Last updated: March 25. 2014 10:19AM - 863 Views
By - dvanderford@civitasmedia.com

Derik Vanderford|Daily TimesBecky Cobb, Amy Austin, Kevin Shropshire, Tommy Sinclair, and “Homer” display the two ceremonial “first pitch” balls just before the games begin on Saturday.
Derik Vanderford|Daily TimesBecky Cobb, Amy Austin, Kevin Shropshire, Tommy Sinclair, and “Homer” display the two ceremonial “first pitch” balls just before the games begin on Saturday.
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UNION COUNTY — The dreams of many came to fruition Saturday as The Miracle League of Union County hosted its Opening Day at Timken Sports Complex.

During the Opening Day ceremonies, Union County Supervisor Tommy Sinclair welcomed those in attendance, and gave a brief background of the efforts over the past couple years which made Saturday’s event possible. Sinclair described the journey, acknowledging that there were bumps along the way.

“We’re here because of the persistence, the grit, and the gumption, evident by the tough people who worked through the tough times,” he said. “My hat is off to all of you for bringing this to reality.”

Sinclair specifically thanked the Timken Family Foundation, which he said has shown unprecedented support of the community.

Before Amy Austin — The Miracle League of Union County board chair — spoke, two ceremonial pitches were thrown. One pitch was caught by Kevin Shropshire, director of Timken Sports Complex, and the other was caught by Austin. The pitches were thrown by Union County Parks and Recreation Director Becky Cobb.

“Once mine and Becky’s paths crossed, there was no stopping us,” Austin said, explaining that Cobb had visited a Miracle League Field while at a parks and recreation trade show and was determined to bring that feeling of joy to Union County.

“All she needed was someone just as determined to bring that feeling that a parent gets while watching their child play baseball when so many thought they never would. We were a team and have been since Day One.”

Austin said all involved have accomplished what they set out to do.

“You all must know that this was not my dream,” she said. “This was the dream of all these players who are here today. When they close their eyes at night, they dream of being able to play baseball just like everyone else.”

Austin then directed her remarks toward each of the Miracle League players who were in attendance Saturday.

“Today, we are your biggest fans. Regardless of your ability, you should have the opportunity to play sports and to feel the sense of belonging, the sense of joy and the sense of pride and respect on a baseball field. That reality begins now. You no longer have to stand on the sidelines watching. Now you can call yourself a baseball player — on a real team with your own uniforms. You have fans, coaches and volunteers supporting you, and you will make new friends every time you come out to play. Most importantly, you will have so much fun. Your family and friends will cheer you on like never before. We are inspired by each and every one of you. Today is your day, players.”

The National Anthem was then sung by Anthony Giles, which received an emotional response from the majority of coaches, parents and spectators in attendance.

The first “minors” game pitted the Buffalo Pawn team versus the P & C Mechanical team. That game was followed by the “majors” game between the Rippys team and the Civitan team.

The History of The Miracle League of Union County

The Miracle League of Union County (MLUC) became a member of the National Miracle League in August 2010. Since then, the MLUC has established a board of directors, received 501(c)3 status, raised funds, and written and received grants. With Union County providing the MLUC with a field at Timken Sports Complex, fund raising goals were decreased from $1 million to $250,000 for the construction of a Miracle League field. Transformation of the field began in June 2013 and was completed last week.

Through sponsor funding and volunteers, the Miracle League builds specially-equipped, custom-designed fields which incorporate a cushioned synthetic turf, allowing individuals who use ambulatory devices such as wheelchairs and walkers to glide unrestricted to their positions without fear or injury. The playing surface provides a level playing field where individuals with physical and mental disabilities can hit, run and catch — just as they envision in their dreams.

Through the “buddy” program, youth players and community volunteers partner with Miracle League players to provide assistance and encouragement. This partnership benefits both sides as they share the great American pastime to find common ground and, most importantly, friendship.

The National Miracle League currently has 250 Miracle League organizations across the U.S. including Puerto Rico, as well as Canada and Australia. It has gained national recognition as their player rosters have grown to over 200,000-plus children and adults with disabilities.

The Miracle League of Union County 2014 Spring Schedule:

March 25 — 6 p.m. Minors; 7 p.m. Majors

Apr. 1 — 5-7 p.m. Team Pictures; 6 p.m. Minors; 7 p.m. Majors

Apr. 15 — 6 p.m. Minors; 7 p.m. Majors

Apr. 22 — 6 p.m. Minors; 7 p.m. Majors

Apr. 29 — 6 p.m. Minors; 7 p.m. Majors

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