Weatherford News

Miracle League park nears completion, time to play ball

LeAnna Gieger is excited about the opening of the Miracle League baseball field.
LeAnna Gieger is excited about the opening of the Miracle League baseball field. Weatherford Star-Telegram

What began almost nine months ago is becoming a reality in just a few short weeks.

Organizers with Miracle League Parker County are preparing to “play ball” as construction winds down on the project that broke ground back in November.

The facility, located at the 2300 block of Tin Top Road, is dedicated to those with special needs and is being built though the generosity of Amy and George Mercer. The couple agreed to underwrite the majority of the fields construction with a $500,000 contribution.

George, who has a son with special needs, said he was caught off guard when his son “aged out” of his baseball program.

“When my son Vincent ‘aged out’ of Challenger League, we were surprised,” Mercer said. “How do you tell someone who, while being physically 21, is still a kid, that he can’t play baseball? That’s how all this got started.”

He said they felt Miracle League was the best product to meet the needs of kids with special needs and the challenges they live with.

Registration has just begun and the “Grand Opening” is scheduled to take place on Sat., Sept 12 followed by the first set of games set to begin on Sat., Sept.19.

Mercer said the construction team, and everyone involved, has been great to work with.

“We have had a lot of the contractors discount, give, or volunteer their time and efforts,” he said.

Looking at its progress, Mercer said it fills his heart with pride, that he and his wife could donated the land the field was built on for a single purpose.

“To make sure every child and young adult get a chance to play ball and feel they are a part of something bigger than themselves,” Mercer said.

George and Amy know the challenges of finding things and places for their special needs child to fit in and feel they belong.

“This is not only going to help Vincent, but also help other kids have a place where they can come and feel they are a part of a team, have friends and enjoy the spotlight,” said LeAnna Gieger, Business Manager and Executive Assistant to Mercer. “Community is very important to the Mercers.”

Once the field is finished, it’s the goal of Miracle League to continue with its fund-raising efforts, to raise additional monies to add on a playground area.

“This will also be a place where the kids can come and wheel chairs will fit on the seesaw, larger ramps will make it easier for kids to play together, or parents to be on the playground with them,” Gieger said. “It is very forward thinking and we have partnered with a great company that specializes in these types of facilities.”

Gieger said there and many ways to get involved, not only financially, but also volunteering to be: a child’s buddy, coach, work in the concessions or help raise funds.

For more information visit their website and register or to help: to follow them on Twitter @MLParkerCo

Extra innings

According to the 2000 Census Bureau, there are 19.7 million children in the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada who have disabilities between the ages of 5 and 19 and with young adults, that number increases substantially.

“The Miracle League removes the barriers that keep children with mental and physical disabilities off the baseball field and lets them experience the joy of America's favorite pastime,” said Miracle League’s Stephanie Davis.

She said since the main barriers for these children arise from the natural grass fields used in conventional youth leagues, Miracle League teams play on a custom-designed, rubberized turf field that accommodates wheelchairs and other assertive device while helping to prevent injuries. Also:

▪ Every Player gets to bat once each inning.

▪ Every Player has a “Buddy” who is there to assist them and to cheer them on.

▪ Every Player is safe on bases.

▪ Every Player rounds the bases and gets to score a run each inning.

▪ The last Player on the line-up gets a home run.

The mission of the Miracle League is to provide opportunities for individuals with disabilities to play Miracle League baseball, regardless of their abilities.

The first Miracle League field opened in Conyers, Ga., in April 2000. It wasn't long before word got out and by 2002, fields opened as the concept gained in popularity.

But according to league officials it's more than playing a game. The Miracle League is about making new friends, building self-esteem and being treated “just like other kids.” The Miracle League serves children who suffer from any physical or mental disabilities which causes them to be excluded - intentionally or not - from conventional youth baseball leagues.

Lance Winter, 817-594-9902, Ext. 102

Twitter: @LanceWinter