Last summer was the first time 9-year-old Ben Tetlen played baseball. With moderate to severe autism, Ben was never interested and never had the opportunity to play. But Kevin Thoresen, founder of the Miracle League of Minnesota, changed that.
Ben’s mother, Heather Tetlen, saw a flyer at Courage Center and decided to give Miracle League a try. “Ben fell in love with it,” she says. “Every day he asks me, ‘Mom, is today a baseball day?'”
Miracle Leagues teams are open to children ages 3-19 with special needs. They play on “Miracle Fields,” which have wheelchair-accessible dugouts and even surfaces and are covered in crushed rubber to cushion falls. Every child gets to bat and everyone gets to score a run. Volunteer “buddies” are available to help and, in a Miracle game, every kid wins. “It’s my kind of baseball,” says Ben’s mom.
It all started in 2004 when Thoresen saw an HBO special about Miracle Leagues, which started in Atlanta in 1999. “It was just one of those moments,” says Thoresen. “I thought to myself, ‘there isn’t anyone more qualified to create this [in Minnesota] than me.'” Thoresen has a background in commercial real estate and is the father of two children with special needs. What’s more: “I played baseball all of my life,” he says.
“Our mission is to give every child a chance to play baseball,” says Thoresen. There are now fields in use in Blaine and Rochester, two opening this year in Mankato and Minnetonka, and plans underway in Lakeville and Duluth.
Brian Roseen, a baseball enthusiast and Lakeville baseball coach, learned about the Miracle League in the summer of 2005. “I was playing ball with my kid and saw a young boy in a wheelchair,” says Roseen. “We wanted to try to include him, but the conditions just weren’t ideal.” Roseen went home and searched the Internet for a solution. Within minutes, he found the Miracle League.
After a call to Thoresen, a series of Lakeville board meetings, and plenty of family support, Roseen, now the Lakeville Miracle League coordinator, hopes for a grand opening in the spring of 2008.
“I have some of the best moments when I’m playing baseball with my kids,” says Roseen. “Other families should be able to experience quality time like that, too.”