The scoreboard posted the final: Guest 29, Home 29.
Just your typical game at the Pirates Charities Miracle League of the South Hills, where everyone’s a winner.
“We have over 140 kids with special needs, many of whom have never been able to play on a baseball field before,” league director Maura Rodgers said in the aftermath of the tie between the Angels and Padres. “So this is something that’s really special for them and their families.”
Saturday marks the conclusion of the spring season at the Upper St. Clair field, a little more than a month after its opening. In the interim, the games have drawn good crowds of enthusiastic participants and spectators.
“It’s a great chance for the parents and families to come out and talk with each other and interact,” said Amanda Speth, a volunteer who coaches the Padres. “And the kids have a ball! You should see how many smiles are on their faces. It’s very sweet.”
For Amanda, who is working on her master’s degree in early intervention at the University of Pittsburgh, participating in the Miracle League serves as enriching practical experience.
For families of children with special needs, it serves as an opportunity to do what youngsters have been doing for generations: participate in the National Pastime.
Sean Casey certainly had that opportunity, parlaying it into a 12-year career in the majors. The Upper St. Clair resident, in one of his many give-back-to-the-community efforts, spearheaded fundraising efforts toward the Miracle League field.
Casey had visited similar setups around Cincinnati and Detroit, two cities in which he once played.
“After seeing how happy the kids were and how excited the parents got, I thought man, we really need to build a Miracle Field back home," he told Upper St. Clair Patch in announcing his intentions in 2010.
Two years later, everything has come to fruition, especially with volunteers who are happy to lend a hand.
“What makes it really special is that we have buddies, someone who helps every single player run the bases, hit the ball, and sometimes just cheers them home,” Rodgers said. “So it’s not just about our players, but it’s about reaching out to the entire community and getting everyone excited about an opportunity that anyone can participate in.”
Dr. Harry Miale participates via public address, with his voice carrying accounts of the action to all in attendance. A retired school administrator, he said Rodgers is a former student.
“When I heard she was involved, I wanted to be the announcer. I have announced football games and basketball games at various school districts I’ve worked at, but I haven’t had any more happiness, goodness, than when I announce this game for these kids,” he said.
“Every child deserves a chance to play baseball, and we try to make it as much fun as we can.”
Fun is the name of this game: Players often run to first base on a foul tip, or they might just keep going, circling all the way around to home plate. And they receive nothing but cheers.
Especially when the final score shows that no one loses.