SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Orioles and Pirates joined Sarasota County and the Miracle League of Manasota in the dedication of the first Miracle League Field in the Sarasota-Bradenton area on Saturday afternoon.
As part of the partnership, which also includes dozens of private-sector supporters, the Pirates and Orioles donated a total of $150,000 toward the construction of the baseball field designed specifically for children and adults with special needs.
"You ever been to one of those fields? Unbelievable," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who was headed to the ceremony along with executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette. "[It makes] your problems seem pretty meaningless. They get a big thrill out of it, it's completely patterned towards handicaps they have. I'm looking forward to it."
The Miracle League of Manasota Field is located at Longwood Park off University Parkway and features a flat rubberized surface to eliminate barriers and create a safe playing environment for players challenged with any form of special need.
In addition to the initial funding, the Pirates and Orioles will continue to play a key role in assisting Bob Mitchell, president of the Miracle League of Manasota, and other partners in executing the Miracle League program. Following the official opening of the Miracle League season on March 17, players, coaches, alumni and front-office personnel from both teams will actively participate in the games that the Miracle League program offers.
"What began four years ago as a dream is now a reality," Mitchell said. "The Miracle League Field of Manasota is now ready for play. Players with special needs can enjoy playing baseball on a unique surface specially built for them. Our goal is to create an environment where self-esteem can flourish, and with everyone's help, we are meeting that goal."
This is the fifth Miracle League project the Pirates, through its official philanthropic arm, Pirates Charities, has partnered to build and the first in its Southern home of Bradenton.
"The passion that Bob Mitchell, the Baltimore Orioles and our other partners have brought to this project is contagious, as is the excitement we all share in seeing the impact this field will have on the children facing personal challenges," said Bob Nutting, chairman of both the Pittsburgh Pirates and Pirates Charities. "I would like to especially thank Trevor Gooby, our Senior Director of Florida Operations, for his personal commitment to this project and leading our efforts. The Miracle League program is one which I am especially proud to support, because it is so much more than allowing children the opportunity to play organized baseball. As we have seen with the Miracle League fields already in Pittsburgh, this field will give special needs children and their families the chance to develop positive relationships with their peers and other families facing similar challenges."
After committing to Sarasota as its new Spring Training home beginning in 2010, the Orioles and its charitable arm, OriolesREACH, have actively demonstrated a commitment to making a positive impact in the Sarasota community.
"The Orioles are proud to join the Miracle League, our friends at the Pittsburgh Pirates, Sarasota County Government and so many benefactors in the community in building the first Miracle League field in Sarasota-Bradenton," said Orioles managing partner Peter Angelos. "This is, indeed, a field of dreams for young people and adults who are going to experience the thrills of baseball, many for the first time."
More than 240 Miracle League organizations operate across the country, with the goal of empowering children and adults challenged by any form of special need to experience the joys and thrills of baseball regardless of their ability to play. The Miracle League, whose motto is "Every child deserves a chance to play baseball," allows for each player to bat once each inning and that all batters are "safe" and score a run before the inning is over. Games are two innings long and each team and each player always wins.
Integral to the Miracle League concept is the "Buddy System." Buddies assist all Miracle League players, and are volunteers from youth baseball organizations, local civic and community groups, and individuals with an interest in helping players with special needs.
For more information about joining a team, volunteering during games or supporting the Miracle League of Manasota, please visit miracleleaguemanasota.org.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.