One of the most satisfying relationships that Schuyler has had over the years has been with the Miracle League. For those of you who don’t know, Miracle League gives over 200,000 kids and young adults with disabilities an opportunity to participate in a variety of sports, primarily baseball but also soccer, basketball, flag football, and even bowling, in leagues designed to accommodate their disabilities while at the same time giving them authentic sporting experiences. There are over 250 Miracle League organizations in the US, Canada, Puerto Rico and even Australia. If you’re looking for a pure good in this world, you couldn’t do much better than Miracle League.
A few weeks ago, Schuyler was asked to participate in a special baseball camp sponsored by the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation. The Rangers have been huge supporters of Miracle League over the years, including providing crucial support for the construction of the Miracle League field in Arlington. The Foundation partners with Baseball Fantasy Camps, LLC to host a Fantasy Day every spring for Miracle League players.
I can’t tell you how much it means to these kids. Not just the fun and the activities and the attention, but also the fact that they are taken seriously. That’s not a small thing. The kids were broken up into a number of smaller groups and went from station to station, working on various aspects of the game. They were mentored by Texas Rangers Alumni, some from way back, others only recently retired, and it was clear that these former players and coaches were getting as much from the kids as they were giving.
I’m sure I’ll miss someone, but I’d like to thank them individually. The alumni who were present included Larry Hardy, Dave Hostetler, Kevin “Shrek” Mench, Don Stanhouse, Pete O’Brien, Tim Crabtree, Mike Munoz and Ken Suarez. Schuyler’s group was mentored by Kevin Belcher and Mark Brandenburg, whom I used to watch pitch for the Rangers back when I was in college. All these guys gave of their time, and it meant the world to every player and family member there.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day issues and the differences and the anxieties of raising a kid with special needs. It’s easy to forget that they have a lot of the same dreams that the rest of us had, about summers spent in itchy uniforms with local sponsors’ names stitched on the back (I played for the Odessa American, the local paper) and breaking in a new glove that wasn’t right until it looked like it had been run over by a truck a few times, and that perfect once-in-a-season swing that sends the ball into forever.
Unrealistic? Perhaps, but they were probably just as unrealistic when I was thirteen and imagining my name being announced at the old Arlington Stadium. It’s on the backs of those dreams that we grow up and discover the dreams that were meant for us.
For a lot of kids, baseball dreams loan them wings for a while until they find the ones fitted just for them.
(Note: Next time, perhaps we’ll ask them to just put her first name on the back of her jersey; “Rummel-Hudson” hilariously took up most of the back of her shirt, almost encircling her number. But as a friend pointed out, Boston’s Jarrod Saltalamacchia still has her beat by a letter and a half. She’ll have to make baseball history some other way.)