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“Miracle League” Ball Field Caters to Athletes with Disabilities

Baseball is known as our national pastime. Many kids grow up playing tee-ball, then little league. Some even get the chance to play in high school and beyond. But for some, playing baseball was never an option--until now. KSMU’s Samuel Crowe has this report.

SOUND: Fans cheering

On a lazy spring evening, as the sun sets on Dan Kinney Park in Springfield, a crowd of more than 30 fans cheer on some ballplayers. But these aren’t just any ballplayers--they are “Miracle Leaguers,” playing at the Miracle League Field.

It’s a baseball league that allows those with physical or developmental disabilities to play ball. Once a week, they head to the park to round the bases, play defense, and hit home runs, all with the help of a volunteer “buddy.”

Tonight’s game pits the Athletics against the Royals.

The Miracle League Field is part of the National Miracle League Association. Cyrus Taylor with the Springfield-Greene County Park Board says the Association operates a little differently than traditional baseball, starting with the field.

“It’s a completely flat surface, there are no barriers on it. The bases are flat, there’s no dirt or grass. It’s all a texturized rubber surface. It’s about one third the size of a traditional baseball field. It’s set up so that anyone with any kind of mobility issues, whether it be walker, wheelchair, any kind of gait issues, they’re able to come out and use the field without any obstacles in their way,” Taylor said.

The Miracle League also observes a few special rules – for instance, there are no outs. Each inning, every player gets a chance to hit the ball, reach base safely and score. The last hitter in the inning gets to hit a home run, and at the end of the game as “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is sung, both teams are winners.

SOUND: more cheering

Taylor says encouragement from these crazed fans plays a big part in building self-assurance of the ballplayers. The event is not about competition, it’s about enjoying the spirit of the game.

“This is one of the most heartwarming experiences I’ve ever been a part of. I’ve seen so many people that have been so overjoyed at the fact that they were able to play baseball, many of them for the first time. There have been other issues that have prevented them from playing in the past, but we’ve eliminated a lot of those issues, and we’re thrilled to offer that,” Taylor said.

The Miracle League will run youth games every Monday evening, and an adult game on Thursday evenings, all for the next six weeks. The Miracle League will pic k up again in the Fall. For more information about the Miracle League, visit our website, ksmu.org. For KSMU News, I’m Samuel Crowe.

SOUND: “take me out to the ballgame”