an adaptive version of baseball, named for the beeping ball pitched to visually impaired batters who, after hitting the ball, then run to buzzing bases.

Mr. Puvogel started playing beep baseball during his junior year at Adelphi. He’d first heard of the sport almost two years earlier, at a conference where he presented on his experiences as a visually impaired student at Adelphi and the support he’d found through the University’s Office of Disability Support Services. But even after learning about beep baseball, he took a while to warm to the idea. As he says, “It sounds crazy! You’re blindfolded and a ball is flying at you, and you can’t see it.” 

Ultimately, Mr. Puvogel came around. “It’s a dangerous sport, I have to admit it, but it’s a lot of fun,” he says. Joining the Long Island Bombers, though, has been a lot more than just fun for Mr. Puvogel, who has been losing his sight progressively. “There’s a whole range of vision loss on the team,” he explains. “It’s a team, but it’s also a coping mechanism, seeing how other people deal with their blindness.”

Through the team, Mr. Puvogel met a number of mentors including his future boss, Matthew P. Sapolin, who was able to hire Mr. Puvogel after graduation as a mayoral office assistant in the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. Now, Mr. Puvogel works for the City of New York on issues ranging from service dog assistance to adaptive sports and handicap parking awareness. 

While his work keeps him busy, his commitment to the Long Island Bombers has never flagged. He continues to appreciate the challenge of the game, and play one of the sport’s hardest positions—directly behind the pitcher, who is just 20 feet from the batter. Mr. Puvogel has excelled at the position, and he posted the third best defensive performance at last July’s National Beep Baseball Association World Series in Ames, Iowa. 

“You can’t have any fear. You’re running into a base. You’re hitting a wall. You’re focusing on the abilities you have,” he says. And now, as a young professional and a player with years of experience, Mr. Puvogel is in the position to mentor new players just as he was once mentored. “I’m only 28, and you can play Beep Baseball till you’re in your 60s,” he says. “I’m going to play for as long as I can.”

This piece appeared in the Adelphi University Magazine Fall 2012 edition.

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