MIAMI (CBSMiami) – This baseball game has no outs, no scoreboards, no bases, and no barriers to hinder players of all abilities.
Beginning in 2010, the non-profit organization Miracle League of Miami-Dade has paired special needs kids and adult players with a “buddy,” a volunteer mentor to make sure every player has a great time.
Casey Fraga and Fiona Ledesma were friends right off the bat.
Fiona is a bubbly teenager who has no problem making friends, she just needs a little one-on-one help in the game. She says she likes to bat and run all three bases. She says Casey is a “very nice buddy” and she helps her with her catching.
Casey has been volunteering several years as a buddy and really looks forward to these days and really enjoys mentoring Fiona.
“She’s an amazing person. It’s always something new, she always comes to me with some new question, asks about my family. I always direct her in baseball but we always have conversations and it’s always fun,” said Casey.
The players definitely get a great experience and the program is a home run for inclusiveness for kids and adults with disabilities such as Autism, Down syndrome, and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
Ken Fairman is a founding board member.
“These high school kids are out here and they’re being exposed to people of different abilities and really rising to the occasion,” he said.
Volunteer Blake Garcia, 17, explains how he is benefiting from this experience as a buddy.
“It’s always kind of difficult to learn, you have to cater to every child’s needs. With some of their physical disabilities it makes it really difficult and frustrating for them, and just being able to sit there and tell them that it’s okay, and walk them through it, and help them out it gives me a lot of personal gratification,” he said.
Brothers Zachary and Lucas Martinez are 11 years old and have pretty much grown up in the league. They are twins but have different challenges.
“I like baseball it’s fun. I hit two base hits, I swung the bat very hard and ran around the bases. I feel happy, good, excited!” Lucas shared.
Blake noticed their progress stating he’s gotten to see them grow up, not only get better at baseball, but become the nice young men that they are.
The mentors look forward to game day as much as the players do.
“It’s really inspirational to be out there; I’m learning to be so grateful in life, grateful for what I have,” said Casey.
The Miracle League, thanks to the support of the Miami Marlins and donors, has a permanent home field at Tamiami Park complete with custom designed synthetic turf baseball field that allows wheelchairs and walkers to glide easily along.
The Miracle League is more than playing a game. It’s about making new friends, building self-esteem and being treated just like other athletes.
There are over 276 specialized Miracle League parks across the nation and in Puerto Rico.
For information on the Miracle League of Miami-Dade Spring season, which is now accepting applications, you can visit their website at mlomd.org.
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