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Newton County swinging for a 'miracle' field
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The Miracle League slogan is simple: "Every Child Deserves a Chance to Play Baseball."

And soon that will include the young athletes of Newton County.

The Miracle League, which was formed by the Rockdale Youth Baseball Association (RYBA) in 1998, provides an opportunity for children with mental and/or physical challenges to play baseball.


"No matter their ability, we basically have orchestrated a baseball program by building a specialized field to bring baseball to any child," said Miracle League executive director Diane Alford.


It has gained the interest of many in Covington, particularly Newton County Recreation Commission director Tommy Hailey.


"We approached (the Miracle League) recently to build one," Hailey said. "We never have had the resources or money to do so until now. There are still some issues to work out, but we're excited about this opportunity."


According to Alford, the biggest need is bringing the community together to make a financial commitment.


"What we need now are several things," Alford said. "We need volunteers to say we're on board to help raise money and help the league. We also need to help spread the word.


"We've been to (Newton County) several times now and worked with the rotary club there and commission," she added. "At this point we're trying to see where exactly the location will be, but it's definitely going to happen and that's exciting to us."


Since opening the first building in 2000 in Conyers, the Miracle League has more than 220 facilities across the country, servicing 90,000+ children and young adults. In addition, approximately 100 fields are under construction.


With more than 50,000-plus children in Metro Atlanta disabled to some degree, keeping them from participating in team sports, the Miracle League has been gaining not just national but local attention, as well.


"Diane and I are working very closely with Tommy to make this project happen for all the special children in Newton County," said Stephanie Davis, Miracle League national program director.


Amazingly, the program began with just 35 players on four teams.


"Miracle League fields should be in every community that offers youth sports," Alford said. "Just because a child has a disability doesn't mean he/she should have to drive to another community to participate in some type of activity. We're excited that our neighboring community, Newton County, is taking the time to see what we're all about."


The Miracle complexes typically include a custom-designed field with a cushioned rubberized surface to help prevent injuries, wheelchair accessible dugouts and a completely flat surface to eliminate any barriers to wheelchair-bound or visually impaired players.


"We can do this if we get everybody involved," Hailey said, "and we need to do this. It's awesome, it really is. They say the best one's in Dothan, Ala., but we're going to build the best one in Newton County."


The design also includes several grass fields that can be converted to the synthetic rubber surface, along with accessible restrooms, a concession stand and picnic pavilion.


"We're going to have the public input on what kind of theme our building should be like," Hailey said. "I would like to do a replica of a major league stadium, but the field is only 125 feet; it's not big at all. But what you do is tie that in with another field that's going to have pro turf on it for our 5-year-olds to play on so (they) won't feel excluded - they'll feel included."


What also makes the Miracle League so unique is the commitment toward everyone using its "buddy" system. "Buddies" - community children, coaches, parents and volunteers - assist the players with special needs, benefiting all.


"I know what Newton County residents do," Alford said, "and that is they believe in their youth; they believe in parks and recreation. And in return I know that the community is going to jump on and help raise this money with the help from the local government and also from individuals."


The Miracle League has won numerous awards and honors. Perhaps one of the greatest achievements was being inducted to The Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.


Recently the Miracle League earned the 2008 National Consortium for Academics and Sports Award.


A public information meeting for any interested regarding the new project is at 6 p.m. Aug. 21 at the Newton County Recreation Commission.


For more information, visit the Web site at