UNION COUNTY — In just over three weeks, the Miracle League of Union County will be ready to play ball!
Those involved with The Miracle League of Union County are excited about their official Opening Day, which is slated for noon on Saturday, March 22, at Timken Sports Complex. Festivities will begin with a 15-minute ceremony, followed by the first game for younger players, which will be immediately followed by an adult game.
After Opening Day, the next game will take place on the following Tuesday, and then each Tuesday after that. Games for younger players will begin at 6 p.m., and adult games will begin at 7 p.m. There will be a total of six games this inaugural season, as it will be a learning experience for everyone involved. A typical season includes a total of eight games.
The concrete has been poured at the Miracle League Field at Timken Sports Complex, and the only item left to be installed is the rubberized surface, which will be installed (weather permitting) during the second week in March.
Amy Austin, Executive Director of The Miracle League of Union County, said players are signing up, and there are already enough registered for two full adult teams.
Austin said she is afraid some parents of children with disabilities still think their child can’t play baseball.
“Some parents have said, ‘My child can’t play baseball because he has a disability, and that is when we explain what Miracle League is,’” she said. “Some are afraid their child may get hurt, and we explain what the buddies are for.”
Austin discussed her own experience with her son, Chandler, who has played spring and fall Miracle League seasons in Spartanburg County for the past seven years.
“You don’t get it until you see it,” Austin said. “When we found out about Miracle League (in Spartanburg County) several years ago, I had no idea what to expect.”
Austin said she and her husband, Kendall, had experienced Chandler playing ball before they heard of Miracle League, and they were always the ones who were there to help. When they discovered Miracle League, they were able to enjoy the game from a new perspective.
“As parents, we were able to sit there, watch and enjoy the game,” she said.
Austin said Chandler was thrilled with his experience, and so was she.
“He immediately caught on the buddy system,” Austin smiled. “He knew he was going to find the cutest female buddy available.”
“Several seasons, he did a lot of running in the outfield — his buddy chased him, and he chased his buddy — before he really learned the fundamentals,” she added. “As parents, we liked knowing he could have fun, be himself and not get in trouble.”
Chandler eventually moved up from the “minor league” to the “major league” once he was able to perform more independently.
Austin explained that Miracle League teams do not have to practice, and every player gets a hit and crosses home plate. Players are allowed to hit off a tee or a coach pitch. They can also run bases independently — with a designated buddy running alongside them — or with hands-on assistance from a buddy if needed.
Austin said the Miracle League of Union County is looking for “buddy groups” — such as ball teams, church groups, etc. — to participate. One person in the group will be designated as the “buddy leader.” Orientation for buddy leaders, coaches and team parents is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, March 10, at the Miracle League of Union County office, located in the NonProfit Partnership Center (in the same building as the Union County Health Department), 115 Thomas St., Union. Volunteers will have an opportunity to meet the board and learn about the players and the game.
Austin mentioned that it is still not too late to become a sponsor or make a donation. To be recognized with a banner on the field, sponsorships need to be secured by 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 5. That is also the date for final registration. Those who would like to contribute may also do so by making a donation in honor or in memory of a loved one, or by purchasing Miracle League of Union County merchandise such as t-shirts, necklaces, car flags, or cups.
For more information about participation, sponsorships or donations of any kind, contact Amy Austin at (864) 466-7879 or visit www.themiracleleagueofunioncounty.org.
Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-427-1234, Ext. 29.