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Camden County NJ Miracle League gives those with disabilities a chance to play baseball

Sometimes, one of the biggest barriers to those with disabilities who want to play sports is simply having a place to do so and a team to play with.

For those with disabilities who wanted to play baseball in Camden County this spring, that barrier is no longer there.

June 21 marks the end of the first official season for the Camden County NJ Miracle League, which held baseball games at Boundless Field in Challenge Grove Park throughout May and June.

The league gave kids and adults with physical and developmental disabilities age 5 and up a safe and fun way to experience the thrill of America’s national pastime.

Boundless Field, which opened at the start of last summer, was designed to accommodate those with developmental or physical disabilities by being free of barriers and having a synthetic surface to make it easier for wheelchairs and other waking devices.

The Miracle League took full advantage of that field, with rules created to give all a chance to hit the ball, round the bases and touch home plate.

Each player gets to bat once per inning, with three innings per game.

Players remain at the plate until they get a hit, either from a pitch or tee. Hits are counted as a single, except those from the last batter that are counted as home runs.

The players then have “buddies” who help keep them safe by assisting them around the bases or with batting if needed. Buddies are any able-bodied individual, whether a friend, family member or volunteer.

After the three innings when everyone has batted and scored their runs, both teams are declared the winner.

Charity organization Build Jake’s Place sponsored the league after investigating similar leagues in different parts of the country.

The organization honors 2-year-old Jacob Myles Cummings Nasto, who died from complications after his fourth heart surgery in 2007, and often found it difficult to use the apparatus on playgrounds during his physical therapy.

In 2011, the organization was responsible for constructing the first boundless playground in South Jersey, Jake’s Place, which Boundless Field was built adjacent to.

Jim Cummings, a founding board member of Build Jake’s Place and Jake’s grandfather, declared the Miracle League’s first official season a great success.

“It’s been all good,” Cummings said. “We’ve been allowing kids that would never have an opportunity to play ball to get out and enjoy themselves with a bunch of other folks.”

Build Jake’s Place originally proposed the idea of a boundless field to the Camden County Board of Freeholders, and while the charity received permission to start fundraising, the board was instead able to secure grants to fund the project.

“Of course we were thrilled,” Cummings said. “It was never about naming a Jake’s Field, it was always about getting these kids a place to play.”

With the Miracle League’s first season winding down, Cummings said the response from parents has been phenomenal.

“They have so much gratitude,” Cummings said. “They’re so willing to do anything they can do to make this happen, and the best thing we tell them they can do is just go out into the crowd and cheer. The bleachers are filled with people yelling and cheering. They have been extremely helpful.”

Cummings said during a recent game, he was also able to see kids having fun playing at Jake’s Place, and it was the perfect example of how he wanted Jake to be remembered.

“We know that he must be absolutely laughing his head off in heaven…this is exactly what we wanted all along, that we would have so much laughter at this location.”

Those looking for information about the league can visit www.ccnjml.org.

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