Season gets off to successful start.
Saturday was a special day for area athletes thanks to the start of the Dunn Miracle League season.
Special needs athletes come to Dunn from Harnett, Johnston and neighboring counties to take part in the national pastime — and thanks to the Miracle League — feel the buzz of the bat when a well hit ball heads for the fence. Or that feeling athletes get as they round the bases and head for home.
“Without a program like this, it might not give children like this an opportunity to play in an organized baseball league,” Dunn Athletic Director Billy Roach said. “It also gives the parents, siblings, grandparents and aunts and uncles an opportunity to sit in the bleachers and cheer on these kids.”
The players also get to show off their skills in front of supporters, like the Sudan Dunn Clowns who were the opening day volunteers.
“It’s great to be here, to see this and be involved in the Miracle League just to show them support,” said Sudan Dunn Clown Chip “Cowboy” Hamilton. “It’s an extension of our philanthropy and just to be out here with the kids.”
Mr. Hamilton also has a personal interest in the league.
“I have a niece that could participate,” he said. “She’s unable to right now, but I really appreciate these guys coming out here and everybody who does participate in the Miracle League, it’s a great thing.”
With around a dozen members of the Sudan Clowns present, Hamilton said it offers a great opportunity, not only for the volunteers, but for the players themselves.
“I think it’s great to offer the opportunity for all kids to participate in sports,” Hamilton said. “Some kids don’t get to participate at school or in the municipal leagues. I think Dunn has done a great job of bringing this to our community.”
Because of limited number of Miracle League Fields in North Carolina — there are now eight, according to Roach — players from several counties were able to get the season started Saturday morning.
“This year we have about 30 athletes participating,” Roach said. “They’re from across Harnett County, Sampson County, Cumberland County, one out of Robeson County and members from Johnston County.”
The league continues to be open to any player, regardless of age or ability, according to Roach. Athletes range in age from 5 years old up to 35.
“We make sure we have a few of the older adult players on each team as well as a few of the youngest players on each team,” Roach said. “Then we have our buddies for each game, there for the batting and the fielding. They’re also there for the players’ protection and for the support of the players by the buddies.”
In addition to the weekly guest volunteers, such as the Sudan Clowns, there are plenty of others ready and willing to offer their help and assistance to the players.
One such person is Cora Sue Beasley who is a volunteer coach on the Lime Lions. Te league’s other two squads are the Jade Jaguars and the Purple Panthers.
She has volunteered for other similar leagues and believes the Miracle League baseball program is something very special to not only the players, but the community as well.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for everybody to play,” she said. “Not only for the players, but for the community to help out and enjoy just playing old-fashioned ball.”
Exhibition games for the Miracle League in Dunn kicked off in 2015 with the installation of the special ball field at a renovated Tyler Park. Specifically the field is the Philip Alan Fusco II Miracle Field at the Nathan B. Harris Athletic Complex, located at Dunn’s Tyler Park.
The Miracle League, which serves more than 200,000 children and young adults across the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Australia, offers opportunities for children and young adults with mental and/or physical challenges to play baseball. The organization designs and constructs custom baseball fields that have a rubberized turf to prevent injuries, wheelchair-accessible dugouts and a completely flat surface to eliminate barriers to wheelchair-bound or visually-impaired players.