KINSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – Dozens gathered near downtown Kingsport Saturday morning for the opening of the Eastman Credit Union Miracle Field Park, which includes the Eastman Field and the Blue Cross Healthy Place Playground.
The park is located at 2107 Brickyard Road – just off Industry Drive. The playground will be open to the public on Wednesday.
City of Kingsport leaders joined local and state dignitaries, sponsors, officials from Visit Kingsport and the Kingsport Chamber, and several special needs children to commemorate the opening of the $2.5 million venue, the first Miracle League complex in the area.
Jud Teague, executive director of Visit Kingsport, created the idea for the project and has spearheaded its development for the past two years. In a press release, Teague said he wanted to create the field for his son Nicholas, who has Down syndrome, and other children with special needs.
“It’s hard to describe and put to words what this project means to Nicholas, my family and to so many other families with special needs children,” Teague said in the release. “This field will allow these kids the opportunity to play baseball and other games where before they could not play on traditional fields. This is a great and moving moment for these children.”
At the end of the dedication, Nicholas threw out the first pitch and the kids took to the field to play a few innings of baseball.
“This will be what it’s all about,” Teague commented. “To see those kids – our children – on the field smiling and playing and having fun is why we did this.”
While the field will be mainly used by special needs children and young adults, it can also serve seniors and wounded veterans.
A Miracle League, which is free and non-competitive, is also being created to coordinate games and schedules for the fields. A Miracle League removes the barriers that keep children and young adults with mental and physical disabilities off the baseball field and lets them experience the joy of America’s favorite pastime, the release detailed.
Since the main barriers for these athletes arise from the natural grass fields used in conventional leagues, the release detailed that the Miracle League teams play on a custom-designed, rubberized turf field that is about a third the size of a normal field and accommodates wheelchairs and other assistive devices.
The mound and all of the bases are flush, allowing amputees and those in wheelchairs to travel over the surface more easily and safely.
The ballfield is sponsored by Eastman while the park is sponsored by Eastman Credit Union.
Sponsored by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, the Blue Cross Healthy Place Playground is an all-accessible playground with many amenities that can be enjoyed by children of all abilities.
In addition to the field and playground, the complex contains a pavilion, concession stand and “Homer” the mascot statue at the entrance.
Future additions include a second baseball field, a soccer field and a zip line, the release stated.
Teague said there are more than 85,000 children in Tennessee with special needs and more than 300 Miracle Leagues across the country, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Australia. In total, those leagues serve more than 200,000 children and young adults.
The Miracle League in Kingsport will serve between 2,500 and 3,000 children in the region.
The closest Miracle League complexes to the one in Kingsport are in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Roanoke, Va.
“I am beyond thankful to the city of Kingsport, the Visit Kingsport team and all of the sponsors, donors and leaders who made this field possible,” Teague added. “Their generosity will make a huge difference in the lives of so many children and will bring so many smiles and happy memories to these kids for years and years to come.”