IW Parks and Rec. considers adding ‘Miracle League’ field

Published 10:40 am Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Isle of Wight’s Department of Parks and Recreation is investigating the possibility of creating a handicap-accessible baseball field in the county. The facility would be specifically designed for children and adults with physical or mental disabilities and would operate as part of the Miracle League, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping such individuals “experience the joy of America’s favorite pastime.”

“Our first step is to try to recruit some folks who might be able to help us with funding,” said David Smith, the county’s director of Parks and Recreation.

Once sufficient donations have been secured, the next step, he said, would be to solicit public input on exactly where the park should be. Currently, Smith is considering Nike Park in Carrollton, Riverview Park in Smithfield and Heritage Park near Windsor as possible locations.

Also on the table is the soon-to-be constructed Luter Sports Complex in Smithfield, but since that facility is owned by the Town of Smithfield, Smith said that negotiations with the town government would be required.

Smith said that what makes a Miracle League field unique from ordinary baseball fields is its use of a rubberized, poured-in-place type surface in place of dirt and grass. Bases are painted on rather than using traditional raised diamond-shapes to keep the field flat and accessible to people with walkers or wheelchairs.

Smith said the idea to create such a facility in the county came from a discussion at the last Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors meeting and from a conversation he had with a playground vendor for Nike Park. Smith, who was already familiar with the concept of a Miracle League field, having served as director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Havelock, North Carolina where a local citizen group had been investigating the possibility, suggested the idea to the vendor. The vendor agreed to help Smith get in touch with his contacts in Richmond.

The discussion of the Miracle League at the last Board of Supervisors meeting came from a suggestion by Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree, who expressed interest in the idea.

Smith recalls that the citizen group from his time in Havelock, North Carolina was looking at an overall cost of approximately $300,000 at the time to make their proposed field a reality.

According to the Miracle League’s website, the first Miracle League field opened in Conyers, Georgia, in April 2000. Today, there are over 240 Miracle League organizations across the U.S., including Puerto Rico, and in Canada.

Smith said the Miracle League organizations are not a baseball league in the traditional sense, in that they don’t have tournaments against each other. He described them as more similar to the Special Olympics where the goal is simply to give children the opportunity to get out and play ball.

He added that, while the county’s Miracle League field, if successful, would have some oversight by county staff, it would be managed primarily by volunteers.

No timetable will be created for the project until the county secures funding from donors.