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PHOTOS: Miracle League DFW Hosts First Baseball Game For Special Needs Children Since Pandemic

For the first time since the pandemic began, more than 200 children with special needs and their families stepped back on the field for a rowdy baseball game on Saturday.

The nonprofit Miracle League DFW hosts sporting events with some changes to make the games more inclusive. Players participating in the adaptive baseball game are allowed to hit the ball as many times as they like, while the buddy system and softer turf make it easier to play.

Treasure Presley, a volunteer with Miracle League, holds the hand of a boy in the minor league game in a blue uniform to direct him to first base.
Keren Carrión/KERA News
Treasure Presley, a volunteer with Miracle League, holds the hand of a boy in the minor league game and directs him to first base after he finished batting.

It was the first time rookies were able to play the opening games with a team after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. The games began with the minor division for 4-10 year olds at Randol Mill Park in Arlington. The senior division of children ages 8 to 14 and older played on an adjacent field.

 A boy jumps with excitement after hitting the ball at the Miracle League baseball game on Saturday, alongside a volunteer.
Keren Carrión/KERA News
Gabriel Montoya, 8, jumps with excitement after hitting the ball at the Miracle League baseball game on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021.

“The players' expressions say it all,” said Grace Whetstone, executive director of Miracle League. “Being able to give everyone the opportunity to play baseball, regardless of their abilities, is a dream come true.”

Some VIPs made an appearance, such as Arlington Mayor Jim Ross, who threw the ceremonial first pitch after some Miracle League players sang the National Anthem in true baseball fashion. City Council Member Victoria Farrar-Myers and new Arlington Police Chief Al Jones also attended.

People pose on the field for a group photo with each team wearing their respective orange and blue uniforms. The Arlington Mayor, new Arlington Police Chief, and City Council member pose with the teams ahead of the classic league at Saturday’s games.
Keren Carrión/KERA News
Arlington Mayor Jim Ross, new Arlington Police Chief Al Jones, and City Council Member Victoria Farrar-Myers, pose for a photo with the classic league at Saturday’s games.

It’s not just the Miracle League volunteers and community that make these games possible. The Miracle League field is specially designed with cushioned synthetic turf and wheelchair-accessible dugouts to fit the needs of children with all kinds of disabilities. Founder Doug Inman raised the initial $400,000 to build the field on land donated by the City of Arlington.

Gavin, 6, holds his hand out to his mother, Heather Stalley, from the dug-out hole after finishing his first game with Miracle League.
Keren Carrión/KERA News
Gavin, 6, holds his hand out to his mother, Heather Stalley, from the dug-out after finishing his first game with Miracle League.

Children took turns at tee, where they were assisted by a coach or parent. After each child hit the ball, a round of applause erupted from the families in the stands.

The field was lively as a number of smaller games unfolded. As the children made the rounds to each of the bases, some played their own games of catch, or simply ran around to let off steam.

In their Blue Jays, Rangers, Astros, and Cubs jerseys, each player was excited to be back on the field, representing their team.

The 2021 fall season will continue until Oct. 16, and Miracle League is still looking for volunteers. Find more information to sign up here.

 Jose Mendoza hits the ball with his bat, while his mother holds him, and his coach claps at Saturday's game.
Keren Carrión/KERA News
Jose Mendoza, 6, hits the ball with his bat, while his mother holds him at Saturday's game.

Keren Carrión is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Got a tip? Email Keren at Kcarrion@kera.org. You can follow Keren on Twitter @kerencarrion8.

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Corrected: September 14, 2021 at 7:23 PM CDT
A previous version of this story listed Miracle League DFW under the wrong name and misspelled Grace Whetstone’s last name.