Mid-Michigan's own field of dreams celebrated its grand opening Monday evening in DeWitt Township.
The smell of popcorn and hotdogs was in the air at Case Cares Miracle Field, where hundreds of special needs children, their families, and the Michigan State University baseball team joined to throw out the first pitch at the specially designed field.
The field is rubberized with painted baselines and bases, making it safe for kids and young adults with disabilities to enjoy America's favorite past time.
15-year-old Katie Frayer was the first pitcher in the exhibition inning played with MSU "buddies," acting as a support team in the field for the Miracle League athletes.
"I'm looking forward to the great feeling of not having to worry about sinking in the sand and not being able to drive smoothly across the field, and just having a great time with my friends," Katie said.
For the parents, this field is a relief.
"Kids have struggled through the years playing on the regular baseball fields because they're sandy and full of holes, and if it rains, they've got muck to get through, and it's really difficult on the wheelchairs and the walkers," said Beth Frayer, Katie's mother.
Safety isn't the only thing the field has to offer. Parents and their children are looking forward to the team element. More than 60 children have already signed up for the newly formed Miracle League of Mid-Michigan .
"It's really difficult for kids with disabilities to find team sports to play, so we feel really fortunate that she has a team so close to home and a great field to play on," Frayer said.
Township officials who worked closely on this project over the past five years said they hope the field serves as a unique place for the entire Tri-County area.
"There's no other fields like this in the Greater Lansing area," said DeWitt Township Manager, Rod Taylor. "This is going to draw kids from the Tri-County region and beyond. We expect people as far as Jackson to use this very unique asset in our community."
Taylor credits a $395,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, as well as help from Case Cares and Case Credit Union for the speedy development of the field.
"It was a lot of hard work, but they're the reason we're here on this beautiful day," Taylor said.
This was just phase one of the project. Organizers hope to add lighting and an announcer's booth. They're in talks with Meijer for a donation of an electronic scoreboard. Miracle League of Mid-Michigan also hopes to expand the field in order to accommodate adult leagues.
"It's a whole new experience together and we're all going to feel better by not having to get stuck on the field," Katie said. "And we'll all just be able to focus by having fun in the game."
The Miracle League is still looking for more "buddy" volunteers to assist athletes during games.