WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A City of Wichita baseball league is giving individuals with disabilities the opportunity to play the sport in an adaptive way.
Miracle League, now in its twelfth year, recently wrapped up its first fall season with more than 60 players, making up six teams.
“It’s simple. It’s not complicated. They just want to be here and they want to play and they want to have fun,” said Miracle League Director Laynna Badgett.
How does it work?
In Miracle League, every athlete has a chance to play and to score. The games are held on a rubberized turf field. The rules are adapted with some athletes hitting off of tees and others swinging at pitches.
“It’s just an awesome opportunity for our kids to come out, play a game and have friends and you know have coaches that love them and hear their name cheered by the crowd and our announcer,” explained Badgett.
Each athlete is also paired with an angel in the outfield, a volunteer who guides and assists them during play. Christi Jones has been coaching for a decade.
“I come back every year because the kids, I love seeing their smiles and watching them get to do what a lot of their peers get to do. Just because their abilities are different doesn’t mean they can’t participate in the same things,” said Coach Christi Jones.
Jones, a teacher in Valley Center, loves the program so much she has recruited many of her students to join in and volunteer as angels.
“My principal and I kind of have an ongoing rivalry trying to get kids on my team,” Jones laughed. “You will leave with a smile on your face guaranteed.”
Eighth-grader Jackson Childs is in his second year volunteering as an angel in the outfield. He said the athletes have taught him a great deal about life and perseverance.
“I have been really having fun with all of these kids. Even though they have disabilities they can do things that people probably think they can’t do. It really makes me happy when they are having a smile on their face and having fun and playing baseball,” said Childs.
Parents on league: ‘It’s a blessing’
“When they feel included they get to be sports stars and they get to run around and they get to be cheered for and it’s just been an experience we see be a joy for them and the community and the environment with the other kids has been an immense blessing in our lives,” said parent and volunteer Silas Pederson.
Pederson is the father of Angel, an athlete who plays in the Miracle League. Peterson and his wife have adopted several children with special needs. He said the league offers a sense of peace and inclusion his children may not get in other settings.
“Not everybody sees our kids for who they are and when we are here there is an instant bond with the other kids and the other parents because we know the joys they get to experience and the hardships they get to experience,” Pederson explained.
Lisa Coon’s son, Wyatt, also plays in the league. She shares a similar sentiment.
“He (Wyatt) has a community now that he has good friends that aren’t judging. They are accepting,” said Coon.
“My favorite part of the league is just to have friends and get to know everybody,” said athlete Wyatt Coon.
“We hope that we show people that our kids are just like other kids. They just want a shot to have friends and play sports and be included,” said Badgett.