JaKayla Cornish

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Opening day for Rock Hill’s Miracle League baseball — inviting people of all abilities and ages to play — was held last month and has quickly become a popular aspect of the Miracle Park, which opened to the public in late September.

Currently, the park consists of one Miracle League field, one traditional baseball field, concessions, multiple sensory walls and pathways and an all-inclusive playground loaded with various sensory elements, including music, resistance equipment and games.

Like the park, Miracle League baseball attempts to accommodate those who may have mental and physical disabilities, while allowing them to become an athlete, make friends and build self-esteem.

The field is composed of pebble flex material which has a bouncy, porous consistency that allows for easy drainage on rainy days and is safer for kids to play on.

To assist and ensure safety throughout the game, the Miracle League program uses a buddy system that pairs a buddy with every athlete to help the player as needed.

“Seeing all participants playing on the playground with mainstream individuals, it’s just — our goal is inclusion and we are seeing it everyday at this park,” said Terry Hagen, recreation programmer for the city of Rock Hill. Hagen was a guest on the Palmetto Report podcast.

Games on the Miracle League field are volunteer-led and those wishing to participate can sign-up to be a player, coach or mascot.

The first season featured games held on Saturdays at 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. throughout the month of October.

Future seasons are expected to eventually include a second Miracle League field that will be constructed during phase II of the Miracle Park project.

Having two fields will allow the league to host two games simultaneously and invite other Miracle League teams from around South Carolina and beyond to play in Rock Hill.

“You know the city of Rock Hill is known for sports tourism, so we want to encourage other teams from across the state or from close states to come and play at our facility. Eventually we would like to host one of the all-star games. The sky’s the limit with this league,” said Hagen.

Kimberly Johnson, a mother and Rock Hill resident, said that the park is a great space to learn and have fun.

“It’s cool because with our girls, we can let them see that sometimes people don’t move the same way you move, but they can still have fun just like you have fun,” Johnson said.

Samuel Merch, who was visiting from out of town, said his family was impressed with the park.

“I’m a visitor of Virginia and this park is the best of three or four different parks that we visited and my four children love it,” said Merch.

Miracle Park is the first park in the world to hold a Universal Design certification, which organizers say speaks to its ability to be accessible to everyone.