Last night, I volunteered for the first time with Miracle League of Arizona. The Miracle League concept began in 1997 to simply give children with disabilities the ability to play America’s favorite past time, baseball! The founders wanted to give children the opportunity to play baseball in a safe and fun environment. The rules are a little different than your typical baseball games, but that’s what makes the Miracle League so great!
•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
Sounds great, right? Well, organizations like this can only exist with volunteers. When VMI signed up to be a sponsor for Miracle League of Arizona this year, we were all excited to be a part of it and help out in anyway we could. The league is in it’s 3rd week and last night was the first opportunity I had to volunteer and I was wishing I had been there from the beginning.
Each volunteer gets matched up with a player; some need more help than others. The disabilities range from autism, down syndrome to more severe physical disabilities like Muscular Dystrophy and Cerebral Palsy. But at the Miracle League, all disabilities are checked at the door and we just play baseball. I was a “buddy” to J.P. who has a personality that would light up any room. He and I quickly became friends as we waited in the dugout for his first at-bat. J.P likes to hit the ball off the tee vs. getting pitched to. He didn’t waste anytime getting up and knocking the ball out of the infield and then proceeded to fly around the bases (well sort of), passing his teammates along the way before making it home. The crowd was going wild, as they do for every batter and player and it was electric. What I learned after the game was that in J.P.’s first game, he could hardly swing the bat, never mind drive a ball in the outfield. His mother told me that J.P., and his two brothers who also play in the Miracle League, love to go there because they can be themselves and no one makes fun of them.
At the Miracle League of Arizona there is a concession stand, announcer, dugouts and stands, just like any other baseball stadium. The main difference is that at the Miracle League field, fun is the only ingredient necessary for a good time. However, without volunteers, wonderful organizations like this will cease to exist. Please do your part and seek out ways where you can help in your community. One hour a week goes a long way! Grab your husbands, wives, kids and make a family affair out of volunteer efforts, you will be rewarded greatly!