The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 30, 2013

Pitching in to play ball

Volunteers, players transform AMBUCS park into a field of dreams in Enid

By Jeff Mullin, Senior Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — A field of dreams, of sorts, is in the works at ABC AMBUCS Park.

Fundraising continuing to bring in money for a new surface on the ball field, which is home to Enid’s Miracle League.

Robert Faulk, project coordinator and president of Enid’s Miracle League, said the group is some $40,000 shy of its goal.

The new field will be covered by an artificial turf surface, rather than rubber, as originally planned.

“The turf is more durable and has a better warranty,” said Faulk. “Based upon all the factors, we are leaning toward going with a turf surface. Besides, it will look more like a baseball field. It is a better fit for us.”

Money comes from various sources, including the annual Roberts Ranch Smokin’ Red Dirt Barbecue, Miracle League Mud Volleyball, Tour De Trykes and the Give A Buck fundraiser. Plans are to install the surface by October.

“Right now we’re just playing on dirt and grass,” said Faulk. “That makes it a little difficult. About half our kids have challenges that make getting around the base paths difficult. This new surface will really help them out and allow them to be more independent.”

The new surface will feature a shorter blade of faux grass than other artificial turf, Faulk said, and will utilize more sand than rubber.

“It makes (the surface) harder and makes it easier for them (the players) to roll around on,” he said.



Everyone plays



Miracle League is a baseball league for those with physical and mental challenges who otherwise might never get a chance to take part in America’s national pastime.

Miracle League fields are designed to accommodate those who have mobility challenges. The base path, bases, batter’s box, pitcher’s mound and home plate are painted onto the field. Base paths are wider, while dugouts and other areas are built to be accessible to those with special needs.

In May, Enid’s Miracle League, co-sponsored by Noon AMBUCS and 4RKids Foundation, will begin its fourth season. Last season the league had 54 players divided among four teams, up from 48 players the first year. The league is open to those age 5 and older.

Players play for teams named Giants, Angels, Dodgers or Braves. All receive an official hat and an official jersey.

The league tries to attract new players by sending letters to all special education teachers within a 50-mile radius of Enid.

“We are trying to get 70 this year,” said Faulk. “If we get 70 we will add an additional team. I believe that we could have at least 100 if we get the word out. Lots of kids enjoy playing. We would really like to have one or two more teams.”

Miracle League games are played under special rules. Every player bats and scores a run each inning of the three-inning games. Each player also is assigned a “buddy” to help them during the game. T-ball tees are used for those who need them, and extremely soft balls are used. The games are non-competitive, Faulk said, the emphasis being on participation rather than competition.

Getting involved



Volunteers are a big part of Miracle League, Faulk said. He estimated some 200 volunteers assist in league play throughout the summer.

Faulk said he takes pride in his role in organizing the league, but he admits, “I have had a lot of help. It is easy to organize when you have helpers like we have,” he said.

The mission statement of Miracle League is: “Every child deserves a chance to play baseball,” and Faulk said kids who never have been able to play before relish every game.

“We encourage parents and caregivers of these children to get them involved,” he said. “These kids love it, they think it is the coolest thing.”

The Miracle League concept began in 1997 in Rockdale, Ga., when a 7-year-old boy with a disability was invited to play on a city league baseball team. At present there are 250 Miracle League organizations, including in Puerto Rico, Canada and Australia. Miracle League serves more than  200,000 children and young adults with disabilities.

Registration is under way for the 2013 Enid Miracle League season, which begins May 4. Games will be held Saturday mornings May 4 through June 29, except for Memorial Day weekend. The $35 league fee includes a hat, jersey and insurance. Cost for players who already have their hats and jerseys is $15, to cover the cost of insurance. Limited scholarships are available.

For information, go to 4RKids’ website, 4rkids.com, or call Mike Riddle at 747-1150 or Tricia Mitchell at 237-7890.