Article By Ron Kantowski
This is not to shortchange Matt Davidson, who hit three home runs on Opening Day for the Chicago White Sox, or Ian Happ, who hit the first pitch of the season into the bleachers for the crosstown Cubs.
But those moments, as exciting as they were, didn’t tug at the heartstrings like watching the Las Vegas Miracle League kids run or be pushed around the bases in wheelchairs.
The local Miracle League had its ninth opening day March 24. A lot of kids ran or were pushed around the bases at the Miracle League Field on South Rancho Drive. Parents and brothers and sisters cheered. Volunteers helped the Miracle Leaguers who needed assistance run the bases or swing the bat.
Former Major League All-Star Shane Victorino threw batting practice.
Local Miracle League founder Tim McGarry made hamburgers.
One night about 10 years ago, McGarry turned on TV and happened upon a story on HBO about a Miracle League in Atlanta having been formed. He got misty-eyed. He called HBO the next day to inquire about building a Miracle League field in Las Vegas.
The first Miracle League opening day attracted 66 players. The one last weekend attracted 222.
It takes hundreds of volunteers to keep the Miracle League running long after the last home run is hit on opening day, said Roxanne Loyed, the league’s executive director.
“We have about 600 volunteers a year that come out from all vocations, from kids who play baseball on club teams, on high school teams, to church groups, to entertainers on the Strip. We just get great groups from all over the city,” she said.
In 2015, they even got Clayton Kershaw to come out. The Dodgers’ pitching ace was supposed to stay 10 minutes. He stayed about two hours. He did the Chicken Dance with the Miracle League kids.
The Miracle League will be branching off into soccer this season, partnering with TOPSoccer and the Nevada Youth Soccer Association. Soccer opening day is April 12 at Miracle League Field.
Roxanne Loyed tried hard to get through this year’s interview without getting emotional. She didn’t quite pull it off.
“It’s truly a privilege for me to support the families and the players out here and the volunteers because it’s the best group of people I’ve ever worked with,” she said, swallowing hard. “We’re all about these players having the best experience when they’re out here each and every Saturday.”