Field is where dreams turn into miracles

Published: June 2, 2008 | 7106th good news item since 2003

Unlike most young moms, Lisa Surgo can pronounce it, spell it, and define it. It’s a medical condition called the Congenital Disorder of Glycosylation. There are about 20 varieties of the syndrome and the rarest of them, the kind her son Kyle has, is limited to about 40 cases in the whole world, she said.

His is a metabolic disorder that affects the heart, liver function, and the size of the brain. Its victims are developmentally delayed, which is actually a rather odd term considering its victims, sadly, often aren’t around long enough to develop all that much in the first place.

The medical experts warned Lisa and her husband, Todd, that Kyle would never see his 5th birthday. They said he would never walk in any way, shape, or form. Had the Surgos asked, the docs would have told them Kyle would never play baseball or swing a golf club either. And they would have been wrong about that too.

Kyle turned 5 in January. His little legs flail furiously to make his walker move. He played in his first T-Ball game the other evening, had a couple hits, stopped a ball in the field, and made a strong throw toward home plate.

“Our whole family was here and there wasn’t a dry eye,” Lisa said. “We were all bawling like babies. Once again, Kyle beat the odds.”

It’s called the Miracle League and, friends, there has never been a more appropriate name for a sports group.

They’ve been a miracle short, though. While some of its participants are ambulatory, many are not and it’s a tough deal to make those wheelchairs and walkers move on dirt or gravel infields and basepaths, even with helpers doing the heavy lifting. It won’t be long, though.

The city of Northwood has a small piece of land in a large park being developed near the fire station behind the ball diamonds at Lark Elementary School. It has agreed to lease that parcel to the Miracle League for 50 years. The lease terms? $1.

They have their land. Now they need a field with a synthetic, rubberized surface. It costs $160,000 and the Miracle League, behind President Jeff Barton and his board, have worked exhaustively in tough economic times to come up with nearly $140,000. The rest will come in one windfall, courtesy of this summer’s Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic Presented by Kroger.

If you’ve ever wondered what kind of good this annual LPGA golf tournament has done from contributing $5.8 million to various children’s charities since its inception in 1984, well, wait a few months and drop by the Miracle League’s new stadium.

The whole tab for labor and fencing and other building materials will surpass $300,000, but just about everything, with the exception of the playing surface, has been donated.

Yes, take a bow, because we are a community with a big heart. One look at these kids, their wide eyes, their smiles; then take in the sound of their laughter and joy and, well, it couldn’t be any other way.

The name most synonymous with the Farr Classic is Se Ri Pak, the event’s five-time champion. Kyle Surgo and nearly a dozen of his Miracle League friends and their helpers, like Kyle’s big brother Andrew, and their parents met up with Se Ri yesterday behind Lark Elementary and it was mutual love at first sight.

The kids taught Se Ri their game, then she taught them hers. A girl named Olivia decided Se Ri was her new best friend, so the golfer helped her buddy hit the plastic baseball off its tee, then held her hand and ran the bases. Later, they took to the field together to play second base.

“They may have handicaps, but they’re having fun and enjoying the day,” Se Ri said. “I can’t think of anything more important. I think this a great experience, and not just for them – for me too. This is as good a time as I’ve had off a golf course.”

But then she was right back on it, sort of. When the kids were done playing baseball, they gathered around Se Ri and the Pink Panther mascot from Owens Corning and learned to hit a golf ball. The LPGA Hall of Famer wrapped her arms around each kid, helped them draw the club back, and then sent a Titleist flying across the field.

Tyrus Carroll thought this was about the greatest thing since, well, baseball. He is a whirling dervish of constant energy. Born with Down syndrome, this sweetheart of a kid also has a rare metabolic bone disease. He’s been through open-heart surgery and so much more, said his mom, Chantillie Doering. But he’s all about rough and tumble, and the Miracle League is just part of his baseball life.

“At home, I can get five or six kids from the neighborhood lined up to play ball, and they want to play with him,” Chantillie said. “It’s incredible. This sport is helping integrate him into the community. He just loves to play ball. In the middle of winter, I’ll pitch him a snowball and he’ll hit it with a shovel.”

Do you like baseball, Tyrus?

“Yeah,” he shouts.

Why? What do you like to do?

“Bat. Throw.”

Do you come here to play with your friends?

“Him,” Tyrus said, pointing at the Pink Panther.

Later, after hitting his first golf shot, Tyrus dropped the club, ran out of Se Ri’s embrace, and hurried to give the Pink Panther a high five.

Kyle Surgo, who has never spoken, took his turn at golf too, but was soon back on the baseball field, making a high-pitched sound suspiciously like laughter as brother Andrew pushed his walker around the basepaths.

“This means the world to us,” Lisa Surgo said. “The Miracle League is just that, a miracle. Somebody is giving these kids a chance to be normal.”

There are hundreds of baseball diamonds in the metro area and there are games every night where healthy kids are throwing curves and stretching doubles into triples.

There are dozens of golf courses where healthy kids are hitting 250-yard drives and getting up-and-down for par.

There is not one of either where you will find more joy and passion for life than Se Ri Pak witnessed yesterday morning from a dozen very special kids on the field behind Lark Elementary.

Do you believe in miracles?

Published in Miracle League
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