It was a sight to behold. You never saw so many smiling faces.
Tuesday morning at a press conference on the patio of the YMCA in White Township it was announced that a Miracle Field would be constructed in Indiana County.
Emotionally, the announcement brought tears from the heart and smiles. But the biggest smiles and widest grins came from those in wheelchairs and the many other special-needs individuals who heard the news.
As Indiana County Commissioner Rod Ruddock so aptly stated, “Some kids have never crossed home plate.”
When you stop and think about that statement, it is something everyone who has ever played the game of baseball takes for granted.
Now, the thrill of “crossing” home plate will become a reality for those who never dreamed of having that opportunity.
If you weren’t aware of it, the Miracle Field concept — it was developed in 2000 in Georgia — is that each player would bat once every two innings. All batters would be safe and score a run before the inning is over, therefore each team and each player always wins.
The Miracle League uses the “buddy system” where buddies assist all players. These buddies usually consist of children who play baseball or are members of church youth groups, Boy Scouts or Girls Scouts, and other volunteer groups or simply individuals of any age who want to get involved. Approximately 100 volunteers will be needed when the Miracle Field is ready for play in 2014 or 2015.
It was also noted that the Miracle League of Indiana County has two target populations: All individuals challenged by special needs who reside in Indiana, Armstrong, Cambria, Westmoreland and Jefferson counties; and all organizations serving those with special needs in those counties.
Mike Sherry, who was instrumental in the first Miracle Field in the area, in Cranberry Township, said that the field gets extensive use 14 to 16 weeks of the summer with not only the regular games but also by various clubs and organizations from throughout the area.
Sherry, son of Nancy Sherry-Helsel, co-chairwoman of the Miracle League of Indiana County, said he was pleased with the activities and organizations that have utilized the field.
According to a press release, 2.4 percent of the population of Indiana County between ages 5 and 17 have ambulatory and/or self-care disabilities. The percentage increases to 6.2 percent for those ages 18 to 65. These individuals do not have access to a baseball field that is handicap-accessible or is specially designed to accommodate supportive devices such as wheelchairs, crutches and body braces.
During the spring, summer and fall months, the Miracle League will provide two baseball seasons that run for eight and six weeks, respectively.
Teams will be made up of Miracle League (5 to 18 years of age) Youth Competitive League (also 5-18) and Adult League (over 18).
Jerry Gillette, co-chairman, said the organizers have raised half of the goal of $500,000.
Contributions may be mailed to Miracle Field of Indiana County, P.O. Box 1457, Indiana, PA 15701.