The Detroit Tigers have been playing baseball for nearly two months now, but for Steve Peck, the start of the season that really counts is still more than two weeks away.
He’s the non-salaried, happily genial commissioner of the Miracle League of Michigan, where everyone is a true all-star.
The Miracle League is designed to give children with every kind of physical and mental disability the chance to play baseball.
One little boy named Dylan can’t walk, but thanks to his able-bodied buddy, has no trouble rounding second base. The parents of Jennifer, a little girl with Down’s syndrome, say they’ve been blown away by how much self-confidence playing has given her.
Peck, a radio host and marketing and communications consultant, says he thinks this may be the most rewarding thing he’s ever done. It started almost eight years ago, when by chance he saw an HBO special about the first-ever Miracle League, which had been founded in Rockville, Georgia in the late 1990s.
The kids played on a special rubberized diamond, so that wheelchairs and walkers could move around. Every child was able to get hits, make runs, and round the bases, thanks to the assistance of a volunteer buddy. There was nothing else like it in the country.
Peck was inspired. Why should Georgia have all the fun? He went to work and got the City of Southfield to donate some prime land in their civic center complex. He raised the $325,000 necessary to have the special rubberized field built, and got the league going.
That was eight years ago. Things have been expanding ever since. There are various levels of play now. Some are non-competitive, where everyone just scores runs and has a good time. In others, they play for keeps. There are now some Miracle Leagues groups where challenged adults can participate.