Jun. 12—In the Miracle League of Lake County inaugural season in 2018, there were 40 players. Now, it's grown to nearly 200.
Miracle League Opening Day is set to take place June 18 at Lake Health Miracle Field, located at 35200 Vine St. in Eastlake. Games will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and an opening ceremony will take place at 11 a.m. This year, the league has added about the same amount of new players as it did last year, said League Commissioner Mike Piper.
"We're still on an upward swing," Piper said. "Each year grows. We have more and more special events each year, we added a movie night this year where we'll have a movie right down at the field, we'll have a Disney day where we'll have characters down there — different stuff going on."
Piper attributes the league's growth to the Miracle League not being a 45-minute, back-to-the-car activity.
"We have a game for sure, but we have the all inclusive playground, complimentary food and events just about every game," Piper said. "There's rarely just a game."
Not having just a game at Miracle Field leads to families spending two or more hours there instead of a short time, Piper said. If they're a distance away and they want to drive in for half an hour or 45 minutes, they may weigh their options, he said.
"If you know you're going to come out and be there for two or three hours, then that hour drive isn't a big deal," Piper said.
Besides children and youths with physical and mental disabilities wanting to play baseball, they're also looking to make friends, Piper said.
"When you have a situation where they're down there for two or three hours, that also leads to opportunities for that to happen — friends for the kids, the families," Piper said.
There are currently more than 270 Miracle League organizations across the United States, as well as Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico and Australia.
In 2016, Mark Rantala, executive director of the Lake County Port Authority, and Eastlake Mayor Dennis Morley approached the Lake County Captains about the creation of a Miracle League field. The Captains then donated 26 parking spaces that are now home to Miracle League athletes.
"We're thankful and fortunate with the help we've had from the community," Piper said. "We're in good shape to do what we want to do, so to speak, and that's thanks to them. The financing — when you have 40 people, it costs so much and when you have 200, it costs you so much more. We've been blessed to have that help and haven't had any issues as far as being able to handle the growth."