For Dr. Kevin Klingele, watching a Miracle League baseball game is an opportunity to see children in a setting that lets them escape for a little while from a normal routine of doctor visits and therapy.
"You see the joy on these kids' faces," Klingele said.
As chief of orthopedics at Nationwide Children's Hospital, Klingele said, he was introduced to the Miracle League program through the children he has treated.
After visiting Miracle Leagues in Dublin and Grove City, Klingele was motivated to bring one to New Albany, an area that makes sense for the program because of the city's focus on wellness and its sizeable Special Olympics organization, he said.
To prepare the community for the new organization, Klingele is planning an awareness event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4, at the New Albany High School softball field. The event will include an exhibition baseball game with team members and their buddies, followed by refreshments at Wexner Community Park.
The goal of Miracle Leagues, Klingele said, is to provide opportunities for children with physical or mental disabilities to do something they otherwise typically wouldn't be able to do -- in this case, play baseball. Each nonprofit league has a special outdoor field with a surface that can accommodate wheelchairs and children with special needs, he said. Children are teamed up with teens and young people who serve as buddies during the game.
Although some Miracle Leagues have groups for youth and adults, New Albany's league will start with a youth league, Klingele said.
Klingele, who serves as chairman of the board for the Miracle League of New Albany, said fundraising is nearly at the halfway mark to move ahead with constructing a field there. The goal is to have the nearly $600,000 field ready for its opening pitch in fall 2018, he said.
Tom Rubey, director of development for the New Albany Co., said the baseball field would be on about 6 acres off Swickard Woods Boulevard. Rubey also serves as a member on the Miracle League of New Albany's board.
The site originally was part of 45 acres the New Albany Co. had donated to the city, Plain Township and the New Albany-Plain Local School District, Rubey said. The area now includes a district school building, the township swimming pool and New Albany High School baseball and softball diamonds.
The open 6 acres, which is city land, sit between the school building and the pool, Rubey said.
City Manager Joe Stefanov said the city is planning to lease the land to the New Albany-Plain Local Joint Park District, which in turn would sublease to the Miracle League. City Council members would have to approve a resolution authorizing him to sign a lease agreement, Stefanov said. That resolution could be on council's next agenda Nov. 7.
Dave Wharton, director of recreation and parks with the joint parks district and member of the Miracle League board, said the parks district could assist with custodial services at the baseball field because Wexner Pavilion is nearby.
"I think this would be a wonderful opportunity for us to be a part of," Wharton said.