Miracle League up to bat
Published: April 12, 2007 | 5942nd good news item since 2003
Children with developmental and mental disabilities got to live their dream of playing baseball Saturday.
That’s when Miracle League of Pensacola opened its season with hours of pitching and hitting for children at Miracle League Park.
The league is designed so that children with special needs can participate in America’s pastime thanks to a special surface that permits them to use their wheelchairs and other adaptive equipment.
“Every child gets a buddy, and the buddy’s purpose is to help a child with what they can’t do, no more,” said Larry Thompson, founder and vice president.
Michele Hartley, whose son Mark Hartley, 13, has Down syndrome, said at Miracle League, the game adapts to each child’s skill level. Mark jumped up and down with arms extended when he scored the first run.
“They (the children) definitely improve,” Michele Hartley said. “You can see the game in them and the improvement.”
Thompson said the league helps the children’s motor skills and self-esteem. Most of the children start the season hitting only 20 percent of the pitches, he said. By the end of the season, that increases to 80 percent.
Packy Mitchell, director of facilities for Mitchell Homes, helped Thompson build Miracle League Park.
“It’s by far the most rewarding effort I’ve ever been involved in,” Mitchell said. “To see the smiles on their faces, doing what the big leaguers do.”
Professional softball player Charity Butler, a Tate High School graduate and organizer of Champ Camp Softball Clinic, also was present. Butler received a plaque for raising about $5,000 through her clinic and donating it to the Miracle League.
“This is my first official Miracle League game and it’s amazing,” Butler said.
Paul Hinson, umpire for The Miracle League, said he never misses a game and refuses to be paid for his effort.
“I get way too much pleasure out of it,” Hinson said. “Seeing these kids smile means more than anything they can pay me.”