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Rotary Club member Joe Stokes speaks at an April 28 groundbreaking ceremony for the Miracle League baseball field being constructed at Dan Kinney Park on Blackman Road.
Rotary Club member Joe Stokes speaks at an April 28 groundbreaking ceremony for the Miracle League baseball field being constructed at Dan Kinney Park on Blackman Road.

With $270K, fundraising continues for Miracle League field

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This fall, Springfield will have Missouri’s first Miracle League baseball field – a place where children and adults with disabilities can safely participate in America’s favorite pastime.

The ballpark, an element of the new Dan Kinney Park on Blackman Road, is a collaboration between the Rotary Club of Springfield North, which handled fundraising for the $319,000 ball field, and the Springfield-Greene County Park Board, which will manage its operations.

Springfield’s Miracle League field will be one of 240 such parks around the country. The fields are about one-third the size of typical baseball or softball fields and are covered in a rubberized surface to make it safe for people with disabilities. They are also equipped with larger dugouts to accommodate wheelchairs.

The Rotary club has raised more than $270,000 – nearly $50,000 short of the total needed – for the field, but fundraising is ongoing, said Joe Stokes, the club member who had the initial idea for the ballpark. A groundbreaking ceremony for the field was held April 28, and the Park Board is prepared to contribute the remaining funds needed, using money from the 2006 Park Development Fund as well as the city’s quarter-cent capital improvement projects tax, said Miles Park, the Park Board’s superintendent of general services.

“Once the park is developed, (the Park Board) will take care of the maintenance and upkeep,” Park said, noting that the money for those needs would come from city and county general operating funds.

Stokes, key accounts manager at City Utilities, began working on getting a Miracle League baseball field for Springfield because of a good friend whose son, Noah, has a long-term illness. As Stokes watched the boy’s illness progress, he saw that Noah could no longer play baseball, one of his great loves.

“I thought there’s got to be something for boys like Noah who can’t play baseball anymore,” Stokes said.

After a quick Internet search, Stokes found the Miracle League organization, and approached Rotary Club of Springfield North – of which he is a longtime member – and the Springfield-Greene County Park Board. Both organizations were eager to investigate building a Miracle League baseball park.

The business community also has thrown its support behind the Miracle League field. The Rotary club secured a $100,000 grant from the Wal-Mart State Giving Foundation, Stokes said, a fundraiser held by the Missouri State University baseball Bears raised $2,500, and the Bobby Allison family donated $125,000.

Other gifts included $25,000 from Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Co., $10,000 from St. John’s and $10,000 from three principals at Hood-Rich Inc., the architectural firm handling the field’s design, Stokes said.

Hood-Rich is the architect for Phases I and II at Dan Kinney Park and is bidding on Phase III, which includes a family recreation center. Bids for that project will open June 16. The Hood-Rich principals decided to donate money to the ball field after being awarded Phase I design.

“This is something that is not available in Springfield and I think it’s needed,” said Jack Hood, architect and partner with Hood-Rich. “We felt like it was a real good cause.”

The Miracle League organization started in 2000 when it developed its first baseball field in Conyers, Ga., an Atlanta suburb, said Diane Alford, executive director of the nonprofit.

The 240 Miracle League fields are located across the country, and the organization also has fields in Canada, Australia and Puerto Rico. The organization now serves children and adults. Miracle League games are shorter – two innings instead of nine – although each inning is fairly long because all players get the chance to bat, reach the bases and score runs. Each child has a helper, such as a parent, sibling or friend, to assist them during games.

“There is absolutely no one who can’t participate in our program,” Alford said.

Park expects Springfield’s field to be complete in September or October, with construction led by general contractor R.E. Smith Construction, and the Park Board is working to organize games for the fall.

Alford said Miracle League gets as many as 300 e-mails a day from people wanting to know where the nearest Miracle League park is located. Park said the response to Springfield’s park already been strong.

“We’re really looking forward to getting this project completed,” Park said. “We just feel it’s going to be a great asset for the community.”[[In-content Ad]]


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