In 1997, Coach Eddie Bagwell of the Rockdale Youth Baseball Association (RYBA) Conyers, Georgia invited a 7 year old child confined to a wheelchair to participate in the game. Michael had attended every game and practice while cheering on his 5 year old brother. The next year, the RYBA gave other children with disabilities the opportunity to play baseball within their complex of typical baseball diamonds. Participants expressed a desire for uniforms, to make plays in the field, and to round the bases like other players. That year their league began with 35 players on 4 teams.
Since there were no established programs for offering baseball to children with disabilities, they decided on the following guidelines for the players and games:
- Every player bats once each inning
- All players are safe on the bases
- Every player scores a run before the inning is over
- Last player to bat gets a home run
- Community children and volunteers serve as “buddies” to assist the players
- Each player and team wins every game.
The primary concern for the league was the playing surface and the potential safety hazard for wheelchairs and walkers. Realizing that there were over 75,000 children with disabilities in the Metro Atlanta area who did not have the opportunity to participate in team sports, the dream of building a unique baseball complex to accommodate their needs was formed and the Miracle League became a reality giving all children the chance to play baseball.
With help from the Rotary Clubs of Rockdale County and Conyers, Georgia, the first of its kind Miracle League Field broke ground on December 31, 1999 and was completed April 2000. By opening day the league had grown to over 120 players. The complex is a custom-designed field with cushioned rubberized surfaces, wheelchair accessible dugouts, and a completely flat surface to eliminate any barriers for players who were wheelchair-bound or visually impaired. It also has three grass baseball fields which can be converted to the rubber surface, accessible restrooms, a concession stand, and picnic pavilion.
The Miracle League has received local and national attention. They have been profiled by television shows and in numerous magazines articles. In 2002, they received the Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award and the Jefferson Award from the American Institute for Public Service. Their finest achievement was being inducted into The Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.
By 2011, there were 240 Miracle League Organizations in the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Australia with over 200,000 children and young adults participating in baseball. The Miracle League believes “Every child deserves a chance to play baseball.”1
- 1. “History.” The Miracle League. < http://www.miracleleague.com/history.html > 21 Feb. 2011.