Mom: Always happy tears

Published 11:28 pm Thursday, May 23, 2013

Miracle League field dedicated

Jill Metcalf said there are tears at every Miracle League baseball game.

Not tears because a team lost, or tears because someone skinned her knee. But tears of joy shed mostly by moms who never dreamed their children would have the opportunity to participate in a league like this one.

Metcalf, who serves as board president of Miracle League of Covington County and helps coach a team, said every game, parents see progress.

Miracle League board president Jill Metcalf and her son, Tanner.

Miracle League board president Jill Metcalf and her son, Tanner.

The City of Andalusia spearheaded the effort to bring a Miracle League field to Covington County. A little more than a year ago, a group set a goal of raising $500,000 to build the ball field and playground to accommodate children with special needs. The special surface on the field and in the playground makes it easily accessible for children in wheelchairs, yet safe for anyone to play there.

To date, governments, businesses and individuals have given or pledged more than $600,000 for the project, Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson said at yesterday’s dedication. Soon, a picnic pavilion will be added nearby.

That success was celebrated Thursday afternoon with an official ceremony and ribbon cutting, followed by a baseball game. Among those on hand was Johnny Franklin of the national Miracle League Association. There are more than 275 Miracle League facilities that have been developed in the past 13 years, Franklin said. But he said he’s never seen one come together as quickly as Covington County’s did.

The best thing, Metcalf said, is that the kids who participate get to “be like other kids for a change.”

“As a parent, I can’t express what it has done for my kid,” she said.

“It’s especially good for the older kids who are through school and don’t really get socialization other than with their parents,” Metcalf said.

Metcalf said parents are already talking about ways to use the Miracle League facility to year round to keep their children active.

“We’ve talked a little bit about soccer or just event days,” she said.

As for the Miracle League playground, there is only one problem, she said.

“It’s beautiful,” she said. “It’s so wonderful, some of the kids don’t want to leave it and come play baseball.”

At present, there are 26 kids on the two Miracle League teams, and increasing interest all the time.

“Last Tuesday, we had two more show up,” she said. “We put them on the field.”

But perhaps what has been more touching, she said, is the outpouring of support from “normal” kids.

“The first game, Opp’s baseball team came to help us,” she said. “The next day, it was the buzz at the high school.”

OHS already had planned to launch a program in which students would volunteer to spend time each week in the special needs room at OHS. After the Miracle League buzz, the school has more student volunteers than they can accommodate, she said.

Many other people have been in the ball park to watch Miracle League games, she said.

“I’ve been amazed to see people I knew just coming out to watch and support us,” she said.