The idea for Miracle League began in 1997 in Rockdale, Georgia, when a youth baseball coach started to invite children with disabilities to play on his team. Pretty soon, 4 teams of children with disabilities were formed. By the spring of 1999, the league had gained a lot of support and it became a source of pride for everyone involved. The main concern was the playing surface, which presented hazards for players in wheelchairs and walkers. League members learned there were over 75,000 children with disabilities in metro Atlanta, and they decided to build a unique baseball complex with a special surface. The Miracle League was formed with the belief that all children should have the chance to play baseball.
One little girl named Lauren who was profiled on the Today Show said that the idea was to let the kids do something that nobody thought they could do. Lauren has brittle bone disease and is legally blind. She said that the League allows her to live her dream of playing baseball like her friends. She makes new friends, has fun, and thinks about playing baseball all week. Lauren’s mother said that Lauren would bring home flyers from school for soccer and other sports leagues, but Lauren could never join. Now, Lauren gets to play with children of all ages and disabilities, and her mom says the League has been great for Lauren’s self esteem and physical fitness.
Miracle League is a joy for parents as well. They can watch and laugh with other parents who also have disabled children. Children get the chance to sing the Star Spangled Banner and throw opening pitches, events that often bring tears to their parents’ eyes.
The rules for Miracle League games are as follows:
- Every player bats once each inning
- All players are safe on the bases
- Every player scores a run before the inning is over (last one up gets a home run)
- Community children and volunteers serve as “buddies” to assist the players as they bat and field the ball
- Each team and each player wins every game
With 5.2 million disabled children in the U.S., it is wonderful to have a league where these special children, their families and friends can come together and play America’s favorite pastime. Currently, there are over 250 leagues with over 200,000 participants in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Canada, and Australia, home of the newest league. Miracle League advocates say that there should be a Miracle League in every city.
Indeed, participating in the baseball league has helped disabled children become more confident, social and physically fit. The Today Show profiled several of the first Miracle League children and showed how these kids went on to do well in high school, make the honor roll and become great horseback riders. One little boy won a gold medal at the Special Olympics. The stories of Miracle League children are very touching. As children struggle with setbacks and surgeries, they are able to share and grow with other kids who have similar issues. Regardless of any setbacks, many children insist on making it to the games. A little boy with no eyes suffered a seizure and almost died. But a week later, he was up to bat and laughing with his teammates, family and friends.
Having a disability means children have to deal not only with being sick, but also with feeling different. Miracle League allows children to go “home” with other children and realize that they’re not so different after all.