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Special-needs players get field of dreams

| Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, 8:54 p.m.

Every child, regardless of limitations, loves to play.

Plans are nearing completion to ensure children of the area with special needs will be able to play a game of baseball on their very own field.

Founded in 1993, the Miracle League of Pennsylvania's Laurel Highlands Champions helps young individuals with special needs enjoy a game of baseball and soon will be enjoying the season on their new field in Bailey Park in Uniontown.

“For a long time, we were a league of nomads,” said board member and publicity chair Joshua Scully. “We would go anywhere where they could accommodate us.”

The group, which encompasses all of Southwestern Pennsylvania, has been active raising funds to build a Miracle Field and was in search of a community to partner with when it was contacted by the City of Uniontown.

Bailey Park was seeing some big changes and the city offered the usage of its smaller field to the group to utilize for the league.

“They said we could make the smaller field our field,” Scully said, adding that they were helped with the move financially by a $25,000 grant received from the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau. “We have also had a handful of successful fundraisers that have helped.”

The field will be leveled to make for easier access and the dugouts will be enlarged to accommodate wheelchairs.

“This is step one of a three-step process,” Scully said. “For the next step, we have to place a rubberized infield. The bases and the pitchers mound will then be painted on it to completely alleviate any obstacles.”

After the new infield is complete, the group will add signs and higher fencing to complete the third and final step of the process to become a true Miracle Field.

“When it is complete, it will be 100-percent handicapped-accessible,” Scully said.

About 30 special-needs youths and young adults, ages 3 through 21, have signed up to play this year and will visit their new field on July 29 for their first practice.

Their first game is scheduled to be played on the new field starting at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Funds are needed to continue and complete the group's work. A “Fun Run” motorcycle event is planned for Sept. 29.

The run will coincide with other similar runs that will be held nationwide in an attempt to break a Guinness World Book Record.

“We'll be part of the longest Poker Run ever,” Scully said.

Scully added that they are now in the process of locating area stops that will be included in the event.

“We need to find at least three different establishments to come forward and help us with this,” Scully said. “We are really hoping that a few want to help us. They would be one of the designated stops on the run that day.”

Scully said that the group is thrilled to have made such leaps in the past year and look forward to the day where their players will have their perfect “field of dreams.”

“It's been an exciting and productive year for us so far,” Scully said. “Our future right now is brighter then we could have ever hoped for or imagined.”

For information or to contact the league, visit www.MLPLH.org.

Marilyn Forbes is a freelance writer.

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