Even 'Miracles' need helping hand

Special-needs field seeks building donor

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The Murrysville-Export Rotary Club is looking for the proverbial ''angel in the outfield'' to add the final element to its new Miracle baseball field for those with special needs.

"We need $250,000 to complete the concession stand. The plumbing is roughed in and the electricity is there -- we just need to build the building," said the Rev. Harold Hicks of the Rotary, who is president of the Miracle League of Western Pennsylvania. The donor will have naming rights to the facility, he said.

The local Rotary is managing the fundraising and development of the project, part of the Rotary Miracle Sports Complex of Murrysville, a 4.8 acre facility in Murrysville Community Park off Wiestertown Road.

The concession stand, to be located behind home plate, will house restrooms with showers and a storage area.

Rev. Hicks and co-chairman of the project Nick Dorsch, toured the region, seeking advice from communities with similar fields.

Rev. Hicks said the group hopes to have the project completed by Sept. 8, official opening day of the field.

Last week, Rotarians held a celebration to christen the field "The Bill Mazeroski Miracle Field of Murrysville,'' in honor of the Pirates Hall-of-Famer. The 75-year-old former Pirates second baseman was there to unveil the field's logo.

"He certainly seemed touched with what took place,'' said Kurt Kimmich of Murrysville.

Mr. Kimmich's 5 year-old son, Ben, who has Down syndrome, plans to use the field.

The rubberized, cushioned surface will serve players who use wheel chairs and walkers. Dugouts are also wheelchair accessible.

This field is larger than most other Miracle Fields so disabled adults also can use it.

"They can hit the ball pretty hard," Rev. Hicks said.

National Miracle Field guidelines list 90 feet as the recommended distance from home plate to center field. The Murrysville field stretches 150 feet. A white band to the 115 feet mark will be used for younger and smaller players.

The idea for the field and recreation complex was the dream of Export resident George O'Donnell. Mr. O'Donnell, parent of an adult child with special needs, rallied families for bowling, baseball games and other activities. Aware of his efforts, Rev. Hicks, then Rotary Club president, got the ball rolling for funding the $1.9 million project. In the last seven years, the Rotary Club has raised $1.4 million.

The complex will include a "freegame area," designed by Kompan playground design company and funded by UPMC East and UPMC Healthplan. It has a unique fencing system for basketball and net games. Last weekend, some 30 volunteers spent about 20 hours erecting the fence, Rev. Hicks said.

Two age appropriate playgrounds -- one for ages 2 to 5 and one for ages 6 to 12 -- will have equipment for children with disabilities, as well as their siblings and friends.

There is a picnic pavilion with electricity and tables that can accommodate wheelchairs.

There is also a quarter-mile track with a 3 percent grade.

Pirates Charities donated $75,000 to the field, according to Patty Paytas, vice president of community and public affairs for the charity.

The league is taking registration for players, adult volunteers and "buddies" to assist players. Call Mr. Hicks at 412-860-8709 or email hhicks@accfirepro.com.


Laurie Bailey, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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