Most Saturdays, players in the Miracle League of Cumming/Forsyth County can be found playing games at the county’s Miracle League field at Coal Mountain Park, but this weekend some players spent some time working out with the pros.
On Saturday, some players from the local Miracle League took part in a camp hosted by the Miracle League and Fantasy Baseball Camp, letting players interact with and learn from some current and former Atlanta Braves players at SunTrust Park and The Battery, the entertainment district around the stadium.
“It’s so heartwarming to see the excitement,” said Stephanie Davis, program director for the Miracle League. “We had one kid who said this was as exciting as going to Disney World.”
Sal Zarzana, whose daughter, Ava, plays for the local league, said the day was a lot of fun for his entire family.
“It was fantastic,” he said. “If it weren’t enough that you have some of the guys playing on the Braves you see on TV all the time, and I think it’s great to see them as people. They’re just tremendous with the kids.”
The kids weren’t the only players having fun on Saturday.
“I just spent the last couple hours just playing catch,” said Braves pitcher Jesse Biddle. “It was a lot of fun. It’s pretty much what I do for a living, so it was cool to be able to come and interact with people.”
Saturday’s event honored players and families from across the state. Miracle League teams came from as far as Dalton in the northwest of the state to Ware County in the southeast.
“It’s so exciting for the kids and families,” Davis said. “It’s a priceless experience for these guys. This might be their first time ever being in the Braves’ stadium or actually meeting a pro player in person, so we like to shake hands, get autographs, throw the ball around.”
Miracle League players got to play with current Braves and legends at four stations: ground balls, pop-flys, throwing and hitting, which also included some midway games inside SunTrust park.
“I was over on the ground ball station helping some of the kids there,” said Braves pitcher Mike Soroka. “It’s a pretty wide range of kids here too, so it really makes you want to work with them individually. [We] really got to see a lot of good smiles.”
Players were also each given a ticket to the evening’s game, an 8-1 win over the Miami Marlins, and a custom jersey with their name on the back, the majority of which were covered in autographs before the end of the day.
“The smiles on some of these kids’ faces, they were out here playing with guys like Dwight Smith, who played in the 1995 World Series,” Zarzana said. “They might not understand the impact, but gosh, just seeing them out here. The players, you can see they genuinely had a good time with the kids as well. So, I think it was sort of a give-and-take all around.”
Like Zarzana, Braves outfielder Preston Tucker agreed that the day was fun for both the Miracle League and MLB players.
“It was awesome,” he said. “These kids come from all over the state of Georgia, and they’re having a great time, the families seem to really enjoy it, so it’s nice to come out here early and put some smiles on some faces and see people having a good time.”