By the end of this month, The Miracle League of Harford County might just have its field ready to play on.
The field, located at the Schucks Road Regional Park, which began construction in February, will serve players with special needs the chance to play baseball in a safe environment and on a spectacular field.
“I guess it was February, we really got started on construction. Going through the permitting process and everything took a while to get through,” Tom Walls said.
It’s Walls, wife Sharon and daughter Katie who got things started after a trip south. "We had milled it around for about a year prior to us getting incorporated, Walls said. “My nephew in Alabama was in charge of a group that built one in Hoover, Alabama and we saw the field and just loved the concept and just knew we had to do something.”
So Walls, who is president of the Miracle League Board of Directors, along with Sharon (Secretary) and Katie (Vice President), created the organization. “We got the organization incorporated in June of 2016 and we were approved as a 501C, August 1st of 2017,” he said.
Other members of the board are Julie Chmura (Treasurer); at large members Denise Dregier, Ben Mayforth, Scott Elliott; and Dale “Rick” Bowlus. Honorary Members are Kim Mayforth and Steve Friedman.
So the process has been moving along for a while and with the field nearing completion, it’s likely that it will unfortunately sit vacant, at least for a little while, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s going to delay us getting people out there to play on it. It looks like, if everything goes well, we should have the field completed in late May,” Walls said. “We were originally hoping to have it done right at the end of April for possible play in May and June, but the weather held us up about as much as the Covid 19 did. I figured we’d get some grading done, storm water management started, and we’d end up with a snow storm that would kill us for 2-3 weeks, but we didn’t have to worry about that.”
There’s still hope for baseball, though in 2020. ″We’re gonna try and do a Fall league in September and October. Even if it’s just a small one. I’ve been in communications with the personnel at John Archer School and we’re staying in communication with the people at the ARC-Chesapeake Region, so if nothing else, we’ll be able to get some participants from those two organizations to come out and play," Walls said.
The league is for all boys, girls, men, women who have special needs of any kind. “Wheelchair, walkers, crutches, sight impaired, anything that would prevent them from playing in a parks and rec league, they can play on this field,” Wallls said. “Autism, severe autism, we want everybody to be able to come out.” The minimum age is 5 with no maximum age.
“Our field will not have any tripping surfaces, they’ll be an artificial surface. No raised bases, transitions between dirt and grass. The bases are made down into the surface. The surface is a rubberized latex free surface and they pour it on. It’s mixed in a cement mixer right on the field and they pour it and trowel it like cement,” Walls explained.
“It’s about half to three-quarters inch thick, has some give in it and they dye it any color that you want it. So they’ll dye it green for the grass areas, brown for the dirt area and white for the bases, home plate and the base lines,” he said.
The field has 50-foot base paths and Miracle League only requires a 110 to 120 foot fence. “We have built ours with a 150-foot fence and the reason being, we would like to get the Wounded Warriors and the Vets from the VA Hospitals out there and let them play some and they could use it during the week for slow-pitch softball,” Walls said.
The field is getting an electronic scoreboard and a digital board to display pictures of players and their names.
“The digital board is for Miracle League players and the scoreboard more for, if we’re lucky enough, to get competitive teams or the Vets and Wounded Warriors up there,” Walls said.
Miracle League games are played on Saturday and Sunday only. No weekday games as it’s hard on families to get there. Weekends are also easier for the buddies.
Buddies are anyone who wants to help and every player has a buddy assigned for the games.
As for the games, “We’ll try pitching to everybody and depending on how heavy the schedule is, we’ll try to pitch them enough that they can hit it in 5, 8, 10 pitches. If they can’t hit it, then we’ll set it on a tee,” Walls said. “It’s sort of a unique thing, because they don’t count the outs, they don’t really count runs, everybody bats every inning and the last batter gets a home run. It doesn’t matter how long it takes the runner to go around the bases, he or she gets a home run.”
The league uses a softer compound ball, sizable to a softball. Depending on capabilities of players, the first year may see the use of a lot of Wiffle Ball bats until it’s determined the level of capabilities.
“No competitiveness the first season or two and then if we have players that want to play competitive ball, then we’ll get a couple teams of competitive players together and let them use aluminum and wood bats and maybe a ball about the size of a hardball instead of a ball about the size of a softball,” Walls said. “Even if non-competitive, we want them to have gloves on for the whole baseball experience."
As the field and leagues start to really take shape in the future, Walls hopes for busy weekends. “I would love to see games starting about 9, 10 o’clock in the morning and lasting all day long on a Saturday and from about 1 o’clock to whenever on Sunday,” he said. “I’d love to see it so well used that we’d have to put lights up so we could have some evening games.”
The field is made possible from all private donations from businesses around Harford County and private individuals. “Harford County gave us the land to build it on and the county did give us a small portion of money to help build it,” Walls said.