Nationals unveil Miracle League Field

Nationals unveil Miracle League Field

Nationals unveil Miracle League Field
GERMANTOWN, Md. -- Between autograph requests and speeches under the sun Monday morning, Nationals manager Davey Johnson took time to reflect.

He thought about the four World Series he played in with Baltimore, the pair he won and the two years he managed. He thought about the past month and a half when he skippered Washington. He thought about his younger cousin, Shirley, who grew up with special needs, as well as the special needs children he raised and two he lost.

And he thought about the newly-opened Washington Nationals Miracle Field, which will host the Miracle League of Montgomery County for children with disabilities.

"I've been in Maryland for four World Series ... and I'm very proud of that," Johnson said. "But I'm more proud to be here, at this event, the opening of this Miracle Field. All the wonderful people you're surrounded with, this is something that I'm proud to be a part of. It's tough to put into words."

Many tried at Monday's ribbon-cutting ceremony, where children sat in wheelchairs scattered throughout the newest part of South Germantown Recreational Park, ready to take the field.

Dr. Jim Leder first learned of the Miracle League at a 2006 conference in Montreal for the Kiwanis Club, which is dedicated to helping children worldwide through programs in specific communities. Leder is the president of the Bethesda chapter, and after returning from Montreal with an idea, he became president of the Montgomery County Miracle League -- one of 240 in the United States.

"We had a dream, but it took a couple people to make that dream come true," Leder said. "The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation made this dream a reality."

The Nationals announced their involvement in March, and the Dream Foundation and The Annette M. and Theodore N. Lerner Family Foundation became major donors, along with the Kiwanis Club of Bethesda and Montgomery Parks.

Center field is 130 feet from home plate at Miracle Field, which is made entirely of a cushioned synthetic turf that is five-eighths of an inch thick -- providing a safe surface for children in wheelchairs or with other handicaps.

"Because of this field, children with special needs across the entire Washington metropolitan area will now get to do more than just sit on the sidelines," said principal owner Judy Lenkin Lerner. "They get to play ball."

Steven Miller is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.