Miracles and dreams have a home field in DuluthDuluth's first baseball field designed for people with physical and mental disabilities is ready to hear the words "play ball!"
By: Kevin Pates, Duluth News Tribune
Ray Liotta, portraying Shoeless Joe Jackson, had one of cinema’s most oft-quoted lines in the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams,” when stating:
“If you build it, he will come.”
Duluth Area YMCA organizers are hoping those words ring true with the first year of the city’s first handicap-accessible baseball field at the Harrison Community Center at 3002 West Third Street in Lincoln Park.
The artificial field, completed last fall for approximately $310,000, will be the summer home for the Miracle League, a national initiative for those with physical and mental disabilities ages 4 through 19.
“The site is ready to go, now we need the players, coaches and volunteers to make it a reality,” said the YMCA’s Brock Nelson, who heads the Duluth Area Miracle League project.
An informational meeting and sign-up date for participants and volunteers is 3-5 p.m. April 14 at the YMCA, 302 W. First St. Youngsters also will have a chance that day to play baseball. Those interested also can contact Olson at (218) 722-4745, ext. 171.
There will be two seven-week seasons, playing once a week on Saturdays, from June 2-July 14 and July 21-Sept. 1. There is a participation fee of $40. Approximately 40-50 volunteers are needed, Olson said.
Duluth’s Miracle Field idea was brought to life by parents with children participating in a forerunner called Buddy Ball. Because dirt and grass fields are difficult for youngsters to negotiate using wheelchairs, walkers, crutches or canes, a solid, all-weather, rubberized surface was sought.
As the organization grew locally, parents approached the YMCA about taking over as administrators, which was approved by the YMCA executive board.
“This matched up perfectly with our mission, which is a dedication to projects that build a healthy spirit, mind and body,” said Machelle Kendrick, a YMCA spokesperson. “The Miracle League states that every child deserves a chance to play baseball, and we believe in that.”
The Miracle League started nationally in 1998 in Rockdale County, Ga., with its baseball complex being completed in 2000. There are approximately 250 Miracle League organizations in the United States, according to the Miracle League website.
The Duluth league, with approximately 60 participants last year, is one of several youth team sports directed through YMCA including basketball, volleyball, floor hockey and lacrosse.
The Duluth City Council approved construction of the field in 2009. Funding was provided by a number of sources, including the city, the Carl and Eloise Pohlad Family Foundation, private donations and in-kind donations. City architect Terry Groshong, now retired, worked with the Miracle League in plotting the Harrison Community Center field.