Miracle League gives opportunities for all to play ball

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A night at the old ball game at the Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Field in Fairfield, Ohio. Photos by Michael D. Pitman.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Fields give many people with disabilities, both developmental and physical, a chance to experience the game of baseball.

Steve Smith, Joe Nuxhall Miracle League board member and team coach, said the games played at the field named after a man who championed the efforts to bring equality and opportunities to those with disabilities gives families “a great experience for everyone.”

The games played every Friday night for adults and Saturday morning for youth with disabilities, “Gives so many people to come experience the game of baseball and that’s never been an opportunity for them, or even a possibility,” said Smith.

The Miracle League’s adult softball league is administered by the Therapeutic Recreation for the Disabled Softball League. And the Saturday youth league is put on by the Great Miami Valley YMCA.

The complex is nestled on a bend of Groh Lane just past the Groh Family Farm and across from the Fairfield Pee Wee football fields. And on game day, the complex is filled with players excited to play and family members excited to see the game action.

“One of the things that’s wonderful about our league is we offer opportunities for people with any kind of disability,” said Smith. “Whether it’s a mental disability or physical disability, any combination there of, they are welcome to play in our league.”

Phillo Opeka, of Middletown, had lost four toes to diabetes, can play with his friends on a Friday night.

“Every year it gets better and better,” said Opeka, who’s played at the Miracle League Fields since it opened in 2012, and previously with the Therapeutic Recreation for the Disabled Softball League at the Civitan Club fields in Fairfield. “The community really supports us down here.”

And the rubberized surfaces provides more opportunity to more people.

“It’s better for the players because some players have disabilities, but they just conquer them. They just put their disabilities aside and live for the moment.”

One of those players is Ervin Meadows, who is completely blind and hit a home run on Opening Night on May 6.

“It meant everything,” he said of that hit. “I was shocked. I believe I could hit the ball but I had know idea where it went.”

He said he was “lost in the moment” when they told him it went over the fence.

“I rounded first and headed for centerfield,” he said. “I can’t explain it. It was just exciting, it was overwhelming.”

While he hit that “golf swing” homer from a batter’s tee, he was practicing to hit a thrown ball — one with an audible tone for the visually impaired — before Friday’s game.

Meadows, of Fairfield, lost sight in one eye 12 years ago, and then the other eye six years ago. He calls the Joe Nuxhall Miracle League “a great opportunity.”

“I think it’s the greatest thing in the world for people who have disabilities to be able to get out and get some physical exercise and to be a part of something greater than themselves,” Meadows said. “This is devoted to giving everyone an equal opportunity to play. No matter what your disability or your challenge is, you get a chance to play and they accommodate you. There’s nothing better.”