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By Donna L. Robinson
The Miracle League of Lake County ball field and playground at Classic Park in Eastlake was built for people with disabilities, especially those in wheelchairs, walkers, and with autism.
The project was born out of a collaboration between the Lake County Port Authority, Miracle League of Lake County, Lake County Board of Developmental Disabilities/Deepwood, the city of Eastlake, and the Lake County Captains.
According to Morris Beverage III, former board chair, vice-president, and fundraiser of Miracle League of Lake County, The Miracle League is a global organization, so there were already plenty of other playgrounds and ball fields for them to reference. Once the site was established, other fields were sampled from to create a field and playground to suit the needs of those with disabilities.
When Beverage was asked how those with disabilities will benefit from the new Miracle League ball field and playground and what amenities it has for them, he replied, “There are a lot of features of the ball field and playground that were altered or enhanced with specific needs in mind: the spacing and walls of the dugout, the rubber surface used throughout the ball field and playground, the material used for the base paths, the hypo allergenic grass used in the outfield, etc.” The all-inclusive playground will have extra padding to prevent injuries, and on site, there will be ADA family bathrooms for those with special needs.
Neil Stein, general manager of the Lake County Captains, said, “We've been involved in the process of bringing the Miracle League ball field and playground to the area from day one. We were involved in the planning for both the playground and baseball field and were extremely excited for the grand opening and first games in July.”
Stein added, “We at the Captains were familiar with the Miracle League concept as it has been done in other markets with Minor League Baseball teams. When the concept of building a Miracle League ball field here in NE Ohio was brought up to us a couple years ago, we jumped at the opportunity to be involved as the mission of the Miracle League aligns perfectly with our mission at the Captains of providing a fun, affordable entertainment option for kids and families here in the area.”
The Miracle League gives all kids the chance to play baseball no matter what their limitations may be. Having a specialized field that removes many of the obstacles children with walkers or wheelchairs encounter at a recreational field is going to be extremely well-received by the children and families involved in the league.
Stein said, “The playground will be open to the public and the ball field will be open to any team registered to play through the Miracle League. It is not going to be open to others at this point, but that's something that may be explored in the future. In the first season our goal is to have four to six teams play games at the field knowing that it will grow in future years. The playground was open in the fall of 2017 before the construction of the baseball field began, and there were dozens of kids using the playground every day. We anticipate an even larger number of people visiting the facility on a daily basis.
Both the Lake County Captains and the two families that own the team, Peter & Rita Carfagna and Ray & Katie Murphy, were extremely eager for opening day of the ball field. “All involved parties have contributed time and money toward this project which is going to benefit the community for decades to come. Our Captains fans who have seen the construction of the field keep raving about the project and what an improvement it has made to the Classic Park campus here at the corner of Route 91 and Vine Street,” said Stein.
Eastlake Mayor Dennis Morley said, “CT Consultants designed the parameters of the playground and the ball field while working with the Miracle League board, the city of Eastlake, and the Lake County Captains. CT Consultants donated their services. The community of Eastlake is very proud of this special playground and ball field for the children. The closest one in the area is in Medina.”
The majority of the funding for the Miracle League playground and ball field was from personal and corporate donations as well as in-kind work donated on the planning/legal/construction side. The majority of those funds came from Lake Health, Lubrizol, two grants (one from the county and one from the state) and then numerous other company and private donations.
When Beverage was asked what does the playground and ball field means to him and Miracle League, he replied, “It wasn’t until I had my son that I realized how much a playground and baseball means to a child. Being able to bring that possibility to a child who otherwise might not have had the opportunity is very rewarding, and worth the effort that it took to bring this project to fruition.”