After the national anthem, some kind words for players and volunteers and a first pitch from Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who has some baseball experience of his own, it was time to play ball for the 2019 Cumming/Forsyth County Miracle League fall season.
On Saturday, the local Miracle League, a modified baseball league that matches players with disabilities with a “buddy” to help them play games, celebrated opening day on the special rubberized turf field that allows wheelchairs and other devices, at Coal Mountain Park, located at 3560 Settingdown Road.
“These kids, all they want is an opportunity to participate, and thank goodness for this field and Miracle League in general because it provides opportunities for special needs kids and adults to participate in a team atmosphere,” said Miracle League President Steve Kirby.
Each week, 14 teams play in the league, with players’ ages ranging from the league-minimum of 4 to having “had some in their 60s.”
“It’s something where every kid gets a benefit and we make sure that the teams are set accordingly so that they can be part of a team that makes it fun for them,” said Frank Perissi, executive director of Miracle League. “Some of our kids aren’t even verbal. Some of our kids don’t even walk, but they always smile across that home-run plate. The benefit is all about the kids, the rest of this is just to show the support of the community.”
Before the games started, Duncan had a few words before throwing the opening pitch.
Duncan – a former pitcher for both Georgia Tech and the then-Florida Marlins organization, where he played for six years and reached the AAA level – told the crowd about the influential role baseball played in his life.
He said that growing up he thought sports were about wins and losses but found out as he got older, “It was about the value of working hard and how good you feel when you work hard and all those people around it that watch something like this happen.”
“I also learned something that everyone on this field should recognize … and that’s the ability to chase a dream while you’re out here,” Duncan said. “The world is so busy and chaotic outside these fences and trying to do all these things. Out here, we get to chase dreams every single game, every single practice, and to me, that’s priceless.”
Duncan wasn’t the only elected official in attendance, as state Sen. Greg Dolezal and Forsyth County Commission Chairwoman Laura Semanson were part of the opening ceremony.
“We like to have our local government leaders out to know what our needs are and what the therapeutic programs and Miracle League and Special Olympics mean to our parents and our players,” Kirby said.
Along with the games, first responders and vehicles from the Forsyth County’s fire department and sheriff’s office were at the event, as were volunteers from the University of North Georgia Nighthawk baseball team.
“The outpouring of support is amazing,” Kirby said. “Every week, we have volunteer buddies from different schools, civic groups, from out of town. Today, we have some North Georgia baseball players, we’ve got the Denmark student government, we have companies that support us in so many levels. “