Miracle League offers disabled children the chance to play ball
Published: September 21, 2006 | 4816th good news item since 2003
He’s named after former Major League pitcher Nolan Ryan. He wears No. 4 for the Yankees, just like former Bronx Bomber great Lou Gehrig.
Six years after Nolan Ryan Turner was born with spina bifida, a birth defect that left him without muscle control below his knees, he played a baseball game.
At Adams Elementary School, the Miracle League of the Triangle built a $500,000 baseball diamond for children with disabilities.
Rubberized material that’s entirely flat makes it easy to use with crutches or a wheelchair. There’s a dugout that isn’t really dug out, and a pitcher’s mound that’s more of a painted white circle.
Eighty-seven players in the new league come from around the Triangle and as far away as Pinehurst. They have disabilities ranging from Down syndrome to spinal cord injuries and blindness.
In the Miracle League, every batter gets a hit, every runner gets on base, and the last at-bat in each of the two innings gets a home run.
But the thrill of baseball remains the same.
Nolan is still learning baseball: “I’m not short,” he said of being assigned to play shortstop.
In the bottom of the first inning Saturday, the ball was placed on a tee as Nolan walked to home plate. He used a pair of arm braces loosely attached at his elbows.
At the plate, he steadied himself as the braces dangled. His first swing was a little low.
“Foul ball!” yelled the umpire. (There are no strikes.)
His father, Ken Turner, shouted encouragement as his son got ready for a second try.
Smack! The ball went straight down the middle of the field.
A yellow-shirted adult buddy who helps players get around the bases moved the tee out of the way, and Nolan turned toward first base. Using the braces like ski poles, he propelled himself to the base in a half-dozen leaps.
The next batter was last, and Nolan scored on a home run.
The first inning was over, and the youngster stayed on home plate, beaming a wide grin at no one in particular.
His coach, grandfather, and others like to remind the young Yankee that he’s wearing the same number as Gehrig, who played in 2,130 consecutive games before an incurable form of paralysis forced him to retire.
It was clear Gehrig’s not the only ballplayer who considered himself “the luckiest man on the face of this earth.”