There are few things more distinctly American than a game of baseball. For most, it evokes memories of warm summer afternoons at the ballpark and games of catch in the backyard. Most of us take for granted being able to pick up a bat and ball and go out and play, but for children with physical and mental disabilities, it often isn’t so easy.
The founders of the Miracle League believe that baseball truly is the people’s sport, and it should be accessible to everyone. Founded in Conyers, Ga., in April 2000, the mission of the Miracle League is to create an environment where children with disabilities can take part in America’s pastime in a fun, safe environment.
Each player is partnered with an able-bodied “buddy,” and the field is made from a rubberized turf that allows wheelchairs and other assistive devices while helping prevent injuries. Now all kids and their parents can relax and enjoy an afternoon of baseball.
TAKING TO THE TRIANGLE
With the success of the original Miracle League, the program started spreading to other cities around the country. The model is repeatable and there are kids longing for programs like this everywhere. Today, there are approximately 300 Miracle League organizations serving more than 200,000 children throughout the U.S., Australia, Canada and Puerto Rico. Miracle League made its way to the Triangle in the mid-2000s.
“In 2004, after watching a television program about the national Miracle League, local businessmen Robin Rose and Tony Withers were inspired to establish the Miracle League of the Triangle,” recalls Benjy Capps, executive director of Miracle League of the Triangle. “The goal was simple—provide children with special needs the opportunity to play America’s favorite pastime. Their hope was to have 40 children and 100 volunteers for opening day.”
It turned out the community was more eager for this program than the founders imagined. When Miracle League of the Triangle opened its first season in September 2006, more than 100 children and 200 volunteers took part. Andy’s Foundation Field at Adams Elementary School in Cary, N.C., hosted its inaugural game. That spark ignited the program onto a path of expansion and growth throughout the area.
“Less than eight years after the program began, a second field was built in north Raleigh,” Capps says. “Between the two locations we serve nearly 400 players with special needs on 30 teams each season. In the spring of 2015, we expanded our program to include an adult league and competitive camp. About 4,000 volunteer opportunities exist each year.”
A LEAGUE OF STORIES
As executive director, Capps oversees the operations of Miracle League of the Triangle, but his connection to the program is much deeper than simply management and administration. He saw the incredible positive impact of the Miracle League firsthand.
“My son started playing in the league in 2007, and I began coaching then,” Capps explains. “I took over as executive director in 2014.”