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Baseball Miracles continue to happen on St. Petersburg diamond

You can't start the game without some batting practice. (Photo: Ted Fleming/TB SN Sports Media)
You can't start the game without some batting practice. (Photo: Ted Fleming/TB SN Sports Media)

Dane Stewart is joined by former Ray Toby Hall.
(Photo: Ted Fleming/TBSN Sports Media)

ST. PETERSBURG – So what if it’s a cliché. It really does seem like yesterday when ground was broken on a dream. Hopefully those who were there when it became a reality will continue to think so at each and every opener.

For the parents and grandparents, they will always look back at these days like it was yesterday because that’s what they do when it comes to seeing a smile on their child’s face. You remember those little things.

The Miracle League was created with a simple premise: “Every child deserves a chance to play baseball.” From its first field in Conyers, Georgia to the multitude of new ones sprouting up around the country, it is a safe haven for those who are mentally and physically challenged who get the chance to do things just like any other kid.

It was just another sun splashed morning on a little piece of land in a corner in the Sunshine City where the Miracle League opened another fall season Saturday. When the final pitch is thrown and the last run scored it will be the end of year four.

Initially, not many believed something could be built much less be able to say four years have gone by since Violet’s Field first opened to children with disabilities. A lot of things had to fall into place yet they did. The Kiwanis Club of Gulf Beaches became the driving force behind the project and with the Azalea Little League “leasing” the land at $1.00 per year the only thing left was funding. They got it with one big donation and a whole lot of little ones and continue to do so.

So in March 2006 Violet’s Field was dedicated giving an estimated 20,000 children in Pinellas County to use the specially designed rubber field which is a protection from falls yet allows wheelchairs to easily roll over its surface.

Over the years the Tampa Bay Rays and some of their players have been actively involved in the Miracle League such as infielder Jorge Cantu and relief pitcher Trever Miller. This year a former Ray was on hand to lend his support, Toby Hall.

The catcher had a built-in fan base when he first broke into the majors because he played for the Class-A St. Petersburg Devil Rays at Al Lang Field, just one mile from Tropicana Field where he would get to play for all four of the team’s managers – Larry Rothschild, Hal McRae, Lou Piniella and Joe Maddon over 6½ seasons. Now a free agent following his release by the White Sox, he is currently rehabbing his surgically repaired right shoulder so he can be ready for spring training.

Hall was not there just to make an appearance as his charities plan to build two Miracle League fields in Hillsborough County. He holds an annual charity golf tournament each January.

Members & volunteers from the Kiwanis back up Dane Stewart as the fall season opens.
(Photo:Ted Fleming/TBSN Sports Media)

While Violet’s Field was packed with celebrities like Hall, master of ceremonies Whitney Johnson from WDAE radio plus past and incoming Kiwanis Governors the real centers of attention were the kids.

The original Face of the St. Petersburg Miracle League, Matthew Walker, was there as was Dane Stewart who will join two others for 2010. Stewart has a solid base hit to drive in Rhylee Brown with the first run of the fall campaign.

The Miracle League continues to grow because of donations and those who volunteer their time being an “Angel in the Outfield” helping parents and grandparents play the field and help the players during the game.

For more information about the Miracle League and to learn how to be an “Angel in the Outfield,” go to

If you have a child with a disability and wish to participate in the St. Petersburg Miracle League, call George Stone at the Kiwanis of Gulf Beaches at 727.278.7846.