I believe that growing child of the ‘50s was pretty OK. During the Eisenhower years boys and girls had the newest rage – the hula hoops; girls had the first Barbie who made the scene in a little black and white bathing suit; and it was safe for kids to ride bikes to the ball field to see the boys play a baseball game.
I believe it was a pretty OK for some kids. However, children with disabilities only had the opportunity to watch other kids play with hula-hoops and I doubt Barbie dolls and bicycles were part of their worlds. These same children with disabilities only got to watch baseball from their home or institution window.
Now, what seems like a hundred years later, my husband, my niece, and I are all involved with the Miracle League of Blair County, which is a baseball league for boys and girls. They play on a special field by rather unique rules. The only ‘requirement,’ to play in the Miracle League is that children must have a physical or cognitive disability.
The League is all-volunteer – from concession works to grounds keepers. My husband is the “Announcer Guy” and he makes each play sound like the hit that gave the Dodgers the pennant in the 50s when actually, the ball is barely brushed off the T.
Every Miracle League player has a buddy, which is my niece’s job. She has helped players bat, runs with them, pushes wheelchairs around the bases, and has become a friend to many of the players and their parents. Not bad for an 11-year old girl!
I take pictures, and arrange for “celebrity” singers who come to sing the National Anthem, which is performed before each game. We’ve had teachers, children, church choirs, and everyday people come sing all season. We even had a state Senator sing!
Watching the children and coaches cheer each as they come to bat; listening to fans root for all the runners to make it safely to the bases; and becoming choked up with emotion as some of “our kids” join the singer for the National Anthem makes me realize there is hope for everyone to enjoy sports — at least baseball.
The sun always shines on Miracle Ball. The field in Altoona, Pennsylvania is one of only 76 in the United States and miracles happen each warm summer Saturday. Girls now have the option of playing with hula-hoops and Barbie dolls but also playing baseball. However, boys now have those same opportunities – except their Barbie doll is called an Action Hero!
Yes, I believe growing up a child of the 50’s with a disability was tough, but times are different now. There are more chances to have fun, to play baseball, and compete in sports. The volunteers who make Altoona’s Miracle League happen are living the spirit of the 50s at Fiore Field when the players, coaches and buddies take the field. I believe there is hope and I do believe in miracles.