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The Miracle League has many volunteers in each league that are so important to the success of the program. The Angels in the Outfield or in some cases called “Buddies” are extra special to the children playing baseball. They are the ones who team up with each player to help the children in the outfield and help them around the bases when they get that all important hit.
As part of the July 2011 Diamond Dreams Baseball and Softball Charity Marathon an exhibition Miracle League game was played. The Angels were members of the softball teams that played from Saturday night to Sunday morning. Being able to do this for the first time touched each of their hearts and one of the members, Rachel Young, wrote a paper for her school class that expressed her feelings towards being a true Angel.
There are over 500 million disabled people in the world, nearly 24 million in the United States, and 1.6 million in Pennsylvania. Many of the disabled are kids who grow up unable to participate in many of the things we take for granted. I believe that we need to accept people’s differences and give them the same opportunities we have. I believe in miracles.
As a young child, I grew up around my Uncle who was severely autistic. I had quickly learned that not all people are the same and we need to accept them as they are and not as what we think they should be. My Uncle could not eat, drink, walk, or even go to the bathroom by himself. He couldn’t talk, but he taught my whole family many life lessons, always made us laugh, and never failed to keep a smile on our faces. My Uncle died in December of 2009 and he is my driving force to give other kids the opportunities that they normally wouldn’t have and the opportunities he never had.
Over the summer, I participated in an “Up All Night,” softball tournament in which my team played at 10 p.m., 12 a.m., 2 a.m., 4 a.m., and in the championship game at 8 a.m. This was a fundraiser for the Miracle League of Northampton County, which is a baseball league for physically and mentally disabled kids. The Miracle League gives these children a chance to experience playing a sport, something many of us take for granted. Even though a two inning game may not seem like much to us, it means the world to them.
When my mom was a kid, she used to take my Uncle George to the park so he could play just like all the other kids. Some of the kids at the park were making fun of my Uncle, who is my mom’s brother and she instantly ran home crying. The Miracle League gives disabled kids a place they can go with other kids with similar disabilities and be active. They get treated like any other athlete with many fans cheering them on.
Seeing these kids and young adults get a chance to play a two inning baseball game is truly remarkable, and being involved is an honor. “If I were to tell you about an organized youth baseball league, you might call it ordinary. If I were to tell you the athletes are physically and mentally challenged, you might call it touching. If you were to see them play, you would call it a miracle.” (The Miracle League.) I believe that we need to accept people’s differences and give them the same opportunities we have. I believe in my Uncle George. I believe in miracles.
Mike Flavelle is a Community Service Coordinator for the Northampton County Juvenile Probation Department. He wrote this article entitled A Special Season which will appear in a future edition of a Pennsylvania Juvenile Probation magazine. We were so impressed by this story we wanted to be sure to share it with everyone in the MLNC community. We thank Mike and his supervisor for giving us permission to share this wonderful story.
The day was Saturday, April 27, 2013. I stepped out of my car not fully knowing what lied ahead. I was a little nervous, but I must admit I was also very excited. As I remember it, it was a clear crisp April day. I proceeded to enter a place I have never been before. You see, on this day, we (Northampton County Juvenile Probation Community Service Department) agreed to be a sponsor for a Miracle League team. For those of you that have never heard of the Miracle League, the Miracle League is a non-profit organization that provides an opportunity for children and adults with disabilities to play baseball at a special facility that meets the unique needs of the players and their families. By sponsoring a Miracle League team, it meant that we agreed to provide a volunteer, “buddy,” to assist each special needs individual throughout the game and season; help them in the batter’s box; be with them as they go around the bases; as well as be with the player out in the field when they are not batting. The Spring season consisted of ten games (on Saturdays). Our team consisted of fifteen players. The team name was the “METS.” I grew up watching and loving the METS professional baseball team. This had to be a positive omen!
