The Kiwanis Clubs of Marion, Cedar Rapids and Hiawatha have poured an immense amount of time, effort and money into the special new Miracle League at Prospect Meadows.
It’s been worth every minute.
“Oh, totally worth it,” Byron Tabor, the president of the Kiwanis Miracle League, said Saturday after the fall league began with two games on the Miracle Field for young people with disabilities. “I hardly slept at all last night, I was so excited for the day to get here.”
The first game featured the Cubs and Cardinals, with all the players dressed in replica Cubs and Cardinals jerseys and caps, with their family name on the back of the jersey and their first name on the front. The second contest featured the Twins and Royals, with everyone also dressed accordingly.
One young boy arrived with a baseball backpack with all his supplies, including a notch for his bat. A young girl came equipped with a big plastic bat and hit shots all over the field.
There are 42 people in the league this fall, with plenty of room for growth. The age range is 21-and-under, with parents allowed to decide whether their child is ready for the friendly competition.
Based on all the smiles and high-fives, everyone was more than ready, willing and able.
“It’s a great opportunity for all these kids to get out there and enjoy baseball,” said Frank Fishler, the head coach of the Miracle League Cardinals and former head baseball coach at Cornell College.
“The facility is absolutely great.
“It doesn’t matter what kind of handicap you have,” he said. “The field is accessible for everyone. And everyone just had a great time.
I really thank the Kiwanis Clubs for getting this together.”
Fishler’s son, Gunnar, who is 12, is one of the players for the Cardinals. Frank pitched to his players while his wife, Meg, kept things organized in the dugout with the batting order. Some players hit off a tee.
Everybody on each team got to bat in every inning. The Miracle League buddies, mostly family members and Kiwanis volunteers, helped the players around the bases and with their fielding.
“This has been great,” Tabor said after the one-hour games. “I had so many people come up to me and say, ‘This is so much fun.’ The buddies are having a great time. And I think the kids had a really good time.”
The Miracle Field is located just inside the front gate at Prospect Meadows. It’s the first field you see at the new complex and Saturday’s games were well-attended, with applause and cheers for everyone.
John Walters, the radio voice of the Iowa State Cyclones, added to the festivities by calling the “play-by-play” for the games with his infectious enthusiasm. Walters performed similar duties at the Miracle Field in Central Iowa and was happy to make the trip to Marion.
The Miracle Field in Central Iowa was the first in the state and now boasts 16 teams with 14 kids apiece for 224 players. “We’re planning the same thing,” said Tabor. “Sixteen times 14. We will handle that.”
“A lot of people don’t recognize this population in our community,” he said. “There’s not a lot of integration. That’s the great part about this. These kids are included in the baseball-playing population.
“I have absolutely no idea how many kids are out there,” he said. “We will find out.”
The Miracle League fall campaign will last for six weeks in August and September, with games at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. on every Saturday except Aug. 31 for the Labor Day weekend.
The Kiwanis Clubs have pledged $300,000 to the Miracle Field and the Miracle League, along with their countless hours of love and devotion.
For more information about the Miracle League, go to ProspectMeadows.com, click on Programs and click on Miracle League.
There are registration links for players, buddies and volunteers, as well as a link to make a financial donation to the program.
The Kiwanis Miracle League plans to have a seven-week season in the spring.