Giving Ability a Chance
Photo Credit: Find a Grave
In April 2005, the Opelika Lions Club were visited by the Moody Alabama Lions and were given a presentation on the Miracle Field built in Moody. The Opelika Lions were so impressed with the project that they decided to pursue bringing a Miracle Field to the Opelika/Auburn area to enable people with disabilities to experience the thrill of playing baseball. After visiting Miracle Fields in Moody and Montgomery, Alabama and Conyers Georgia, the Opelika Lions Club purchased the franchise rights to build a Miracle Field in East Alabama.
What started as a need in the Opelika/Auburn area turned into a booming movement in East Alabama. In 2005, a family who had recently moved to Opelika started a baseball league for children with special needs called the Challenger League. However, normal baseball fields are often not conducive and can be dangerous for children using walkers or wheelchairs.
The Miracle Field of East Alabama project is not only a baseball field, but it includes an entire environment suited for special needs youth and ball players. The field itself has a rubberized synthetic turf allowing wheelchairs and walkers to glide unrestricted in addition to the accessible dugouts and bleachers. The environment encompasses a control center with wheelchair and walker accessible restrooms and water fountains, an all accessible press box, a special needs accessible playground, and a pavilion for family and community fellowship.
With the support of Diane Alford, CEO of the National Miracle League, and the Moody Lions, the Opelika Lions Club made presentations to various community leaders and the efforts to bring this great opportunity took root and began to grow. Many individuals in the community campaigned to raise money for this project. People all over the East Alabama and West Georgia area donated labor, materials, and money - far surpassing the 1 million dollar minimum to build the field, bathrooms, and other facilities.
Featuring Bill Hitchcock Miracle Field
"Mr. Billy was the epitome of what a man should be: strong, compassionate, caring. He did not push himself on people, but he cared deeply about his fellow man. He looked for and found the best in his fellow man. He was a competitor in the truest sense of the word. He did not do what many do today--build himself up by tearing others down. No, he tried to be the best he could be. When he won, as he most often did, he didn't take the praise for himself, but gave it to others. He always appreciated, respected and acknowledged his opponent. He was a loving, caring man, a compassionate man--but he was a competitor, a tough competitor. Make no mistake about that. They called him "The Dignified War Eagle" when he was managing the Atlanta Braves. Never was there a more appropriate name. The Dignified War Eagle---that was, and is, Billy Hitchcock."