By Jim Newell
ORION TWP. – The crack of a bat, the roar of the crowd, the high-fives and cheers – these are the things that make baseball such a quintessential American game.
But at the games soon to be played at Friendship Park in Orion Township, everyone plays, everyone has a great time – so everyone wins.
That’s because Orion and Independence townships and Easterseals Michigan are teaming up to create the Miracle League Field of North Oakland at the park, giving the area’s special needs athletes a field where everyone can play.
“We are thrilled to announce this partnership and true collaboration, which is too often lost in government,” said Orion Twp. Supervisor Chris Barnett.
“By joining forces, we are able to bring many additional resources and create a much better field that what we originally envisioned when we kicked off our Orion on Deck project,” he said.
The partnerhsip was announced last week at the Orion Twp. board meeting.
“Independence Township is honored to partner with Orion Township and the Easterseals of Michigan to bring a Miracle League adaptive baseball field to North Oakland County,” said Independence Twp. Supervisor Pat Kittle.
“Independence and Orion have partnered on other projects in the past to ensure we bring the best services at the lowest possible costs to our residents. The Miracle League joint initiative will help us meet the needs of our most important assets, our kids, better, faster and cheaper than we could do individually,” Kittle said.
Barnett hopes to have construction on the field completed in September or October.
The Miracle League Field will have a rubber surface to make it safer for players, dugouts and the entire parking lot will be paved. It will be accessible to able-bodied and special needs players. Barnett hopes to build a press box, concessions stand and scoreboard.
The field will also be used for disabled veterans, therapeutic programs, the Lake Orion Wiffleball Association, kickball tournaments and the community-at-large, said Orion Twp. Parks & Recreation Director Aaron Whatley.
In September, Orion Twp. held a crowd-funding campaign, raising $200,000 for it’s proposed adaptive baseball field.
“The rough scope of the project is half a million dollars,” Barnett said. “We’ve doubled the size and scope of the project.”
Many of the communities in North Oakland County – Orion, Oxford, Clarkston, Rochester, Waterford – have adaptive baseball teams for individuals with special needs who will use the new field.
Friendship Park – where the proposed field will be built – is on the corner of Baldwin and Clarkston roads and already has two wheel-chair accessible swings, a seesaw and an inclusive whirl merry-go-round for people with special needs.
The project is funded through donations, without the use of taxpayer dollars, Barnett said, adding that while there were several large donations, most of the donations came in smaller increments – $100 here, $50 there – from caring citizens.
Larry Mullins, executor of the Jim and Betty Guy trust, donated $50,000. The Lake Orion Wiffleball Association donated $20,000. The LO Palooza Festival – run by the Daisy Project of Michigan – raised $25,000 for the field.
“The idea for this field was not just special needs individuals, but disabled veterans, able-bodied individuals; having a field for every single person to be able to participate,” Whatley said. “If Brandon or Oxford want to bring over an adaptive team, sure. If it’s used seven days a week, every hour of the day that’s cool, that’s what it’s about. This field needs to be used all the time.”
“The Miracle League makes you fall in love with baseball again and again. The magic of the league is the smiles on the faces of the families cheering on the athletes, the heartfelt feelings of the volunteers and the lifelong friendships that are created,” said Brent Wirth, Easterseals Michigan President/CEO.
“A shared vision to build this field for children and adults with diverse abilities has catapulted our goal of providing more opportunities and experiences for the community. We are grateful to have wonderful partners in Orion and Independence townships and we can’t wait to bring this ‘miracle’ to the North Oakland area,” Wirth said.
For more information, or to find out how to become a partner in the project, contact Chris Barnett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 248-391-0304.
Anyone who wishes to donate to the field can send checks payable to Easterseals Michigan, with “Orion Miracle League” in the memo line, and mail to Orion Township Hall, 2525 Joslyn Rd., Lake Orion, MI 48304.