Sitting back and watching their children participate in a sporting event is something many parents of challenged children never have the opportunity to do. That’s something Miracle League of Edmond has changed.
Margo Price, director of the program, said this year marks Miracle League’s fourth season in its current form. The newer program took the place of a similar organization called Adaptive Baseball League of Edmond (ABLE).
Originally begun in Georgia in 1998, Miracle League supports the idea that has become a catch phrase—“Every child deserves a chance to play baseball.” According to the organization’s website (www.miracleleague.com) 180 Miracle Leagues teams exist across the nation and the number is constantly changing.
Price, the mother of three, became involved with the program when her youngest son James (now 18) was in sixth grade. She said he loved sports, but everyone realized he didn’t have the skills necessary to participate with “mainstream” students due to his autism. Putnam City had a sports program for people with special needs, but that was too far away for the family to travel. So Price came up with her own solution.
“I’ll start my own!” she announced, explaining that she had heard about Miracle League and decided to start her own franchise of the organization.
That first baseball season began with ten kids in 2000. The group was allowed to use the Edmond All-Sports Field on Sunday afternoons when it was not already scheduled for use.
Since those early days, Miracle League has expanded to include eight teams. Growth of the program meant a need for more accommodating facilities as well. Thanks to corporations, grants and donations from individuals, Price raised $100,000 to build the specialized Miracle League Field at Edmond’s Mitch Park.
“It’s made of recycled tires and is about three inches thick,” Price said, adding that the standard-sized field is made of hexagon-shaped tiles and painted to look like a baseball diamond. The bases are flat and the dugouts have been enlarged to make room for participants with wheelchairs. The entire field is gated and fenced to ensure the safety of players. The first game played on the new field was in the spring of 2005.
As for the players, Price said she has children as young as four years old to adults in their mid-twenties with various disabilities and degrees of functioning. Each season lasts about ten weeks with four games being held each week—on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The younger children play the earlier game and the older players follow.
“Everyone plays once a week,” Price said.
Price explained that Miracle League, for the most part, follows the All-Sports schedule. She believes doing so helps players feel more involved, as if they are part of something. With other games going on at nearby fields and hundreds of fans milling around, the participants can really feel the energy and excitement.
Although Price does most of the work herself, she does have two students from the University of Central Oklahoma helping with organization. She is also appreciative of the many “buddies” who make Miracle League possible.
Everyone involved in the organization is a volunteer. In the past, these volunteer buddies have included high school students, college students, former baseball players, entire baseball teams and others. Each player with special needs is paired with a buddy to help hit the ball, field the ball, round the bases and stay safe during the hour-long games.
“Every player needs a buddy,” Price said, adding that teaching buddies what to do is easy and the outcome is rewarding for both the player and the volunteer.
Each player pays a $35 fee at the time of registration. This fee covers the cost of a team T-shirt, a baseball cap, insurance and a trophy. This way, teams such as the Cardinals, Cubs, Yankees and Royals can really feel and look like a team. Each player gets a trophy at the end of the season.
Price explained that Miracle League is a success-based program. For that reason, some of the rules are a little different than spectators may be used to seeing. Every player bats one time during each inning. All base runners are safe. Every player scores a run before the inning is over and the last batter gets a home run to bring home all the runners on base. This way, each team and every player win each game.
Price said Miracle League benefits those with special needs by giving them a chance to socialize and to learn teamwork. She said many of the participants learn real athletic skills and how to cooperate with others.
“It’s a feel-good situation for them,” Price said.
Likewise, buddies enjoy helping others and being part of the camaraderie that comes of working so closely with their teammates.
“It’s a two-way street,” Price said. “It’s fulfilling to everyone.”
Though the fall season is already underway, Price will be taking registrations in February or March of 2008 for the spring season. For more information on Miracle League of Edmond or to volunteer as a “buddy,” call Margo Price at (405) 850-7603.