More than $13,000 was raised for the Miracle League of Union County when former University of South Carolina head baseball coach and current USC Athletic Director Ray Tanner made a visit to Union on Wednesday.
“An Evening with Ray Tanner” was held at Mon-Aetna Baptist Church Wednesday evening as a fundraiser for Miracle League of Union County and the construction of a Miracle League field. The event included raffles, t-shirt sales, a meal featuring barbecue prepared by County Supervisor Tommy Sinclair and of course, a keynote address followed by a question-and-answer session with Ray Tanner.
Gamecock fans were eager to talk with Tanner, asking questions about the USC baseball team. One fan asked how the team always seemed to do so well in the close games. He credited the mentality of the players — toughness.
“We had some guys who knew how to play late,” Tanner said, stressing the importance of attitude.
“Life is about choices every single day. You can have a good day if you choose to have a good day.”
Tanner also joked about trying to look calm in the dugout, even during the nail-biter games.
“I tried to act cool, leaning on the dugout, but inside I was churning it up,” he said.
Tanner was also asked about former USC baseball player Scott Wingo, whose family is from Union. Tanner said Wingo came from a wonderful family and that he knew his father, Billy, when he played at Clemson. Tanner played baseball at NC State. Tanner said he called Billy when Scott was in high school to ask if he was going to play at Clemson. He said Billy told him that Scott deserved to make that choice for himself.
“I said, ‘If we start recruiting him now, he’s going to be a Gamecock,’” Tanner smiled.
Tanner also mentioned that he was tough on Scott, especially in the beginning.
“I’m not sure if he liked me as much at the beginning as he did in the end,” Tanner laughed, pointing out that Wingo did play with determination. “He was a piece of work, but a tremendous young man. He played the game the right way. He played hard.”
Tanner is an advocate of the Miracle League, and he is part of a foundation in Columbia that is also raising funds to build a field.
“No matter whether you’re a fan of the Gamecocks or the other side, everybody in this room is here for the same reason,” Tanner said.
Tanner spoke about someone who made a difference in his own life, a young man with cerebral palsy who became a trainer with the USC baseball team. The young man’s teacher — who graduated from USC — called Tanner and recommended him. Tanner said the young man’s name is Fox and that he was a trainer for a couple of years.
“He was so bright — so brilliant,” Tanner said, adding that he made the young man a dugout coach for the next few years and that he is now a teacher and coach in New Jersey.
“He made a difference in our program,” Tanner said. “He made a difference in my life for who he was.”
Tanner told the story of how Fox got his name.
He said he asked Fox what his real name was, and he told him it was Fox.
“I said, ‘Your parents named you Fox?’ And he said, ‘after awhile,’” Tanner said.
He explained that when Fox was born, the doctor told his parents that he was probably not going to make it. Fox’s parents didn’t name him at first. The child had six surgeries before leaving the hospital.
“They said you better name this boy — he’s not going anywhere,” Tanner said. “The doctor said he kind of out-foxed us.”
Tanner used the story to describe how people can make a difference in each other’s lives and how no one can be counted out.
That message coincides with the Miracle League’s motto — “Every child deserves a chance to play baseball.”
Presently there are 250 Miracle League organizations across the country including Puerto Rico, Canada and Australia, serving over 200,000 children and young adults with disabilities. The Miracle League’s goal is to offer the program to every city in the country so children, young adults and adults alike with special needs around the globe will have the opportunity to play baseball.
For more information about the Miracle League, visit www.miracleleague.com.
The Miracle League of Union County will continue to work toward raising funds for the construction of a Miracle League field in Union, a project which will cost around $250,000. For more information about how to help, find The Miracle League of Union County on Facebook or call (864) 466-7879.