THE FIRST FIELD IN CONYERS, GEORGIA
According to Dean Alford, the first executive director of The Miracle League organization in Conyers, Georgia, the idea of building specially equipped baseball fields was born in Georgia when a boy in a wheelchair showed up to play in a youth baseball program. One of the coaches took the boy as a member of his team. After that, Georgia’s Rockdale Youth Baseball Association organized games for 35 players with special needs. Soon it became evident that, while the idea was extremely well received by the children and their families, conventional baseball fields were inadequate for children with disabilities.
The grassy turf was very difficult for their wheelchairs, walkers and braces to navigate and bumps and the irregular surface made moving around the field awkward and dangerous. This spawned the idea to build a field with a special surface that was safe and easy to navigate for those with disabilities. A field was designed with a custom synthetic turf and handicapped accessible dugouts, restrooms and drinking fountains. This was the beginning of what is now called The Miracle League.
The Miracle League is where physically and mentally challenged children are paired with able-bodied volunteer “buddies” who assist them in batting, catching, throwing and running. Every child gets a turn at bat and in the outfield and every child crosses home plate. The point of the game is less about baseball and more about fun! The benefits gained by everyone involved are tremendous. The child’s self esteem grows, he or she makes friends, becomes less isolated and “just becomes a regular kid, not a kid with a disability.”
Alford says, “The thing I have learned from these kids is that when you give a kid a ball, no matter what their abilities or disabilities, they will play with it, they will play together with other kids and they will try to do things they have never tried before,” he says. “Sports are important for kids of all ages and abilities and we have kids who are doing things at a level that doctors have said were impossible for them.”
“Seeing them so proud of themselves and so excited, seeing the smiles — that is worth all the effort.”