Children with special needs take center stage at PLAY BALL Park

July 17th, 2022

LOS ANGELES -- One of All-Star Week's time-honored traditions found its way to the "Field of Dreams" diamond at PLAY BALL Park on Sunday morning, as a group of kids from Miracle League Los Angeles took part in an exhibition game inside the L.A. Convention Center.

A large contingent of fans who were walking through the concourse, taking in all the exhibits and offerings on display, stopped to watch from the wings while children with special needs competed in the annual hour-long contest.

With music pumping in from the loudspeakers and spotlights shining brightly onto the field, the exhibition had a similar feel as a night game at a Major League ballpark. The kids even had some help from a few individuals who know their way around a diamond. Five MLB mascots -- Rosie Red, Pirate Parrot, D. Baxter the Bobcat (of the D-backs), Sluggerrr (of the Royals) and Mr. and Mrs. Met -- played alongside the children, who were also assisted by their able-bodied "buddies."

The "buddies" helped the kids swing for the fences or hit off a tee, run, walk or wheel their way around the bases and cover their positions in the field. While the score wasn't kept in the three-inning affair, both teams -- donning blue or white uniforms a la the Dodgers -- crossed home plate at an impressive rate, including on a grand slam and even on a steal.

It was the first time in two years that Miracle League Los Angeles was able to host a game for its kids, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and for their return to come amid All-Star Week was more than they could have hoped for, according to board member Fred Hulls.

"It's such an incredible feeling bringing these families together," Hulls said. "Every time we come on the field, it's like the first time. It's the most wonderful feeling. The families love us, we love the families and we're just really happy to be here.

"The atmosphere is very exciting. It's buzzy. … It means so much to us to be part of this game, to partner with the Dodgers Foundation and MLB. We're just so thankful to have been chosen, and for all of the support that we gain from these wonderful organizations."

The Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation (LADF) has been a longtime champion of Miracle League LA, donating over $20,000 in grant funds since the latter was established in 2016. It is one of more than 275 Miracle League organizations across the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada and Australia, which together serve over 200,000 children and young adults with special needs.

That same year, the LADF unveiled the Dodgers Dreamfield at Baldwin Hills Recreation Center, where Miracle League LA holds an organized baseball league. The all-new, one-of-a-kind, ADA-accessible field features an adaptive synthetic turf surface and oversized, covered dugouts to allow for free movement of wheelchairs, walkers and other assistive devices.

"At the Dodgers Foundation, we wish to see a world where everyone, regardless of their zip code, has the opportunity to thrive," said LADF chief program officer Andrés De La Peza. "We do this by running programs that level the playing field and provide opportunities for everyone to have equal access through investing in solutions that are community driven.

"[We] support their incredible work and their mission of providing life-changing experiences to young people with special needs by providing them with the opportunity to play on fields that are specifically designed for them and their needs."

Sunday's All-Star Week exhibition was a natural next step in that relationship, as the kids from Miracle League Los Angeles made it from the Dreamfield to the "Field of Dreams."