Columbia Miracle Field officially opened at Owens Field
When the umpires shout “Play ball!” at Columbia’s newest baseball and softball field, those who obey will include many who have never before had the chance.
The Columbia Miracle Field officially opened for play Saturday, less than a year after construction began. The custom-designed rubberized turf allows children with special needs to play baseball and softball safely.
Mayor Steve Benjamin, University of South Carolina Athletics Director Ray Tanner and other local leaders were on hand for the opening of the $1.4 million field, which was funded by a partnership including the Ray Tanner Foundation, the city of Columbia, Richland County, and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
PHOTOS ColaDaily/Allen Wallace
“It shows what we can do for our children when we all come together,” Benjamin said. “We can do great things. We can build facilities and provide wonderful options that improve the quality of life for our citizens in the most inclusive way possible.”
Benjamin singled out City Councilman Moe Baddourah and County Councilmen Seth Rose and Jim Manning for their work in making the project happen.
The first Miracle Field opened in the Atlanta area in 1999, a year after a youth baseball coach invited a 7-year-old who was confined to a wheelchair the chance to join his team. The Miracle League now has more than 300 organizations all over the United States and in Canada and Australia.
The new Miracle Field at Owens Field Park is Columbia’s first. “We’re excited. It’s an opportunity for everybody to play. Whether it’s softball or baseball, it gives them the chance,” Tanner said. “Coming out here this morning, I think I am going to coach again, and it’s going to be right here.”
Several local special needs children were on hand for the opening, and delivered the ceremonial first hit, batting balls off tees to christen the new turf.