The Miracle League of Pensacola History
Mission in Pursuit of a Vision
The Miracle League of Pensacola was founded in February 2002 with a vision to provide individuals with mental and/or physical challenges the opportunity to play baseball as a team member in an organized league. The league provides an opportunity these individuals might not otherwise ever have. In the Miracle League of Pensacola (MLP), every player plays, every player hits, every player gets on base, every player scores, and every player wins – every inning.
MLP’s early organization was the inspiration of Larry and Donna Thompson who had lost a young son of their own, an untimely and dramatic loss that nonetheless stirred fond memories of youth baseball, the sounds of the park, and the excitement of youth engrossed in their own innocent pursuits. Clinging to these memories, Larry and Donna were moved to make something of their memories when they learned about the emergence of The Miracle League. A few telephone calls and a trip to watch The Miracle League in action was all it took. They embarked on a mission in pursuit of a vision.
The Community Responds
They found volunteers to help them organize the league in the Pensacola area. With a Board of Directors in place, the young organization sought out funding and tons and tons of help.
The response has been fabulous. The Cantonment (FL) Rotary Club was the first to step to the plate, leading contribution drives, hosting get-out-the-word presentations, and locating donors. They found Mitchell Homes, the namesake for the MLP Park. Mitchell Homes provided a much-needed stake and helped inspire other contributions. Hundreds of key contributors of cash and in-kind donations began pouring in – pledges of labor, materials, equipment, and services – beginning with Carpenter’s Campers, Ted Ciano, Baptist Hospital, the Pensacola Pelicans baseball team, and hundreds of other individuals and small businesses. The Escambia County Commission and Parks & Recreation Department were on board early.
The Rubber Meets the Road
As the fund-raising effort began to take flight and the league battled to raise the funding to help pay for the custom rubber playing surface, Ford Motor Company and Recovery Technologies Group (RTG) helped move our “miracle” closer to reality with a commitment to provide over $20,000 to the building and installation of the Mitchell Homes Miracle League Field, making use of 136,800 pounds of tire crumb rubber formed into tiles which will be laid at the park as the playing surface.
As ground was broken and work was begun on the park in the Summer of 2004, the league made preparations for an inaugural fall season. A weekend of registration showed promise as the league geared up for a second registration session. However, the registration period and the fall season ground to a halt when Hurricane Ivan roared ashore on September 16, 2004.
With every county park used as staging areas for hundreds of tons of tree debris from the hurricane, work on the park was halted, even as dozens of pallets of field surface tiles laid waiting in nearby storage.
Ready to Play Ball!
Resilient and determined, however, the MLP Board of Directors pressed on and reengaged the construction effort once the field was sufficiently clear of obstructions and heavy truck traffic. A full slate of games began in April 2005 and a follow-on fall season was held in October 2005.
The league emerged from its founding and establishment stage to a growth and sustainment stage with its first general election of officers and directors in October 2005. The new post-establishment era officers and directors took office in January 2006.
With Phase II construction, the construction of the snack bar/restroom facility completed in the Spring of 2006, the League held its Grand Opening at the opening of the spring season 2006 with all the flourishes.
So, The Miracle League of Pensacola is providing a needed service and opportunity to those with disabilities all across the Gulf Coast. The league still needs tens of thousands of dollars in contributions and it’s still looking for help. But… even as the league continues to expand its base of support, it presses on. The Miracle League of Pensacola is playing ball!