For Jeff Fisher, the impact of starting a baseball league for special needs kids boils down to two words: “pure joy.”
The Miracle League North Texas’s fall 2021 season, which recently wrapped up, marked the first for the local chapter, which aims to remove barriers that keep children with mental and physical disabilities from playing in a baseball game through a buddy system that pairs athletes with an able-bodied peer.
Fisher, a Flower Mound resident, put the league together after his sons served as buddies with a similar league based in Arlington. During its first season, the Miracle League North Texas began with 42 athletes and grew over time to end up with 57.
“If somebody wants to be out on a baseball field and experience that joy as a kid with special needs, I wasn’t going to close that registration for anybody,” Fisher said.
The league, which plays at a softball field in Flower Mound’s Bakersfield Park, is open to people from all over, Fisher said. He said athletes from as far as Sanger and Era, about 45 miles away, have participated.
For him, seeing parents get to support their children brings an added benefit.
“To watch the parents remove themselves from their kids for the hour that we experience a game, to watch them remove themselves and just sit there and cheer on their kids, that’s a side benefit, and I think it’s one of the greatest benefits of Miracle League, too,” Fisher said, “These parents are now getting to experience and getting to watch their kids do something special, do something that neurotypical kids have done for years, but that their kids have not.”
Some athletes participating in the league have neurotypical siblings who have played baseball for years, he said, and they’ve usually been the ones watching their siblings on the sidelines.
“Now, we’ve flipped it around to where these neurotypical kids are now watching their siblings’ games at the Miracle League,” Fisher said.
As the league gears up for its spring season, which kicks off in April, Fisher said he’s looking to expand and turf the field that the league uses in an effort to allow athletes who use wheelchairs to move independently.
“Most of these kids can wheel themselves around on a hard surface like the sidewalk, but on the softball field, they can’t,” Fisher said.
He said the league is hoping to raise enough money for the project, which could cost between $100,000 and $200,000.
In addition, the league is always looking for volunteers, Fisher said, both for the upcoming baseball season and for a forthcoming golf tournament. During a season, the league usually asks for about 25 per weekend, but as the league grows, there will be a need for more, he said.
Information about volunteering can be found on the organization website, miracleleaguentx.com. Fisher said the league will also participate in off-season events and will look into adding other sports in the future.
“We want to get baseball down and make sure we’re doing that properly, but we want to expand to soccer and other sports in the future,” he said.