I was nervous for a couple of reasons. I was responsible to have fifteen juveniles appear and behave appropriately. I cringe on days when I have just five individuals to supervise on work crews. Today I was having three times this amount. I must admit, I did try to stack the deck a little bit with individuals I knew who had some decent communication skills, and who were involved with outside activities. Without turning this article into a Steven King length novel, the day ended perfectly. My fifteen volunteers appeared, and each one of them did a super job being a “buddy” to their assigned special needs individual.
To me, the whole season was a highlight. I have embedded in my brain the faces of the players, their parents, and our volunteers. The season was a great success! There were only one-two occasions when I was short a player over this time period. Considering this time period involved high school proms, graduations and family vacations, I can live with this percentage. There was never a behavioral issue at any time. The juveniles really seemed to enjoy their time being a “buddy.” So did I!
If I must pick out a few highlights, I would pick: 1) seeing the faces of the special needs players light up as their “buddy” returned the following week. Thus, in turn, the player’s reaction put a smile on the volunteer’s face, 2) having a volunteer being excited (and proud) because he taught his “buddy” to throw a ball, 3) having another volunteer being emotionally touched due to a parent walking over to him and thanking him for working with their son, 4) I remember this special needs individual hitting a home run during a particular game, he flipped his bat while in the batter box like Barry Bonds and he trotted around the bases with his index finger pointing high in the air toward his home run area. Then, upon reaching home plate, he jumped in the air to land on the base and then he proceeded to flap his jersey up and down, while having the biggest smile on his face (I was also remembering at this time, that this individual would probably never have had this opportunity if it wasn’t for the Miracle League), 5) last but not least, having numerous adults walking over to me and stating how terrific our group of kids have been throughout the season.
In consideration for the Miracle League of Northampton County, (MLNC) providing the opportunity for me to participate in Miracle League baseball, the undersigned does hereby release and agree to indemnify and hold harmless the leagues and its officers and directors from any and all claims for personal injury, death, property damage, or any type of claim or damage (including, but not limited to, attorney’s fees and/or litigation expenses) resulting from my activities in connection with participation in Miracle League baseball or the participation of any family member or guest of the undersigned.
I, the undersigned, hereby represent and warrant that I am the legal parent, guardian, and/or custodian of the participant named below. As such, I am representing that I am legally able to execute this release and am executing this release on behalf of participant and that the Miracle League may rely on my representation.
I assume all risks and hazards incidental to such participation in MLNC games and activities and consent for my child to receive first-aid and/or emergency care by a qualified Emergency Medical Technician or physician or other person qualified to render medical assistance in the event my child suffers an injury during sanctioned games and activities.
I agree to be present at all games and activities so that I/we can manage our child’s specific needs. At no time will I drop my child off at any MLNC game or activity in the assumed care of the MLNC. I fully understand and accept that a parent or guardian must be present with my child at all times at all MLNC games and activities.
I agree to provide my child’s specific medical information to the league so that appropriate precautions and care can be provided to my child during sanctioned games and activities. I agree to have any and all medication (prescription and non-prescription) for my child and shall be solely responsible for dispensing any such medication to my child.
I understand that there will be media and promotional coverage of MLNC games and activities that may result in my, or my child’s, picture being taken and/or digitally recorded. I give my express consent to the Miracle League, and its agents, to publish and otherwise use my name and/or picture for promotional purposes. I hereby grant the Miracle League, including its affiliates, franchises, advertising and promotional agencies, and their agents, the irrevocable and unrestricted right to use, publish, display and distribute materials bearing my name, voice, likeness or any other identifiable representation of me or my child. I also hereby release and forever discharge the Miracle League from any and all liability and damages relating to the use or dissemination of my, or my child’s, name, voice, likeness or any identifiable representation. In addition, I hereby waive any right I may have to inspect or approve of the finished material or any promotional element that incorporates my or my child’s, name, voice, likeness or any other identifiable representation. I also understand and agree that any photograph or digital recording taken by Miracle League or its agents is the sole and exclusive property of the Miracle League. I have agreed to the above in consideration of the opportunity given to me by the League to appear in those materials.