They say miracles happen every day if you only look for them. Rather than looking for one, the city of Springfield, Missouri, took matters into their own hands. The result of their hopes and efforts opened in 2011—a place where miracles happen and everyone gets a shot to hit one out of the park and run for home.
The Betty and Bobby Allison Miracle League Ball Field was the first of its kind in the region. Not merely a place to play ball, Miracle Field is an environment created to allow everyone, regardless of ability, to experience America’s favorite pastime—a barrier-free baseball field where anyone can live out their dreams of aiming for the outfield or feeling the thrill of heading for home base. Built to strict specifications to meet the standards of Miracle League, the construction of the field included a cushioned, synthetic surface to maintain the safety of all players. The surface and layout of the field allow for players utilizing wheelchairs or walkers to move without restriction while reaching for the sky toward their dreams. Next door, is just icing on the cake—a universal playground that allows every kid to be, well, a kid.
But much of the awe of Springfield’s Miracle Field isn’t in the custom turf or accessible playground—it’s in the community that gathered behind it. Allowing the design to come to fruition, various community groups and businesses donated funds to the field’s construction, organized through the Springfield-Greene County Park Board, including large donations from the Rotary Club of Springfield North and the title sponsor, Bobby Allison. Named for Allison and his late mother, the surname is already well-known throughout the community. The Springfield philanthropist, known for his laid-back overalls as much as his generosity, has made large donations to various organizations including the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Missouri State University, and the area’s Child Advocacy Center.
While donations such as Allison’s make the Miracle League possible, it’s the ongoing support from the community that allow the field be maintained. Earlier in 2016, a $350,000 gift from an anonymous donor paid for a much-needed resurfacing of the field. The rubberized material is susceptible to weather and repairs can be both more frequent and costlier than a traditional field. And no one is turned down at the Betty and Bobby Allison Miracle League Ball Field for the inability to pay the season’s $25 dues.
But it isn’t just financially that the Springfield community has shown up when called upon. In fact, several show up every single week during the spring and fall seasons for game days. Be it coaches or “buddies,” volunteers are the heart of the Miracle League. Buddies enhance the experience for the players, whether they are there to help hit, catch, or just provide encouragement. Each player has a buddy, and buddies have come from all walks of life in Springfield from everyday heroes and college or high school athletes to Springfield’s own minor league baseball team, the Springfield Cardinals.
While there has been no question that the field has been a tremendous resource to Miracle League players and their families, the community has benefitted from it as well. Described as being “in its own category,” game nights at the Betty and Bobby Allison Miracle League Ball Field are like no other. Those in attendance call the joy contagious, and a bit competitive in the adult leagues, but a good time is had by all, both on the field and in the stands, cheering on their favorite player or rooting for every player. It’s a place that takes you back to the heart of America’s favorite pastime, just a love for the game.
And a place where miracles can happen.
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