While Special Olympics offers many sports to special needs youth, baseball is not among them. That’s why programs like The Miracle League of North Texas have been so important.
Since Jeff Fisher brought the program to Denton County nearly two years ago, participation has tripled from 46 to almost 150 on 10 baseball teams in the fall and spring.
That success helped Fisher earn the Flower Mound Outstanding Citizen Award for 2022. But more important, it’s led to adding basketball for summer and winter beginning June 10 at the Cross Timbers YMCA. More than 30 kids already have signed up.
“We’re always looking to grow our programs and looking for more kids,” Fisher said. “I’m excited about basketball. I hope everyone is as excited as I am.”
Fisher had coached son Ethan’s select baseball teams for many years and when he turned age 9 five years ago, Jeff looked for ways for them to give back to the community. Initially, he learned about Miracle League in Arlington through a friend and had his players volunteer as buddies helping their new friends around the bases and discussing what they like to do for fun.
“To see my 9-year-old baseball team that I coached interact with these kids, I was so proud. I had sports tears is what I call them,” said Fisher, who serves as the full-time executive director. “It was just an amazing thing. For three seasons we volunteered every year. I met a lady during one of the volunteer events from Flower Mound. She was bringing her boys there which was a hike.”
That made Fisher wonder why there wasn’t such a program in the Flower Mound area so he started a chapter, among more than 300 nationwide in a program dating back to 1998.
After playing on softball fields with all dirt infields, Miracle League partnered with the Flower Mound Youth Sports Association and the Town of Flower Mound to have Field 11 at Bakersfield Park converted into a turf field last summer. That allows kids in wheelchairs and walkers to maneuver around more easily.
“It’s a huge help,” Fisher said. “We have kids from all over which tells you the need that we’ve got. Parents are always looking for ways to get their kids out and about. We’re bringing something to keep these kids active and experience something that hadn’t occurred before in Denton County.”
Parents and others including a behavioral therapist serve as coaches.
“This not only bringing the kids together but the parents together,” Fisher said. “And it brings the community together which is an amazing part of our program. Our buddy program allows kids who wouldn’t have interacted before to interact.”
Buddies come from organizations like the National Charity League, Young Men’s Service League, and the Flower Mound and Marcus high school baseball teams.
Fisher started recruiting kids through the Lewisville ISD Special Education program. Social media and personal contacts have helped spread the word too. At first, all participants were in the same recreational division which had virtually no rules. Now there are two divisions – advanced/competitive and recreational.
“The feedback I’ve received from parents is about getting out and improving their social skills and interaction with friends and making friends,” Fisher said. “It’s not just about teaching them about the game of baseball but the game of life. The greatest thing about baseball is it teaches you life skills.”
Some teams are named after the school systems their athletes attend. This includes the Argyle Eagles, the Jaguars (Flower Mound), Marauders (Marcus), and Wildcats (Denton Guyer).
Miracle League participates in events like the Flower Mound Christmas Parade. It also works with Greater Louisville Area Soccer Association (GLASA) to provide soccer opportunities through its TOPS program.
Operating funds are generated through grants, individual and family foundation contributions, and special events including from the Texas Rangers Foundation.
“The community support has been unbelievable for what we’re doing,” Fisher said. “It brings so much joy in my life.”
To learn more about The Miracle League, visit their website or contact Fisher at 214-923-4421 or email@example.com.