Miracle League gives all a chance to play ball

Non-profit organization puts kids with disabilities on the field

Miracle League gives all a chance to play ball

ACTON, Mass. -- When Ryan Murdock rolled into the batter's box at Joseph Lalli Miracle Field on Saturday, it was impossible to miss the radiating smile as he readied his bright red bat.

The 13-year-old roped a pitch to right and swiftly navigated his way around the bases, crossing home plate with a grin somehow brighter than it was when he approached the at-bat.

Murdock, a Mookie Betts fan who loves scoring games and analyzing statistics, is in the midst of his first season playing with the Miracle League, a non-profit organization that provides children with disabilities the opportunity to play baseball.

The rubberized playing surface, opened in 2012, provides safe and easy mobility for players, and seemingly injects enthusiasm into each and every athlete who is granted the opportunity to step between the lines.

"It's great opportunity," Ryan said, "I play once a week. I get excited to go and play baseball."

"He enjoys it so much," added Ryan's dad, Hernan. "He loves the team. He loves the sport."

It's easy to be drawn in by the infectious enthusiasm of the players, whose families, along with countless volunteers, stand by their side on the field to root them on, help them out when needed and more than likely bask in that unadulterated joy.

"It's been wonderful, the kids have been great. It's a great organization and it's a lot of fun," said Kevin Armstrong, a volunteer coach with the Miracle League for over eight years. "It's something I look forward to going to each and every week. That's what it's all about. Everyone deserves to play baseball. This field is amazing."

On this day, the energy was raised to even greater heights thanks for a visit from the Boston Red Sox and Play Ball, MLB's initiative to inspire all to play baseball.

A DJ got the players moving with an impromptu dance party on the field in the middle of the first inning, with Ryan showcasing some killer spin moves.

All players received Play Ball shirts, bats and balls, and they were treated to some pizza postgame, as well as a visit from some special friends.

Playing third base, Ryan was in prime position to be the first player to greet Red Sox mascot Wally the Green Monster, doing so with an earnest high five.

Somehow, his smile grew even wider.

"It's very welcoming to have the Red Sox here," Armstrong said. "They were amazing, a lot of fun. It definitely brought it up another notch with excitement, enthusiasm. The kids love seeing Wally and Tessie. They go crazy about that."

After the game, Ryan, his dad and his mom, Laura, discussed the option of playing more ball in the fall.

Asked if he considered himself a slugger following his two-home run performance, Ryan flashed his Red Sox-colored braces, looked out from underneath the brim of his Red Sox hat, and humbly answered, "Yeah."

Craig Forde is a contributor to MLB.com based in Boston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.