WAXAHACHIE — A field of dreams took a literal sense Saturday morning on the campus of Waxahachie High School. Though plans for a permanent home is still in the works, there were certainly dreams coming true on the baseball diamond.
The Lady Indian softball complex turned home field for the Miracle League of Ellis County for the league's opening day celebrations.
The Miracle League provides those with physical, intellectual and developmental disabilities the opportunity to partake in America's pastime — baseball.
“Nathan has three brothers that play select team baseball, but Nathan has to sit on the sidelines and watch. He has dreams that someday he can be on the field to be like and play like his brothers,” Nathan’s mother, Tracy Jones, said.
Saturday morning, one of Nathans brothers, Peyton, was sitting on the bench in the dugout giving Nathan batting and fielding tips and cheering him on as he ran the bases after a base hit.
Like any other baseball league, members of opposing teams —the Monsters, Storm, Hot Rods, and Bulls — lined the baselines between home plate and first and third base for the National Anthem. Joining the Miracle league players were buddy assistants — comprised of players from the Waxahachie Indian baseball, Lady Indian softball and Southwestern Assemblies of God softball teams.
Miracle League President Dave McFadden then threw the ceremonial first pitch.
With the conclusion of the opening ceremonies, the announcer then rattled off the starting lineups.
“The next at-bat is Nicholas…," the PA announcer said as the youthful batter took his place, aided by his buddy, in front of the batting tee.
One big swing and a bouncing ball toward third base followed soon after.
Several more batters squared up to the tee and took their swings until one blond-headed boy approached and told the home plate assistant as she was adjusting the tee: “I don’t need that. I can hit it.”
“Are you sure?” his coach asked.
An assuring head nod and a “Yep” was the reply.
With his coach pitching from the pitcher's mound, the first pitch was a swing and a miss. Then two foul balls toward third.
And then a solid infield single.
Because not all of the athletes can see the ball or even the baseline, a special beeper post was set up at first base. A beeping ball was also placed on the batting tee.
On her first swing — which was unassisted — Maggie Witten connected for a solid single passed first base.
Assisted by her buddies, members of the Lady Indian and SAGU softball teams, Maggie ran to first base and tagged the beeping pole — safely putting her on first base.
Maggie is one of several blind Miracle League players in the area. According to Miracle League board member Kathy Aulson, the unique beeping ball and base post were donated to help Witten play her favorite sport.
“In fact, there are whole teams of blind players that play each other. Each base has a beeping post, so the players follow the sound. The ball beeps so they can hear it and even catch it. When these teams play, the audience has to be perfectly quiet so the players can hear the beeping and not be distracted,” Aulson said.
Three plays later, Witten scored a run.
At the end of the morning, handshakes and high fives were exchanged between the players and their buddies.
The Miracle League of Ellis County formed about 18 months ago and still has dreams of continuing its growth locally, as well as globally, McFadden said.
“We are still working through getting things organized and making it fun for the kids, their parents and the many volunteers that make these games possible for these kids,” McFadden said. “There are over 300 Miracle Leagues throughout the United States, Canada, and Australia. There is a definite need for this to locally grow.”
He added, “Presently, with the help of the Waxahachie Independent School District and the Waxahachie YMCA, we will be using this field until we can raise the money to build our own field."
Helping with the registration and game organization of the Miracle League is the Waxahachie YMCA.
The Miracle plays two seasons — a six-week fall season and a spring season.
The Miracle League has plans in place for a future ballpark especially for not only the local players but players from all over the area.
“We did a survey and found there are 3,300 kids in special education programs just in Ellis County. Without a place for them to play and volunteers to help them, these kids would never get to play like the other kids. They would never get picked for a team,” McFadden said.
The park envisioned by the league will have baseball diamond with a safe, soft infield. In addition to the playing surface, there will be a handicap accessible playground.
“All kids either handicapped or not will be able to play on all the equipment,” Aulson said. “We already have the design that was engineered and drawn up by a professional engineering firm. Right now we are looking for the land and sponsors. The total cost of the park will be $1.7 million. This will be state of the art, first-class facility that will be specially designed for special needs kids."
While the youthful players have dreams of returning to the plate and hitting home runs on the Lady Indian softball field, the league maintains bigger plans.
“We will build it, and they will come and play ball,” McFadden added.