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Irving Miracle League brings America’s pastime to special players

Irving—The Irving Miracle League offers special needs children and adults a place to play baseball. Supported by the YMCA and the City of Irving, the organization encourages these athletes to hit the ball, round the bases, and celebrate playing the game.
Games are held at Cottonwood Creek Park in Irving, which has ADA accessible parking, ball field, and playground. The field is named after Joe Taylor, an Irving resident who encouraged softball in the area for many years and helped start the Miracle League.
Francis Taylor, Joe’s widow, attended the game on May 8 and brought roses for the athletes’ mothers.

“Joe had a desire to have a field for the kids to play,” Taylor said. “He had a handicapped sister, and he had a special place in the heart for these kids. When he retired, he dedicated his time to make this all happen. His daughter Vicky announces the games and makes these children feel like they are famous. This is our way to remember Joe and to celebrate the athletes. It is so pretty here in the spring, and we can cheer for the children.”
Matthew Woelper and his friend Koby Barnes are athletes in the league.

“We are here to play and have fun,” Woelper said. “We are on the Giants team, and we will win today. We are here to play and to make friends. We also go to the same school, so we get to see each other a lot. We are very best friends, and we help each other out.”

Woelper enjoys hitting the ball the best.

“We both can hit the ball so hard. We both can go around the bases,” Woelper said. “I run, and Koby uses his wheelchair. We work on passing the ball, and catching too, both of us can do that. My dad is our coach.”

“It is better to get outside and play ball than staying inside all the time. We have a good time, get some fresh air, get a trophy at the end. We do not stay at home and watch movies or just look at the phone. We like to get out at the park, and we get to see our best friend on a Saturday. That is one of the best things.”

John Gorman is the father of athlete Jacob.

“Jacob has been playing for about seven years,” Gorman said. “My son loves to compete, and this gives him a way to do so. This organization builds up the athletes, the parents, and the volunteers here. It is a safe place for our children to come and play.

“One of the best things is there is a lot of continuity for the athletes, which is important to both the athletes and the parents. People who come and help are here for a long time, which I think is an indicator about what a great organization this is.”

Parents sharing support and information is another benefit of the Miracle League.

“It is tough when you first start in this process, you do not have a lot of information,” Gorman said. “But I know it helps to have other parents who have already figured some things out, and they can help newer parents. The children here are both younger and adults, so we have a lot of information to share between us.
“This is one of the few places that our children are the stars. There are so many times that our children are not able to participate fully. Here they are included and celebrated.”