Ethan Schulman first got involved with serving as a volunteer for the Long Island Bombers Beep Baseball team as a bar mitzvah project. Now a junior at Great Neck North High School, Schulman has helped raise more than $10,000 for the organization, which provides blind people with the opportunity to play baseball.
In a phone interview, Schulman reflected on how rewarding the experience to work with New York’s only team in the National Beep Baseball Association has been since he was around 13 years old. Schulman said one of the first challenges he encountered as a pitching volunteer was helping batters make contact without one of the sport’s most traditional rules.
“The most basic part of hitting is to keep your eye on the ball, but that’s not applicable here,” Schulman said. “You just have to be very descriptive when you’re helping out people. Once you become more comfortable in that setting, it is easier to instruct blind people on how to hit and field in ways they can understand.”
Though the majority of the team is made up of older individuals, Schulman said, the age difference hasn’t impeded him from making new friends. Putting aside the competitive aspect of winning games and realizing the impact the sport has on its players, he said, has been one of the eye-opening experiences as a volunteer.
“I’ve really developed great relationships with all the players, a lot of them I’m really close with,” Schulman said. “Sometimes I get too focused on the baseball aspect of the game, but when someone new comes in and hits the ball, you get reminded of how happy they are and how you’re helping them enjoy the sport.”
Money needs to be raised for the team because the equipment, such as large vertical bases and a beeping baseball, is expensive. Traveling to cities such as Boston and Philadelphia also requires funds.
“Right now, we’re eating bagged turkey sandwiches for every meal on the road, and we’d like to give these guys a better experience and even go to a ton more tournaments,” Schulman said. “This is one of the only outlets that they have to do competitive sports.”
Schulman also helped organize an event on April 24 at Great Neck’s Memorial Park where the Bombers will take on the Great Neck Softball team, which will be blindfolded for the game. Schulman said he hopes the public comes out to see how much the game of beep baseball means to the Bombers and sees the need for donations.
Schulman’s mother, Rachel, said her son’s work ethic and compassion for others is why she is not shocked the volunteer journey he has had with the Bombers has lasted this long.
“He’s just a very giving person,” Rachel said of her son. “He was still a boy when he started to volunteer. To touch the players at the batting cages and putting them in the right position, that was intimidating for a child who never worked with somebody with a disability before.”
Rachel also touted the passion the team has for the sport, with players putting their bodies on the line to make plays.
“All of these players are lifting, diving onto the floor despite the risk of getting hurt,” Rachel said. “It does not surprise me that my son has been inspired to help the team do more.”
More information on the team can be found through the GoFundMe link: https://www.gofundme.com/f/long-island-bombers-beep-baseball. The April 24 event will start at 10:30 a.m. and includes free lunch, live music and prizes including ice cream.