It was a sunny, warm day. Perfect weather, I thought, for an afternoon at the ballpark. I got in my car, but I didn’t drive to Angel Stadium or the local Little League field.
I headed out to what is probably my favorite ball field in all of Orange County.
This ball field doesn’t have freshly cut outfield grass. Or that familiar gritty infield dirt. Or chalk lines creating the edges of a diamond.
But all of the necessary pieces are there. Each of the bases, from first to home. A big outfield, so batters can swing for the fences. There’s plenty of room in the expansive dugouts. There are bleachers covered with shade for cheering family and friends.
There are kids eager to play.
And there is joy.
Maybe you’ve seen the kind of joy that exists when kids pick up a bat, a ball and a glove and take to the field to play some baseball.
But beyond that, I think this joy–on this field–is unique.
I’ve watched these kids play on this field many times. And the joy I see on their faces when they play baseball is special.
It’s the kind of joy that is uninhibited. It’s the kind of joy you feel when you accomplish something others may have told you could not be done.
It’s the kind of joy that is found in freedom.
Have you ever known that kind of joy? Have you seen it?
When I go to the All-Star Complex at Pioneer Park in Anaheim, I see that joy with my own eyes.
Every. Single. Time.
Because when the kids of the Orange County Miracle League take to their field to play baseball, they play with that infectious, miraculous kind of joy.
On that sunny, warm day, participants and volunteers with the OC Miracle League, and others from the community, gathered at their field. It’s a field, I suspect, that is a place of refuge for many of these families. They gathered to celebrate and raise money for the organization that brings these kids such joy.
When the OC Miracle League says, “Every child deserves a chance to play baseball,” part of that mission includes being able to provide this opportunity to families free of charge. Because these families don’t need the extra burden of having to figure out how to pay for this activity for their child.
So Debbie and Steel Morris, who tirelessly run this program, along with others who support their efforts, do all they can to keep this a fee free league.
There were hot dogs, tacos, and tables decorated with bags of peanuts and Angels flags. There were carnival games for the kids. There was a silent auction, and raffle tickets were sold for some great prizes, including a Jered Weaver signed jersey and an Albert Pujols signed bat.
And there were the kids.
The whole reason everyone was gathered there that day was for these kids.
Every Sunday in the spring, this is the place these kids come together to play baseball, just like other kids their age who love the game. It’s a place they can play without barriers.
And even though they weren’t there that day to play a game, I still saw that joy. Because they were in their community, surrounded by those who support them, and at a place where they are free to be themselves.
That warm, sunny day was at the end of a hard week. It was a week where I, along with the rest of the country, had seen a lot of darkness from some cowardly people who tried to instill fear. But I also saw how bright the light shines when a group of people, a city, and a nation pull together to support their own.
But my heart was still heavy, my emotions still raw. And I found the best medicine that day on a ball field in Anaheim, being surrounded by these kids.
Without even realizing it, these kids gave me a gift that day.
They reminded me what it looks like, in real life, when love and the good in people win. They smiled those big smiles of theirs.
And there was joy.
For more information about the Orange County Miracle League or to donate, visit their website at ocmiracleleague.com