- Associated Press - Sunday, March 23, 2014

DOTHAN, Ala. (AP) - The starting lineup for the blue team was intimidating, but Brice Bailey wasn’t one to worry.

The 4-year-old rookie for the Red Tots seemed to know baseball was a simple game: You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball. Right?

He eyed his mark, whacked the ball and ran for glory, ultimately running all the way to home plate for the first home run of the 2014 season of the Miracle League of Dothan.

Brice was one of about 150 players who stormed the ballpark on a recent Saturday to celebrate the opening day of the league for special needs children and adults. The event, which included an opening ceremony, kicked off the two monthlong season at the Miracle Field at Westgate Recreation Complex.

The Miracle League offers people with special needs a chance to play league baseball. During the games, each player is usually paired with a helper “buddy.” Players can bat once an inning and score a run before the inning is over. In addition, anyone who runs a base is safe, and every team and player wins.

Several Dothan dignitaries attended the event, including Mayor Mike Schmitz and Jim Oates, who served as the director of the Leisure Services department from 1977 until his retirement in 1998. The keynote speaker was Ron Ingram, director of communications with the Alabama High School Athletic Association.

But the real hotshots were on the field.

Allen Singley, Miracle Board president and youth pastor at Grandview Baptist Church, said the event was a way to let people with special needs get out and play ball and enjoy the spirit of team sports, while the spectators learn lessons in true sportsmanship and camaraderie.

“To me, if you want to see what we ought to look like, the way we ought to love, the way we ought to care, you come hang out with our players,” Singley said.

Hundreds of people showed up at the event to cheer on the players and participate in the festivities.

Jeffrey Shock, from Dothan, said he came out to cheer on his 8-year-old brother, Joseph.

“He loves coming out and playing,” Jeffrey Shock said. “I think it’s great. It gives him and other kids the opportunity to be part of a team.”

And that kind of team play is important, said “Big” Joe Salinas, whose 12-year-old son, Jose “Little Joe” Salinas, took his spot on the mound alongside his twin brother, Tristan.

Tristan acted as Little Joe’s “buddy,” a person who helps the player when it’s their turn at bat.

Big Joe Salinas said Tristan played football and baseball himself, but he also liked playing sports with his brother.

Other attendees said they were amazed to see how happy the games made their children.

“You’re a proud dad when you see your kid giving it all they got,” said Matthew Campbell, whose 12-year-old daughter, Madison, was starting out her first year. “There’s no downs, there’s no hollering at players. Everybody’s a winner.”


Information from: The Dothan Eagle, https://www.dothaneagle.com

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