Dominic Rizzi, a member of the Mets team in the Miracle League of Southwestern Pennsylvania, gets some batting advice from his mother, Helen Rizzi, during a game last summer at the Miracle League field in Graham Park in Cranberry Township.
CRANBERRY TWP — As the Miracle League of Southwestern Pennsylvania is set to embark on its fifth season, this first-of-its-kind league in the area is thriving and has helped spur programs in other areas of the region. Participation in the league has nearly tripled and it continues to expand opportunities for children and adults with physical or mental disabilities. Mike Sherry, Miracle League founder and president, said in the inaugural year of the league, 130 children participated. This past year, 265 youths participated. Sherry estimated that this year’s participation is expected to exceed 300. An adult league, for participants 18 and older, was added in the second year and a youth competitive league also recently was added. “Frankly, I’m not surprised at the growth. If you look at the registrations, the need is there. I’m thankful that the region cares about the quality of life that those with special needs deserve,” Sherry said. The Miracle League of Southwestern Pennsylvania, which formed in January 2007, is dedicated to providing the opportunity for children and adults with physical and mental disabilities to play organized baseball. The first season was 2009 at the Miracle League Field. This year marks the fifth season of play at Graham Park in Cranberry. Since its inception, four other Miracle Leagues have been set up in the surrounding area including Upper St. Clair’s Miracle League of South Hills, Murrysville’s Miracle League of Western Pennsylvania and the Miracle League of the Ohio Valley in Wheeling, W.Va. A fourth league is being established this year in Indiana, Pa. Kevin Delaney, who has volunteered with the Miracle League since the beginning, said he has really enjoyed being part of the league and urges others to volunteer. Delaney, who is a board member and league division coordinator, initially learned about the league through the Cranberry Township Athletic Association, where his children played ball, and decided to get involved. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it,” he said, who admitted that he was initially nervous because he had never worked with children with special needs. But once Delaney got into season, he realized what a volunteer’s role is. “The kids just love to be there playing. And I’ve made so many friends from the league.” “We need a lot of adult volunteers. There’s no experience necessary. We’ll show you what to do,” said Delaney, who added the commitment is one hour and 15 minutes per week and it is an eight-game season. Registration for this year’s Miracle League is now open at www.miracleleaguebaseball.org. For more information, contact Mike Sherry, president, at 724-831-7392 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.