Disabled children and teens will soon get their chance to do what was previously thought impossible: play a game of baseball. This feat, which would otherwise be made difficult with their disabilities, is made possible through the Miracle League of Stanislaus County, which is once again accepting signups for its spring season before opening day in March.
“It’s a noncompetitive baseball game so everybody can play,” said Chief Executive Officer Marci Boucher. “Everybody hits the ball. It doesn’t matter how many pitches it takes. There are no outs. Everybody gets to run the bases and makes it home.”
As the very first Miracle League field in the northern San Joaquin Valley, Miracle League of Stanislaus County was formed in 2008 by a group of residents who — after discovering the national Miracle League program — wanted to create a local chapter of their own. After years of raising funds to build a field and partnering with the Society of disABILTIIES, the nonprofit organization held its first opening day in April 2016.
Since then, the Miracle League of Stanislaus County has upheld its mission of providing a safe and fun environment where those with special needs can play baseball at a facility of their own.
“For many of these kids, this is the very first time that they’ve ever played a team sport,” said Boucher. “It gives them a sense of accomplishment and their self-esteem soars. It’s wonderful for the kids, parents and volunteers.”
What makes a Miracle League field different than a traditional baseball field is its smaller size and custom-designed rubberized surface field, which accommodates wheelchair and other assistive devices.
“The bases and lines are actually painted onto the rubberized surface so the kids with wheelchairs or walkers don’t have any trip hazards that you would have playing on a regular field,” said Boucher.
Boucher said that players are not limited due to their disabilities as they are paired with player buddies, who will assist their unique needs as they play throughout the entire eight-week season.
“They help them hit the ball, get to the bases, get the ball and throw it in,” said Boucher. “They are there with them and they cheer them on.”
Last year, 136 players — 21 of which were from Turlock — signed up for either the spring or fall season. Nearly 30 players have already signed up for the spring season, according to Boucher, who said that she is hoping to bring in 150 players, or 10 teams, for the spring and fall seasons this year.
Of the 21 players from Turlock last year was 10-year-old girl Michelle Ortiz, who has cerebral palsy. Ortiz played in the spring and fall seasons last year and said that for once in her life she was able to feel like she was part of a team.
“Her mother Maria Ortiz said that Friday nights it’s hard to get Michelle to bed because she’s very excited to play baseball with her new friends and Saturday morning Michelle is up bright and early wanting to put her uniform on,” said Society for disABILITIES program director Anthony Arellanes. “Miracle League accepts any disabilities which can range from cerebral palsy to autism to down syndrome to deaf or blind.”