Day by day
Baseball field fulfills special sports dreams
By LIZ THOMPSON
June 22, 2015
Playing baseball and cheering your team on from the dugout or bleachers is a dream of many young people.
Omar Berete, 16, of Grove City, is one such boy. “My nickname is OB. I love to run the bases!” he said, smiling.
Crystal Carter, 15, of Galloway, said, “I keep playing hard, just like a baseball! I’ll never give up till I get a home run!”
In 1950, the very first Central Ohio Little League team was formed in Grove City. The Lions Club was the original sponsor and 65 years later continues in that role.
“Some of us played in the Little League in the 1950s and got help. We are giving back,” Ron Gabriel said.
Along with Gabriel, Jack Widner, Larry Thomas, Jay Pozz and Jimmie Harris all played and still play today, only in a different way. These men are members of the Grove City Little League Executive Board.
Gabriel said there are a lot of children who need a lot of help. These children have special needs. Omar and Crystal are two of many.
The Miracle League, started in 2000, allows the fulfilling of children’s dreams to do the typical baseball moves that thousands of children perform. Boys and girls who need assistance physically to walk and move, whether by canes, crutches, walkers or wheelchairs, are able to play baseball and feel the thrill of the game.
Using a buddy system, these children get to swing a bat, round the bases and, hopefully, score. The majority of buddies are siblings and parents of the children. Otherwise, All Star ball players make sure the children move safely about the field.
Lexi Spohn, 10, of Grove City said, “I love playing ball with my buddy!”
“The children have nicknames and get excited when they hear it called over the PA system,” Widner said.
Zach Attack, better known as Zachary King, 20, of Columbus, said, “I love hitting the ball!”
Currently, there are Miracle Fields in Dublin, Zanesville and Cincinnati. But this summer one is being built in Grove City. Right now, the closest Miracle Field for Columbus and surrounding areas is Dublin and it is swamped with kids playing.
“We are members of the Miracle League but we chose to call our field the Dream Field,” Widner said. “We have kids from all the suburban neighborhoods around Columbus. We have children from as far as Ashville, Circleville and Chillicothe. We get calls from all over and recently a resident from Madison County called hoping to have kids play.”
Widner told the caller they don’t turn anyone down but all must abide by the rules. There is a committee that is responsible for the field and all aspects of the operation.
The executive board has been told that at least 250 children would play at the new Dream Field. The season lasts from 12 to 14 weeks, one to two days a week. When the special needs children aren’t using the field, it will be open to T-ball players.
“We want to fill the void to give special needs kids a chance to play organized baseball,” Gabriel said. “There are so many children wanting to play. There are no losers, only winners.”
That includes players such as Joshua Johnson, 21, of Columbus who said, “I love to hit!” and Haylee Shaw, 15, of Grove City whose aunt, Ashley Valentine, said she looks forward to it every month.
Grove City’s Dream Field is being built at Windsor Park and is fully accessible. The parking lot was built first, followed by the concession stand, and plans are to have the field completed by the end of June and open in July.
To make the field safe and smooth for people using mobility aids, it takes three semitrailers full of tires to make the tiles.
“It costs about half a million to build the field,” Widner said. “The Little League’s portion is $252,000 and Grove City is paying the rest, which is the entire infrastructure.
“It’s important to note we are doing this with all private funds, no tax dollars. The community has been fantastic.”
Organizations helping include: Community Club, Lions, Noon Lions, Rotary, Sertoma and the Women’s Civic Club of Grove City.
The Miracle League brochure says it all: “If you build it, they’ll have fun.”
Curtis Greczyn, 22, of Grove City, fist bumps his buddy and said, “fans and friends” make it fun.