“You can observe a lot just by watching,” —Yogi Berra
When I was a little girl growing up outside of Houston, we thought it would take a miracle for the Astros to win a World Series.
We were pretty good in 1986. I remember jumping up and down with my brother in our living room when our ‘Stros became the NL West champions. But that’s about as close as we ever came to the Big Show during our childhood.
Baseball has always been in our bones. Both of my grandfathers were excellent players. My Dad and my brother overachieved in the game. I was usually the only girl on my team in Little League. Once I even made the All-Star Team. My niece started T-Ball this year.
When my husband and I first started dating in 1995, a lot of our dates were in the mezzanine section of the Astrodome. For better or worse, the tickets were cheap, ‘cause our ‘Stros were struggling.
There was glory on the Diamond when my Texas Longhorns won the College World Series in 2002 and again in 2005.
Then last year, the most exciting World Series I’ve ever seen, when our beloved ‘Stros finally came home with the trophy. I cried as they piled on. This was definitely my number one most ecstatic moment as a sports fan.
It really did seem like a miracle to this little girl who had loved this team for 38 years.
But it wasn’t a miracle.
And I didn’t figure that out until last Saturday. Until then, those had been the most “miraculous” sports moments of my life. But they don’t even come close to watching the players in the Las Vegas Miracle League.
The only way I know how to describe these players is... miraculous. I spent my first game in the stands with my husband, watching in amazement as each batter stepped up to the plate. These little lives with huge spirits and more determination than most adults I know.
And some damn strong bats, too.
It didn’t matter if the ball was foul or fair. When the batter made contact, we cheered our hearts out and they ran those bases with joy. More in-the-park home runs than I’ve ever seen.
This first game happened to be “Superhero Day.” As the players made their way around the bases, they high fived superheroes like Wonder Woman, Superman, Spider-Man, and Cat Woman.
My longtime friend Traci is the coach for the Miracle League’s Cubs team. She was the reason we were there that first day.
“I want you to meet my kids,” she told me.
Traci is one of life’s great treasures.
At the end of that first game, she asked us to come back the following Saturday and this time, she wanted us to be ‘buddies.’
Each player has a buddy. We run the bases together, field the ball together and hang out together during the game. Today’s game theme was Star Wars... complete with Chewbacca, Storm Troopers and Princess Leia.
My buddy was Olivia. Not a thing wrong with Liv. Only has use of one hand, but throws so hard she’ll make your palm sting. Her first at bat was a line drive that nailed the pitcher (a buddy who plays for the UNLV baseball team). She ran those bases and scored on an in-the-park homer. We high-fived as we crossed the plate.
We played two full innings. Everyone on the team bats twice. When it was time to go back in the field, I asked Olivia if she wanted to play outfield again.
“Yeah, Baby!” she told me with a smile.
We played catch while my husband and his buddy, Kale, enjoyed the first game of duck-duck-goose I’ve ever seen in the outfield. And I’ve seen a lot of baseball.
The game ended in a tie, 30-30, after two innings.
The score may have been tied, but there were some clear winners.
Every player, every parent and grandparent and sibling in the stands. Every volunteer dressed in their Star Wars best. The one-of-a-kind announcer. The upbeat umpire. Every Buddy. Every volunteer. Coach Traci. My husband. And me.
I won today. I got to watch these little miracles be free. No one telling them they couldn’t do something for this one hour of their week. No rules, no limitations. No “disabilities.”
I won because this was the happiest hour of my week. Some of these children can’t speak. Niko is in a wheelchair and mostly unresponsive. But here they are on Saturday morning, playing their hearts out. All smiles.
I won because I got to watch my husband take in this miracle with me. I won because I got to watch my dear friend share the game she loves with “her kids.”
You cannot be sad or angry or hurt at a Miracle League game. You can’t think about yourself or what happened last week or what you may be dreading in the week to come. Just being there is a miracle. If I can help it, I’ll never miss another Miracle League game for the rest of my life.
Baseball is in my blood. I know the Terence Mann monologue from Field of Dreams by heart.
“The one constant through all the years Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and could be again.”
So, too, does the Miracle League remind us of all that is good and always will be.
Ghandi said “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” In that case, ‘finding’ ourselves should be a lifetime journey.
I’m trying to live my life like every day is the Miracle League World Series. I hope I always stop to look for the miracles. To look for all that once was good and could be again. I hope you will, too.
Read more about the Miracle League here.