Baseball league for disabled kids a ‘Miracle’ play

Published: February 7, 2007 | 5496th good news item since 2003

Julia and Jeff Kadel got the idea to start a baseball league for disabled kids after watching a TV program about a national association that oversees “Miracle Leagues” throughout the United States.

After about two years of fund-raising, the newly formed Miracle League of Delray Beach has enough money to start building a playing field. A rubberized field with painted-on bases that can be used by children who use wheelchairs or walkers will be built this summer at Miller Park on Southwest Fourth Avenue. Visually impaired players will use balls that beep so they can find them.

Registration begins next week for the league’s first season, which starts on April 28 and will be played on a temporary field at Miller Park.

“Now comes the fun part,” Julia said. “This is what it’s all about.”

The league’s board of directors had hoped to get to this point by October, but by the end of 2006, they had raised only about half of what was needed to start building on the park land that the city set aside for the Miracle League.

Around the same time, County Commissioner Mary McCarty was hearing requests from organizations in her district wanting a piece of a $3 million pie previously earmarked for the now-defunct cartoon museum in Boca Raton. The Miracle League was one of them.

Julia still has the message McCarty left on her cellphone on Jan. 10 saying she was going to match the $250,000 the league had raised.

“I started dancing around the house and acting like a little girl,” she said. “I was just speechless, which is unusual.”

Finally, the dream the New Jersey couple had to give back to their adopted Delray Beach was coming true.

The Kadels sent in their $500 check to join the National Miracle League Association in December 2004. There are currently three active Miracle League fields in Florida, with a few more in the works, and 48 in the country, including Puerto Rico.

After the Kadels enrolled in the association, they presented the idea to the city commission. The city loved the idea and gave them $10,000 and set aside a piece of land in Miller Park for league games.

They assembled a board, which includes former city commissioner Pat Archer, and started looking for donations. The league held two fund-raisers at Miller Park. Local businesses and organizations donated money, a fence, landscaping and a scoreboard.

Then last summer, they got a donation for $150,000 from developer Anthony Pugliese III. The field will be named for his grandson, Anthony Pugliese V.

“It’s been a true grass-roots effort,” Jeff said.

The local league will continue to raise money to cover rising construction costs, field maintenance, insurance and to keep costs down for the families of the 5- to 19-year-olds who will be playing.

Besides money, the league needs coaches and “buddies,” who are able-bodied children who volunteer to help the players during the two-inning games.

The buddies were one of the features that drew the Kadels to the league, because they want to involve their three sons: Jackson, 3; Zachary, 8; and Connor, 12.

“We wanted to find something we could all do together as a family, and we love sports,” said Julia, 37, a personal trainer and cheerleading coach. Jeff, 39, who owns a mortgage company, coaches almost every sport his elder sons play, including baseball, basketball, football and soccer.

The family visited the Miracle League in St. Petersburg last spring and the Kadels said their kids had a great time interacting with the players.

“I didn’t look at it so much as a baseball game,” Jeff said. “It was more like a party with baseball.”

Published in Charity, Miracle League
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