WILL COUNTY, IL(November 2, 2012) – When parents sign their child up to play in the Miracle League baseball program, their handicapped child of any ability or disability gets to dress in a uniform, make plays in the field and round the bases just like their main stream peers. For a couple of hours a week in the spring and in the fall, these players come together and feel like big league ball players.
Nestled up against Silver Cross Field, Joliet’s minor league baseball stadium, the Miracle League field is customized for the players and has a cushioned rubberized surface to help prevent injuries, wheelchair accessible dugouts a completely flat surface to eliminate any barriers to wheelchair-bound or visually impaired players.
“We are set up like other youth baseball leagues and play games every Saturday during the season,” said Sharon Ferro, Miracle League Executive Director. “We have 14 teams, 12 non-competitive and this year we added 2 competitive teams.” Miracle League players across the country play by the same rules. Players on non-competitive teams ranging in age from four to their late teens can play on the same team. Every player bats once each inning and at the end of the inning the last batter hits a grand slam and all the players make a home run. “They are all winners,” said Ferro. “For our kids, playing is winning.” Players are assisted by “buddies,” community children and volunteers. “For some parents, when they sit in the bleachers and watch their child it is their only down time,” said Sharon.
Pete Ferro, Sharon’s husband, and Jim Sheldon announce every game. “The players love hearing their names over the speakers,” said Sharon. “We start each game with one of our players singing the National Anthem. He has a gift for singing.” “My son loves it when they sing ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’.” said Karl Maurer, whose son plays on the Rockies. “He also has his favorite bat. It has a picture of Lightning McQueen from the movie “Cars” on it.”
One of the things that make the players feel official is putting on their Major League replica hats and shirts. In August of 2011, the Miracle League received a grant from The Will County Community Foundation to purchase uniforms for 165 players. “We really appreciate the support from the Foundation. The grant allowed us to outfit our players for the 2012 spring and fall seasons which helped keep costs down for the families,” said Sharon.