It was a typical fall Sunday for our family. It always seems we have too much to do and too little time. Little did I know that many small miracles would take place on this misty, rainy afternoon. As the father of five, I often wonder what if: for all the things we think we don’t have time to do, what would happen if we had chosen to do that something else.
Mini-Miracle One: The plan. Planning has never been my strong suit. For me, planning is best left to an expert: my wife. On this Sunday her plan for me was to wake up early and take my 10-year-old son Grant to church at 8 a.m. so he could make his Pee Wee football game 30 minutes away. Church ran longer than usual and we had to stop for a quick bite to eat. We made it to the field on time, barely. As I stood watching the Pee Wee team warm up, I spotted the field where a special baseball game was about to take place only a block away.
Mini-Miracle Two: The audible. In a stroke of "fly by the seat of my pants" brilliance, I called my wife’s cell phone to suggest it would be great to bring our 3-year-old daughter, Ronnie, who is blessed with spina bifida, along so she could participate in the Miracles Happen baseball game at White Sox Miracle Field on the southwest side of Chicago. The only way this would work, she said, was to meet her halfway. She would have to hurry back to pick up our oldest daughter from serving at a later church service and bring her home to babysit the other children.
Mini-Miracle Three: Please pass the baton. The exchange of our 3-year-old took place as carefully as the passing of the baton in a world- record relay race. Meeting halfway at a local Taco Bell, my wife and I each hustled to our new revised punting locations. At the game, as Ronnie received her red team shirt (her favorite color), she was escorted by her "buddies" to home plate where she swung a mighty little swing and hit the ball a few feet. She slowly but steadily circled the bases in her walker as spectators cheered and her beaming proud father snapped pictures. Her speed demon mom made it to the field in time to see her determined daughter stomp on home plate, forgetting briefly she needed to hold on to her walker.
Mini-Miracle Four: Defense. After the home run, I huffed and puffed my way back to Grant’s football game. He actually got to play cornerback on defense, a role he hoped for since joining the team. Part of me was a little sad that I missed his first few tackles and his interception, but being able to see him play for almost two quarters AND watching my daughter’s triumph on the baseball diamond made me feel that my audible was well worth the effort.
Mini-Miracle Five: Medal-winning performance. Unbeknownst to us, our daughter was to receive a participation medal for her baseball efforts. One of her baseball "buddies" made a special effort to find us on the football field sideline long after we left the baseball diamond.
Because of this baseball game and her father’s fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants philosophy, Ronnie will always be able to say that she is a baseball player and a medal winner. But our memories of the amazing smiles on her face were a victory worth more than any game that can be won.
The Miracles Happen game takes place twice a year, in June and October. The White Sox Miracle Field can be found behind the Chicago Agricultural High School at 111th Street and Lawndale Avenue, Chicago. The great part is that children with special needs are welcome to participate for free. Tell everyone you know about the game so they, too, can experience that miracles happen in baseball and in life.
Walter Burden is a father of five, including a child with special needs, and a Chicago Parent advertising sales representative.