Put Me In Coach

Miracle League offers baseball for disabled kids
By Julie Brown • OBSERVER STAFF WRITER • February 21, 2010

Spring training's a ways off, but the Miracle League of Plymouth leaders are thinking baseball. The program, under the auspices locally of the Plymouth A.M. Rotary, provides a baseball field for young people with disabilities, including wheelchair users.

“It gives the families a chance to be a spectator and enjoy watching their children play,” said Rotarian Deb Madonna. “It's needed. The physical activity is essential.” As an occupational therapist and massage therapist, she knows that's true. “That's where they learn how to interact with people,” Madonna said of children playing. Siblings enjoy cheering on family members, she added. “We're going to do it because we need it.”

Fellow Rotarian Bob Bilkie Jr. and his wife, Shari, are also leading the project, to be located near Central Middle School in Plymouth. Bilkie said the field costs about $500,000, the land about $300,000, with a total cost of $1.1 million.

The site is under generous lease terms from the Plymouth-Canton Community Schools. Work's to begin on building the field in the spring of 2011. Play is to begin in summer 2011 on the Plymouth field serving the region, one of more than 200 Miracle League fields in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

“It's about a 90-day construction process,” said Bilkie, president/CEO of Sigma Investment Counselors in Southfield. “Any child that wants to” can play. “There's no geographical limit.” He anticipates families will come from within two hours, noting the challenges of transporting a handicapped child.

Children and teens play with a buddy to help them hit and then navigate around the field. “Right now, we're talking about youth,” he said. Down the road, there may be a special needs adult league as well.

Bilkie and others are open to partnerships with Special Olympics or other organizations.

“We're very open to anybody who wants to participate, to contribute, to play,” he said. Checks payable to Miracle League of Plymouth are welcome at P.O. Box 5384, Plymouth, MI 48170.

Bilkie can be contacted at bob_bilkie@yahoo.com, Madonna at debramadonna@miracleleagueplymouth.org. There is a Web site at www.miracleleagueplymouth.org which includes information on the program.

jcbrown@hometownlife.com | (313) 222-6755