- Associated Press - Monday, June 9, 2014

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) - The Green Bay Miracle League is nine years old and still growing.

The baseball league exclusively for children with special needs has been maxed out at 200 athletes on 16 teams since 2012, but the expansion of related leagues in nearby communities means even more kids are playing, said founder and executive director Paul Liegeois.

Green Bay’s league was the second of its kind to form in Wisconsin in 2006, the Green Bay Press-Gazette reported (http://gbpg.net/TmCNsK). It had 65 athletes on four teams that year. Today, there are six leagues in the state, including those in Appleton and Manitowoc that grew directly out of Green Bay’s, Liegeois said.

Participants come from as far as 60 miles away to play, he said.

Connie Campbell, of Allouez, said her entire family is anxious for the season to start this weekend. Her daughter, 7-year-old Mackay, will be playing her third season.

Mackay has a lymphatic malformation that causes her airways to swell shut, and she requires a breathing tube for breathing and eating.

The baseball league provides her with a rare opportunity to get outside and play with other kids in a safe environment.

“So often for parents of children with disabilities something as simple as a night out at the ball park is a big deal,” Campbell said.

Regular season games are played every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night at the Resch Miracle Field located inside Allouez Optimist Park.

Players, ages 4-19, are paired with volunteer buddies who help them on the field, which is specially equipped for people with disabilities. More than 450 volunteers keep the season running.

“This is run in a very organized way as if it were a competitive league. You have your music and announcers and kids in official uniforms, and you have a concession stand. A lot of times that doesn’t happen unless it’s a tournament weekend, but we have it every day, every game,” volunteer coordinator Robin Cannedy said.

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Information from: Press-Gazette Media, http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com