Just as the start of Miracle League’s season was set to begin the pandemic struck and everything was put on hold.
But, the wait for these Visalia baseball players is officially over.
Former Rawhide General Manager Jennifer Reynolds is coordinating the Miracle League season, so expect a major revamp, she said.
“I am super pumped to actually take on my first season,” Reynolds said. “That’s why there are so many changes going on with Miracle League. I am coming in with a fresh, new look.”
Miracle League athletes are teamed up with others around the same age, or those with a similar disability. Players are also paired up with “Guardian Angel,” a volunteer who plays alongside athletes throughout the game.
“Each player gets a buddy — a volunteer — to be with them, for safety purposes, of course,” Reynolds said, “For example, when I was a buddy, me and my player would play catch in the outfield during the game. It is all about them.”
Some of the ideas Reynolds brought to the plate for the upcoming season include themed nights. Athletes can look forward to a Disney day, first responder day and Kentucky Derby day.
There will also be food truck Friday Night games, one in April and another in May, where players and families can experience a game under the lights – while grabbing dinner and supporting a local business in the process.
“We are adding a bunch on themes. Opening night we have a pizza party where everyone gets to meet each other and their coaches,” Reynolds said. “The last day is always trophy day, where everyone gets a trophy. It is going to be so stinking cute.”
Miracle League’s 2022 season is eight weeks long, starting at the end of March and ending in May. Players will meet on Saturdays during the day to play, with some Friday Night Light games near the end of the season planned. Each game lasts around an hour.
Reynolds said this is just the start for Miracle League.
Her focus will soon shift from this season to preparing for the league’s 20th anniversary next year, backed by a board made up of Steve Nelson, Leslie Caviglia, Tim Hire, Joel Glick, Gary and Jennifer Geiger, Carolyn and Mark Cross, Phillip Macalolooy, Carrie Blue and Rob Hutcherson.
“Special needs people have my heart,” Reynolds said. “When I discovered the Miracle League it was like, ‘Oh my God I want to volunteer… eventually the stars aligned.”
The Miracle League of Visalia was started in 2003 by Visalia residents Gary and Jennifer Geiger after Gary watched HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” segment on the original Miracle League in Georgia.
The field was unveiled to the league’s first 90 players, who ranged in age from 3 to 59 years old. Before the 2020 season was shut down, Miracle League had over 200 players signed up, the largest number of participants ever.
This year’s opening day is on March 25, 2022. The Miracle League fields are located at 3737 S. Akers St. The facility has two fields, one regulation softball field with dirt and grass, and one smaller field, made of turf.
For those interested in registering for the 2022 Miracle League season, create a profile for yourself or your player to start.
Registration for children and adults ages 3 and up with developmental disabilities opens on Jan. 1 and ends the first week of March, and costs $60 per player. Registration includes a t-shirt and hat.
Lauren Jennings covers education and news for the Visalia Times-Delta/Tulare Advance-Register. Follow her on Twitter @lolojennings. Get alerts and keep up on all things Tulare County for as little as $1 a month. Subscribe today.