PAYETTE, Idaho -- The late Payette baseball hall of famer Harmon Killebrew always said his dream was for every child to have a chance to play ball -- and he meant every child.
Killebrew's foundation is now helping to do that in his hometown of Payette.
Despite the rain pushing the event inside, it was a special day in Payette on Wednesday, as the ribbon was cut on the first Miracle League baseball field in Idaho.
I have been waiting for this day for so long, said Cheri Gordon, Executive Director of the Miracle League of Payette.
The day is thanks in large part to years of work from Harmon Killebrew and his foundation, which were determined to bring the field to Payette.
I met Harmon five years ago, said Johnny Franklin, National Projects Director for Miracle League. The main thing he wanted me to understand was, 'We're going to build a field in my hometown one day.'
The field will be one of more than 250 baseball fields across the world that allows special needs kids to play ball. It has a smaller layout and soft synthetic surface perfect for wheelchairs and walkers that minimizes injuries. The surface is also completely flat, giving these kids something they probably have never had -- a level playing field.
Over the years, I've had kids come out and say, 'When I'm at the Miracle League, I don't have a disability. I'm like everyone else,' said Franklin.
Gordon has special needs kids of her own, and says the camaraderie the Miracle League provides for players and parents is invaluable. I want my kids to have friends. They just really don't have a lot of that around here, because their peers don't know how to relate to them.
Nita Killebrew says her husband was deeply touched by the Miracle League. This is bigger than baseball.
Killebrew attended a game just days before his death. Despite his failing health, and urging from nurses to leave early, Nita says Harmon was determined to watch every second. He turned to me and said, 'I'm not leaving until every child crosses home plate.' More than just finishing watching the kids play the game, it was equally important to shake their hands, and tell them what little heroes they were to him.
Now, many more moments like that are coming to Payette.
I would venture to say that that's the greatest game of his life, said Nita.
The field will serve about 2,500 special needs kids in the Payette area. Organizers hope to get the field built soon. That will depend on how many donations they can get. They also have plans for a field in Meridian.
For more info on the Miracle League of Payette, and how you can help, click on the link.