“Our players may not be able to run the bases or hit the ball as well as some of their peers, but they have an equal amount of love and determination to play baseball. We want to help them achieve that dream.” Miracle League
Every child, regardless of a physical or mental disability should have the chance to play baseball, according to Brian Caine, Founder/Director of the Miracle League of Greater Flint, a nonprofit chapter of the Miracle League national organization. A senior at Grand Blanc High School, he has made it his mission to start a baseball league in which children and adults of all abilities can play. He has teamed up with Dave Guigear, Supervisor of the Mundy Township Board of Trustees, who also had his sights set on creating an area Miracle League. “We’ve joined forces,” the teen says. “We are raising funds to build the field.”
Since 2013, the Mundy Township Board of Trustees had been working on a proposed multimillion-dollar park that would be located on some land owned by the Township on Hill and Van Slyke Roads. The park would include the barrier-free Miracle League baseball field and a playground. “Mundy Township generously donated the land to us,” Caine explains.
Caine has been an avid baseball fan and has played the game since he was four years old. He also enjoys working with kids who are in special education programs. But it was his aunt, who is heavily involved with Miracle League, who really motivated him. “I applied to run a Miracle League in August of 2015,” he reports. Support has been growing ever since then. There is also a Miracle League Club that consists of a group of dedicated Grand Blanc High School students who help with fundraising and will serve as “Buddies” when the field is up and running, Caine explains.
According to its website, the first Miracle League field opened in Conyers, GA in April 2000. Word spread, and by 2002, fields opened in South Carolina, Alabama, West Virginia, Illinois, and California. There are currently 240+ Miracle League Organizations across the country, including Puerto Rico and Canada, serving over 200,000 children and adults.
According to Caine, the estimated cost to build the field is $400,000 but there is a possibility that in-kind donations will lower the costs. He hopes to get the funding quickly, “so that these kids can get some physical activity as soon as possible.” They are also pursuing grants to help fund the project. Caine’s ultimate goal is to raise $1 million to create a sustainability fund.
There is a YouTube video of Miracle League kids playing baseball titled, “Miracle League of the Carolina Travelers.” Caine admits, “it makes me cry every time I watch it.”
Caine is working to bring awareness to his pet project and gives presentations to local service organizations twice a month, hoping to generate support. “There are 10,000 kids in Genesee County who could be eligible for this league,” he points out. But it’s not just for Genesee County kids. “Kids from surrounding counties could also benefit from a league like this.”
Recently, the Miracle League of Greater Flint’s initiative to build the field gained the support of Flint native and baseball legend, Jim Abbott. “I would like to congratulate and wish the best of luck to Brian Caine and all of those involved in bringing a new Miracle League facility to Genesee County,” Abbott said in an e-mail to Caine. “Having witnessed Miracle League Field games and ceremonies around the country, I am thrilled to hear that these opportunities will soon be available to aspiring baseball players of every ability in the Flint area.”
Caine has set a goal for completion of the field project by the fall of 2019. “That’s a stretch, but maybe we’ll get a surprise,” he says. College plans are on hold for this dedicated teen until his mission is complete. “This is my passion; I enjoy helping kids,” he shares. “This is going to change lives – not just for the kids, but for families, as well.”
“There are 10,000 kids in Genesee County who could be eligible for this league, and kids from surrounding counties could also benefit from it.”
The Miracle League removes the barriers that keep children with mental and physical disabilities off the baseball field and lets them experience the joy of America’s favorite pastime. Since the main barriers arise from the natural grass fields used in conventional leagues, Miracle League teams play on a field made of custom-designed, rubberized turf that accommodates wheelchairs and other assistive devices while helping to prevent injuries.
But it’s more than playing a game. The Miracle League is about kids making new friends, building self-esteem and being treated just like other athletes. To help the athletes, the Miracle League uses a “buddy” system – pairing each player with an able-bodied peer. The result is a bond that cannot be described. The Miracle League serves children and adults who suffer from any physical or mental disability that causes them to be excluded, whether intentionally or not, from conventional baseball leagues.
Miracle League needs your help making miracle magic! You can be a part of the Miracle.
All donations are tax deductible and can be made to:
Miracle League of Greater Flint
8493 Joseph St., Grand Blanc MI 48439
Or online at miracleleagueofgreaterflint.com/donations/
Photography by Eric Dutro