BETHESDAMAGAZINE.COM | JULY/AUGUST2015 71
mother, contracted polio as a child and
couldn’t play sports. He was in his 40s and
coaching his daughter’s soccer squad, he
once told me, when he felt like part of a
team for the first time in his life.
I was thinking of Marc the morning
I visited Miracle Field. The rules are
simple. Every child bats. Everyone runs
the bases. Everyone scores.
The scene can seem pretty chaotic—
one boy dances around the outfield, a
girl decides to sit on third base—but as
Leder points out, it doesn’t matter. “In
the child’s mind, they’re playing baseball,” he says.
The benefits go far beyond the sport
itself. Ali Danielson’s son Caleb, age 4, from
Montgomery Village, has cerebral palsy and
uses a walker. Miracle Field “exposes him to
other kids who use walkers; he doesn’t feel
like an outsider,” she says.
Magdaline Deegbe’s 9-year-old son
Joel has autism, and she sees baseball as
therapy. “He learns to follow directions
and stay focused—you can’t hit the ball if
you’re not focused,” says Deegbe, a Germantown resident.
Eight-year-old Evan Miller, who lives
in Derwood, is also autistic, and he’s
prone to outbursts “that don’t go over
well in other settings,” says his mother,
Kelli. “Here there are other people like
him, it’s helpful for him to see that. This
is an encouraging environment, it’s OK
to make mistakes.”
Still, Miracle Field is underutilized,
vacant during most of the week. Leder
estimates there are as many as 20,000
special needs children in the county but
few know about the baseball program.
One reason is that the field lacks what
other cities have—a Major League player
who publicizes the facility. And getting
special needs children out to German-
town can be a chore. “It’s a joyful time but
it’s work for these parents,” Brewer says.
So Leder is trying to recruit other
users: T-ball leagues for small children
who can fall on the special surface and
not get hurt; wounded veterans learning
to live and play with prosthetic limbs.
But on Saturday mornings, the field
is filled with cheering parents and smiling children. “It’s a happy place,” says
Ben O’Hara, a 26-year-old teacher
who helps run the countywide program.
“It reminds you there’s some good in
the world.” n
Steve Roberts teaches journalism and
politics at George Washington University. For more about Miracle Field, go to
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