History

History of The Miracle League of Southeast Arkansas

The Miracle League of Southeast AR (SEARK) is a 501 (c)(3) organization that was established in September 2014.  The Miracle League SEARK is governed by a Board of Directors who are committed to build a baseball field and an inclusive playground that will accommodate children and adults with disabilities.  Since its inception, The Miracle League SEARK Board of Directors has worked relentlessly to raise funds for the construction of the baseball field and playground.  We have also traveled throughout southeast AR speaking to organizations and communities about the need for a recreational ball field and inclusive playground as well as raise awareness of disabilities in our region.  To date the Miracle League SEARK collaborated with our local communities, have hosted over 25 fundraisers throughout southeast AR. The ultimate goal for The Miracle League SEARK is to provide a barrier free baseball field and an inclusive playground for individuals with disabilities in southeast AR.  The Miracle League is about making friends, building self-esteem, and allowing families to cheer and play with their loved one without limitations.  We cannot change the medical issues life has dealt children and adults with disabilities.  What we can do is provide them a chance to play baseball and play on a barrier free playground.  Disability does not discriminate, and the Miracle League of Southeast AR believes it is our responsibility to be a voice for individuals with disabilities and provide recreational activity for a lifetime.

UPDATE: As of spring 2018, the construction of the SEARK Miracle League baseball field is completed.  We are eagerly awaiting the construction of the handicap accessible bathrooms and concession stand.  We will host our Opening Ceremony on Saturday, June 2cd, followed by our first Miracle League baseball game.  Also, the SEARK Miracle League board and local communities continue to raise funds needed to build a state of the art INCLUSIVE playground adjacent to our field. This playground will allow individuals with disabilities to play with their able-bodied peers and family members and provide limitless play for all ages.

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History of The Miracle League

In 1997 Rockdale Youth Baseball Association’s coach Eddie Bagwell invited the first disabled child Michael to play baseball on his team; Michael a 7 year old child in a wheel chair attended every game and practice, while cheering on his 5 year old brother play America’s favorite pass-time.

And in 1998, the Rockdale Youth Baseball Association (RYBA) formed the Miracle League to further its mission of providing opportunities for all children to play baseball regardless of their ability. The disabled children in the community had expressed the desire to dress in uniforms, make plays in the field, and round the bases just like their healthy peers. The league began with 35 players on four teams.

There were no programs for the Miracle League to copy. It was decided that:

Every player bats once each inning
All players are safe on the bases
Every player scores a run before the inning is over (last one up gets a home run)
Community children and volunteers serve as ‘buddies’ to assist the players
Each team and each player wins every game

The main concern was the playing surface, presenting potential safety hazards for players in wheelchairs or walkers.

In its spring 1999 season, the Miracle League gained support and became a source of pride for all involved as participation grew to over 50 players. During that season, the magnitude of the need for such a program was recognized. It was learned that there are over 50,000 plus children in Metro Atlanta who are disabled to some degree that keeps them from participating in team sports. That is when the dream of building a unique baseball complex for these special children was conceived.

The Rotary Clubs of Rockdale County and Conyers stepped forward to form the Rotary Miracle League Fund, Inc., a 501 (c) 3 organization. The new organization had two objectives: (1) raise the funds necessary to build a special complex with facilities that meet the unique needs of the Miracle League players, and (2) assist in the outreach efforts for Miracle Leagues across the country.

With the help of community volunteers and companies, the design and construction of the first Miracle League complex was underway. The complex would include a custom-designed field with a cushioned rubberized surface to help prevent injuries, wheelchair accessible dugouts, and a completely flat surface to eliminate any barriers to wheelchair-bound or visually impaired players. The design also included three grass fields, which could be converted to the synthetic rubber surface as the league grew. In addition, accessible restrooms, a concession stand, and picnic pavilion were included in the design

The Miracle League complex was completed in April 2000. On opening day, the Miracle League rosters had grown to over 100 players. The players raced around the bases and chatted with their teammates in the dugouts as they celebrated. Nicholas Slade, a player who had been in a coma just a week before, threw out the first ball.

The players’ enthusiasm has continued to grow. By spring, 2002, over 250 players filled the Miracle League rosters. The parents tell stories of their children insisting on playing despite bouts with kidney stones, broken bones, and recent hospitalizations. The thrill of playing, the cheers from the stands, and the friendships they develop make the Miracle League Field an oasis away from their everyday battles.

In its first season, there were no programs to copy. It was decided that each player would bat once each inning that all batters would be safe and score a run before the inning was over. Each team and each player always wins. Our umpire describes this as the only league where no one ever gets mad at him or her.

“Buddies” assist Miracle League player. These buddies are mainstream children who play baseball, youth church groups, boys and girls scouts to mention a few. As a result, the parents, children and volunteers are all brought together – special needs and mainstream alike-in a program, which serves them all through service to children with special needs. The program is opened to children from any community and, until December 1, 2001 was one of a kind.

The Miracle League recently received the 2008 National Consortium for Academics and Sports Award

Presently there are 250 Miracle League Organizations across the country including Puerto Rico, Canada and our newest member in Australia. The Miracle League is proud to serve over 200,000 children and young adults with disabilities.

Our immediate goal of 500 plus Miracle League fields including several international locations will serve approximately 1.3 million children. This goal is being realized with the help of communities, volunteers, parents, donators, individual sponsors, and corporate sponsors. This program will be offered to every city in the country so children with special needs around the globe will have this same opportunity. The Miracle League believes;

“Every Child Deserves A Chance to Play Baseball.”