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League For Softball Players With Disabilities Comes Swinging Back After COVID

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Ann Thompson
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WVXU
There were more than enough high-fives to go around on this opening night at Miracle League Fields in Fairfield.

Adults with special needs were extra excited Friday night as they returned to playing softball at Miracle League Fields after a year off for COVID-19.

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Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU
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WVXU

The Fairfield complex was the dream of Reds pitcher and commentator Joe Nuxhall, and after he died, his son was able to make it a reality.

The all-weather fields are able to accommodate people with disabilities, some of whom are in wheelchairs.

Friday there seemed to be an urgency to get them back on the field.

"Martha! Left field, everybody else in centerfield," one coach announced as he shuffled players around in the line-up.

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Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU
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WVXU
Volunteers help the players navigate the field.

Even though the public address announcer wasn't there, Commissioner Steve Smith had a microphone, shouting "Play ball!" and getting Fairfield Mayor Steve Miller in place to catch the first pitch.

Shawn and Heather O'Grady arrived early. They proudly announced they've been married for 18 years and much of it has been spent playing ball.

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Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU
/
WVXU
Married couple Heather and Shawn O'Grady are back for another season at Miracle Fields.

Eileen O'Grady is Shawn's mom. "This is the most fabulous place in the world and I just love to come out here and it was so hard last year not having softball," she says. "This is the chance they get to see their friends." 

She, Peggy Bernard, and Mary Swagler were going out to eat afterwards. Swagler's daughter Nica had just made a great play at first base. "Whether they win or lose they're encouraging each other," O'Brady says. "If somebody on the other team does a spectacular hit or something, everybody cheers." 

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Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU
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WVXU
Because of COVID, the number of players at the complex was limited.

Friday nights are the adult leagues. Miracle League Fields also has a league for kids under 16.

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Commissioner Steve Smith invites everybody to come, watch and cheer.

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Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU
/
WVXU
One of the best things this league does, according to players, coaches and parents is allow people with disabilities to see their friends.