There were a lot of smiling faces out in Murrysville on September 15, and with good reason. That was the day that Pirates Charities, along with the Rotary Club of Murrysville-Export and the Municipality of Murrysville, officially opened the Rotary Miracle Sports Complex of Murrysville.
The centerpiece of the impressive new facility, which is located in Murrysville Community Park, is the Bill Mazeroski Miracle Field. Named in honor of the Pirates' Hall of Fame second baseman and long-time Westmoreland County resident, the field is the home of the new Miracle League of Western Pennsylvania. It is about 20 percent larger than a normal Miracle League field so it can also accommodate adults with special needs.
One of the driving forces behind the project was Bob Brooks, who is the mayor of Murrysville and a member of the Pirates' ownership group. His favorite part of the festivities that took place on September 15 was watching the special needs children finally take the field.
"Basically it was seven years from concept to this actually happening, so Opening Day was very exciting," he said. "Everybody knows baseball is for everyone. I saw tears in the parents' eyes and there was so much excitement in the youth. Just hearing their name announced and seeing them come up and take those practice swings and get ready for the pitch, it was something of great delight for everybody.
"Anybody who was there watching -- and we had several hundred that came out for the event -- was lined up along the fence and cheering on the athletes. It was fun to see the athletes do as much as they possibly could and have so much fun doing it. I could see how not only the parents but all the spectators had their hearts go out. The outpouring was amazing and a thrill to watch."
Among those who represented the Pirates at the grand opening were: Chairman Bob Nutting, President Frank Coonelly, former pitchers Steve Blass and Kent Tekulve, plus Mazeroski.
"I'm really proud of everybody pulling together to make this happen and we got together with the Pirates right from the beginning," Brooks said. "Obviously they gave us financial support, but they also helped when it came to laying out the field, talking to people from some of the other sites, and even putting the Opening Day program together. So they were very helpful that way.
"Afterwards, I heard several parents say they were impressed that on Opening Day Bob (Nutting) made a special effort to go to every one of the kids that was playing and talk to them and make them feel important. That was nice to see. It wasn't just being there, it was actually being involved and making sure it was a special day for the kids."
The Bill Mazeroski Miracle Field is the fourth such field Pirates Charities has played a vital role in constructing. In May of 2009, the Pittsburgh area's first Miracle League Field opened in Cranberry Township in conjunction with the Miracle League of Southwestern Pennsylvania. Then in February of this year, the Pirates and Baltimore Orioles jointly christened the Miracle League Field of Manasota in the Bradenton-Sarasota area down in Florida. And a couple months later, Pirates Charities and former big-league first baseman Sean Casey celebrated the opening of the Miracle League Field of the South Hills out in Upper St. Clair. A fifth Miracle League facility the Pirates are supporting is scheduled to open next spring in Wheeling, WV.
Miracle League fields allow children with special needs to realize their dream of playing baseball -- many of them for the first time. The fields are made of a synthetic surface that makes it possible for children and adults in wheelchairs, walkers and with other special needs to safely move about.
More than 240 Miracle League organizations operate across the country. For more information about joining a team, volunteering during games or supporting the Miracle League of Western Pennsylvania, please visit www.miracleleaguewpa.org.