DUNSTABLE – The crack in the bat may conjure up images of a home run on the Green Monster, but recent UMass Lowell graduate Benjamin McEvoy is hoping to score with an all-new game designed for players often left behind in the sport.
Imagined during a family trip to the beach in the summer of 2016, McEvoy spotted two young children trying to play a game of Wiffle Ball and having some difficulty trying to play all positions.
There had to be an easier way, McEvoy thought.
This image of these two children on the beach quickly became closer to his passion for helping people with intellectual and physical disabilities. The result was Benji Ball, a McEvoy game designed with players of varying skill levels at heart.
Batters swing on a 10-sided, dice-like ball. Each side represents a different result that a player can achieve in the game.
“If you and I were in the backyard and we tested him and I threw, I wouldn’t have to chase him and grab him to get you out,” McEvoy said. “It almost incorporates a little game of chance, so when you hit it the side that lands upward determines the outcome of the attack with the bat.”
For the Benji Ball bat, McEvoy took inspiration from the barrel of a baseball bat and the flat end of a cricket bat.
As he tested the game with Miracle League, an organization that offers children with physical and intellectual disabilities the opportunity to play baseball, he found it worked unexpectedly.
“The flat surface of my bat pretty much eliminates foul balls,” McEvoy said. “When I got to test the bat and the ball it was great to see that they were getting some hits in play and they could get some solid hits and actually enjoy it,” said McEvoy.
Before, McEvoy said, players felt disheartened if they hit a foul ball. This meant they had to get back to their fight, losing the excitement they had when they thought they had a hit.
McEvoy first came to the Miracle League where a friend of his from Groton-Dunstable Regional High School was participating. They met while he was volunteering for the school’s Providing Academic / Professional Experience program.
Another advantage of Benji Ball is its flexible rules, said McEvoy, which can be adapted according to the number of players and their needs. The game only requires a minimum of 2 players and can be expanded to have as many as you want.
“Depending on who is playing, you can meet the rules,” McEvoy said. “For Miracle League for example, there are kids who are able to move perfectly sideways left and right, quickly, forward and backward. Then there are others who are not able to do the same, they may be limited to a wheelchair, a walker or a cane so this is where that helps them. In a traditional baseball game, if you hit it to say second base, and the second baseman throws it to first and you come out of it, well some of those kids might not have the opportunity to reach the first goal as quickly as some of the others because of their mobility.
While studying at UMass Lowell, McEvoy trained the game as part of the Rist DifferenceMaker Institute. He worked with the institute while also playing the role of goalie with the ice hockey team.
The institute is named after former Brian Rist, who contributed $ 2 million to establish the institute. As part of his involvement, McEvoy was able to compete in three separate competitions and earn nearly $ 14,000 for his game.
Holly Lalos, director of the Rist DifferenceMaker Institute, met McEvoy in the summer of 2018 when he became involved with the program.
“Ben was very motivated by his idea,” said Lalos.
Lalos saw his passion for helping others. As he followed the program, she saw the scope of his project widen.
“I think from the start, until now, the scope of the project has stayed in his line of vision. But I also think that through more research and discussions with more schools, its target market has grown, ”Lalos said.
Lalos added that as McEvoy researched and used his relationships with different organizations, he was able to build on the accessibility components of the game. Getting involved during the summer probably helped him. given an advantage.
“It was good that he came this summer as it gave him more time to work on his idea of the start of the semester and the start of the various competitions.” Lalos said.
Now pursuing his postgraduate career in the finance industry, Lalos and McEvoy continue to communicate on the development of Benji Ball.
“By participating in the DifferenceMaker competitions, I was able to be introduced to people who graduated from school many years ago and who are now running their own businesses or who are doing very well in their own field of work and that has me. leads to having amazing connections and mentors that I can lean on for information I might not know or different advice on different avenues like how to complete a project, ”said McEvoy.
These connections include other UMass Lowell alumni and invisaWear co-founders Rajia Abdelaziz and Ray Hamilton, who have founded a company that produces jewelry capable of alerting emergency contacts and 911 dispatchers. Abdelaziz and Hamilton also participated in the Rist DifferenceMaker Institute.
Currently there are two prototype balls and a bat. McEvoy said a bat broke during testing, which was part of the learning process. Its original manufacturer turned to the production of personal protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic. However, he used the downtime to network and expand marketing as he searched for a new manufacturer.
As he continues to develop Benji Ball, McEvoy doesn’t want to forget where he came from. One important thing for him is to make sure that Groton-Dunstable schools have access to the game, whether it’s for physical education classes or after-school programs.
“I owe them pretty much all of my success in college because they made me who I am today in terms of a more compassionate, patient person and just wanting to give back to people,” McEvoy said.