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Jungle Trails & Bunny Tails

THURSDAY, March 21, 2013

LEAGUE / FROM PAGE 19A

Friday, March 29 • 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Friday, March 29 • 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Continuous EggHunt Hunt ••Easter Easter Bunny Continuous Egg Bunny

Petting Zoo • Food • Raffle • Plus Much More Adults Adults $15* Kids (12 + and $15* taxunder) $10* Kids 2 & under free Kids (12 & under) $10* + tax

Kids 2 & under free

Bring 3 cans of food food to donated to Help us collect forbe those in need. The All Faiths Food Bank and receive Donate to receive 50% kids admission. 50% offoff one kid’s admission

*No other coupons accepted. Prices plus tax.tax. *No other coupons accepted. Pricesareare plus Non-perishable food items. Minimum of 1 can (or item) per child.

SarasotaJungleGardens.com 3701 Bay Shore Road  Sarasota, FL 34234

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Haven for Adults and Children with Disabilities. “It means a lot to them.”

“It’s about being part of a team,” Miracle League Executive Director Laura Tellor says. “This is something they’ve never had the opportunity to participate in … They’re so happy to be there.” In November 2010, the Miracle League of Manasota broke ground on its $1.2 million ballpark, at Longwood Run Park in Sarasota. Through a partnership with the Baltimore Orioles and the Pittsburgh Pirates, who both contributed $75,000, the Miracle League was able to construct a new field, which is barrier free and features a flat, rubberized surface to accommodate anyone with adaptive equipment. The Miracle League held its inaugural spring season last March, following the completion of its new ballpark. “We’re so thrilled to have something like this for the community,” Tellor says. “We’re very excited.” The league is comprised of six teams — four for children and teenagers and two for adults. During the 10-week season, which concludes May 18, players will gather every Saturday morning for a series of games. During each game, every player bats once each inning, all base runners are safe, and every player scores a run before the inning is over —  ensuring that every player and team wins every game. “It’s amazing when I hit the ball,” says 11-year-old Joey Baar, who has spent the last two years playing for the Pirates. “I feel so happy. I (also) like to chase the ball in the field with my friends.” Fellow player Richard Dionne agrees. “I (always) try to hit it to the water —  bye, bye ball,” Dionne says with a chuckle. After the season, the players are invited to an end-of-the-year party at which they are awarded trophies for participation. “For a lot of them, this is the first trophy they’ve ever gotten,” says Brad Jones, director of adult services for Community

Play ball Many players are returning for their second and third seasons, while a few are participating for the first time. Regardless of their experience, the players are simply happy to be part of a team — an experience many of them hadn’t had prior to joining the Miracle League. “My grandpa used to play baseball and I didn’t get the chance,” José Corredor says. “It feels pretty good to be (out on the field). I like to play. It’s a lot of fun.” In addition to the players, 34 regular volunteers from Manatee and Sarasota counties and dozens of high schools and college students and athletes, including The Out-of-Door Academy baseball players Jimmy Kuebler and Jake Romine and Lakewood Ranch High softball player McKaleigh Goodale, will spend their Saturday mornings serving as buddies for the players. Every player on the field is assigned a buddy, who acts as a source of encouragement while providing friendship and motivation. Goodale began volunteering with the Miracle League of Manasota last fall after her mother, Stacey, became involved as an assistant coach for one of the teams. Goodale, who tries to make it out every Saturday that her travel softball schedule allows, has watched players hit home runs, run bases and push their wheelchairs aside to cross home plate. “They’re so excited about it,” Goodale says. “They always look so happy out there. It reminds you to never give up and that everything is possible.” Now with the spring season officially under way, the players finally are able to revisit their favorite pastime —  one that evokes a celebration of friendship and new beginnings. “It’s a wonderful experience, and it’s very humbling for all of us involved,” Tellor says. Contact Jen Blanco at jblanco@yourobserver.com.

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Sarasota Observer 3.21.13  

Sarasota Observer 3.21.13

Sarasota Observer 3.21.13  

Sarasota Observer 3.21.13