Durham Bulls Athletic Park in North Carolina might be one of the most famous Minor League Baseball stadiums in the country — thanks to the classic 1988 movie Bull Durham, starring Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon. And now, there’s also Durham Bulls Miracle League Field, which opened in March just around the corner.
It’s one of the country’s newest Miracle League fields, which remove barriers that keep individuals with mental and physical disabilities from playing ball. The fields are surfaced with a custom-designed, rubberized turf that accommodates wheelchairs and other assistive devices while also helping prevent injuries. To help participants, The Miracle League uses a “buddy” system that pairs each player with an able-bodied peer.
Rules might vary per organization, but each game generally has two innings, and every player bats once and scores before the inning is over. The last batter in the lineup hits a “home run,” and no strikes, outs or fouls are called. Additionally, there is no score.
“It’s a baseball game but it’s also a vehicle that provides joy to our players and families,” Benjy Capps, executive director of the Miracle League of the Triangle, told Duke Today. “We can share ideas, we can share successes, we can share challenges, and you know what, they’re gonna support me just like I would support them. And that’s what our community is about.”
Since the opening of the first Miracle League field in Conyers, Ga., in 2000, there are now more than 350 Miracle League organizations in North America (including Canada and Puerto Rico) that serve more than 450,000 children and adults, according to The Miracle League’s website.
The Durham Bulls Miracle League Field took several years to complete, according to Duke University (which contributed $120,000 to the project), and was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and working out property agreements with the Durham Housing Authority and Capitol Broadcasting Co. (which owns the Bulls and donated around $700,000).
“The noncompetitive games are two innings and played on Saturdays over eight weeks in the fall and spring,” Duke Today. “Just like Bulls and Blue Devils players, each youngster from Durham’s four teams has a personalized walk-up song when they go up to bat.”
In South Carolina, the $1.5 million Miracle League field at the Moncks Corner Recreation Complex took six years to complete and opened late last year. Previously, players in the area needed to travel up to an hour away to fields in other communities.
“We say all the time that we want to provide the opportunity for all children and adults to be able to play and be a part of recreation,” Town Recreation Director Becky Ellison told live5news.com at the time. “That’s what recreation is about — bringing together families, developing friendships. So, this is an exciting time for the town of Moncks Corner.”
Residents in Tyler, Texas, are just getting started on building a Miracle League field, which will partially be funded with more than $264,000 of money Smith County received as part of the American Rescue Plan Act. County commissioners approved use of the coronavirus relief money earlier this year after the city agreed to provide the land to build the new field adjacent to its existing fields. City crews also will maintain the Miracle League field.
“We’re meeting a need for the community and the county,” Smith County Commissioner Ralph Carraway Sr. told The Tyler Telegraph.
With more communities adding Miracle League fields, interest in competition is soaring — which will no doubt direct more attention to Palm Beach County, Fla., later this year for the fifth annual Miracle League All-Star Weekend for youths and adults. Each Miracle League organization selects players from their local league to attend the event, slated for Nov. 3-5 in The Palm Beaches. Palm Beach County is expected to host more than 400 volunteers, 80 directors and 200 players from two countries, 20 states and more than 25 cities, according to the Palm Beach County Sports Commission.
“The Miracle League has helped transform our community and we are excited to welcome players from across the country,” Julia Kadel, executive director of The Miracle League of Palm Beach County, said in a statement.