John Fogerty’s rock-and-roll anthem about America’s national pastime blared from the sound system one quintessential fall day at a unique field last September. Without a second thought to the background music, children with physical and cognitive challenges — youngsters with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, autism, hearing or sight loss, limb differences and cancer diagnoses — put the peppy lyrics into jaunty motion. They tugged caps on heads, slipped hands to gloves, heaved neon-yellow softballs, swung aluminum bats, connected barrel to ball, and aimed their way for first base, then second, then third, onward to home. With Hope College softball student-athletes by their sides, unstoppable smiles lit their way.
At the West Michigan Miracle League (WMML), a place where “every child deserves a chance to play,” the tune that pays rowdy tribute to baseball also does another important thing: It highlights the liberating and rejuvenating power of play, no matter one’s abilities or life circumstance. There may not be a better place in America to shout its catchy chorus.
“Look at me … I can be … centerfield.”
Photo of Cayley Ebeling (left) and Avery Slancik (right) run the bases with their buddy