The crack of the bat. The smack of the ball in the glove. The roar of the crowd. For many children, these sounds begin the dream of becoming a professional baseball player. While most won’t make it to the majors, many kids have the opportunity to play ball. But for some children, especially those with special needs, that opportunity to play is often difficult to come by. Fortunately for area special needs children, The Miracle League of Northwest Ohio gives all children the opportunity to be baseball players.
“Every child deserves a chance to play baseball”
Founded in 2006, The Miracle League of Northwest Ohio provides the opportunity for all children to play baseball. Jeff Barton, president, first learned about the organization from an HBO show. After watching the program, he did a bit of research on how he could bring this national organization to Northwest Ohio.
With the motto “Every child deserves a chance to play baseball,” the organization focuses on providing all children, particularly children with disabilities, with the opportunity to play the sport. The league has eight different teams with a mix of girls and boys of all ages. Typically the youngest players start off at four years old, and players can continue playing in the league as long as they’d like.
Building teams from across Northwest Ohio
Baseball practices and games take place at Northwood’s Brentwood Park where land has been leased by the city to the organization for 50 years at the price of $1. With the help of donations, the organization built a field. As some players require the use of wheelchairs and walkers, the field is constructed out of a rubber substance similar to a track and field surface, that allows for easy access for all players and provides cushion necessary for playing baseball.
The organization offers two seasons in which players can participate. The spring season began in May, and the fall season will begin in September. Although many players participate in both seasons, The Miracle League accepts new members year round from all over Northwest Ohio. “If they are willing to make the drive, we are happy to accept them, said Barton. “At one point we had kids from down in Findlay, Oak Harbor, and even from Bryan, Ohio.”
Teamwork makes the dream work
To provide extra support for the players, each child is paired up with a volunteer called a “buddy”. The “buddies” help the players move to the bases, throw and hit the ball. Children and adults are welcome to sign up to become a buddy.
Along with the help of local volunteers, The Toledo Mud Hens also play a big part in helping the organization. Barton explained, “The Mud Hens do a mystery ball auction for us each year.” During the auction, Mud Hens players sign baseballs which are then placed in a paper bag. For $20, fans can buy a bag to see what mystery autograph they won. The proceeds go towards The Miracle League of Northwest Ohio. Additionally, The Mud Hens hold a special needs camp each summer at Fifth Third Field in which many players from The Miracle League participate.
Becoming involved in The Miracle League of Northwest Ohio is a rewarding experience. For Barton, “it’s definitely the excitement of seeing the kids getting out there and playing.”
If you are interested in volunteering, or would like to learn more about the organization, please visit mlnwo.org or their Facebook page at facebook.com/mlnwo/.