That’s exactly what some local children did on Saturday, Nov. 17, at Suniland Park in the Village, but this was no ordinary game of baseball. The teams were comprised exclusively of more than 25 children with physical and/or mental challenges.
The game was the first for The Miracle League of Miami-Dade, which provides special needs children with an opportunity to play baseball as a team member in an organized league. To celebrate the inaugural game, Major Leaguer Andre Dawson, baseball Hall of Fame player, and World Series Most Valuable Player Mike Lowell served as honorary managers for the two teams. Pittsburgh Pirate Major Leaguer Gaby Sanchez threw out the first pitch. Jay Rokeach, one of the most recognized sports voices in South Florida, announced the game.
The Miracle League of Miami-Dade is committed to raising the money to construct a ball park that will include a custom-designed, rubberized-turf ballfield that will allow children in wheelchairs and with walkers to glide unrestricted around the bases and to their positions on the field without fear of injury. Since January 2011, a capital campaign has been under way to raise $1.5 million to construct the ball field, support structures and a playground specifically designed and equipped for special-needs children.
Saturday’s game was played on a traditional clay-and-grass baseball field, which is not ideal for children with special needs. There has been a tremendous response from volunteers and the parents of children who are excited and anxious to play right now, so they decided not to wait until the fundraising and construction of the ballpark was complete. At this point, we will play our games on clay fields until our ballpark is built.
The Miracle League of Miami-Dade formed a partnership with the Miami Marlins and Miami Dade Parks & Recreation Department to help make the Dream of a custom field become a reality. The Miami Marlins, Miracle League cochair, has generously donated more than $100,000 toward the construction of the ballpark and the Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation Department has provided the land where the ballpark will be built. The ballpark will be centrally located in Miami-Dade County at Tamiami Park.
The campaign is committed to raising the money to build two ball fields at the Tamiami Park complex for the nearly 30,000 special needs children living in our county. The Miracle League fields will be the first of their kind in Miami-Dade County.
They are committed to building a baseball facility where all of the children in our communities can come together and build friendships and create memories that could never be measured by the score of a game. They need your help to achieve this goal! The Miracle League board consists of co-chairs Karl Sturge and Keith Reilly, Lisa Mays, Michael Peredo, Dave Hill, Julio Robaina, Ken Fairman, Sandy Robinson, Susan Sirota, Philip Gassman, Mark Kacer, Bob Hingston, Doug Tyre, Jeff Cutler and Lisa Cilli.