Mauldin Miracle League Ensures Every Child Can Play Baseball

Sandy Somerville and her family always enjoyed baseball, but it wasn’t their favorite sport. When they moved to Greenville from New York in 2008, she heard about Mauldin Miracle League (MML) and thought it would be a great way to get her autistic son David, or “Bud,” active and involved. Little did Sandy realize just how much it would change her family’s lives.

MML, a baseball organization for special needs children in the Upstate, allows developmentally and physically challenged children to play baseball in a non-judgmental, fun and social environment. Currently celebrating its 10th anniversary, the League was founded on the belief that every child deserves the chance to play baseball. MML is an all-volunteer organization and 100 percent of donations directly benefit players.

The League houses two teams that include players of all ages with a variety of disabilities. Children ages 3 and up can play on the All Star team with a buddy, and children 8 and up can play unassisted on the All American team. Players can move from the All Star team to the All American team to hit, throw and run on their own when they’re ready. Currently, the youngest player is 3 years old and the oldest is 34.

Playing for the league has helped Bud to break out of his shell. “My son was always quiet and reserved around others,” Sandy said. “But when he started playing on the All Star team, he would talk and laugh with his buddy at every game, no matter who it was! He just feels comfortable with the buddies when he is on the field.”

MML not only helped Bud get involved, but made baseball a family affair. After he started playing in 2009, Sandy joined the League’s board to help with fundraising and later took on the role of event coordinator. Bud, who is now 21, continues to keep his game up while Sandy’s husband helps at each game. Her 8-year-old daughter Tory, who has ADD, also began playing a few years ago.

“As disabled kids get older, it’s often hard for them to find things to do,” Sandy said. “Mauldin Miracle League allows them to be part of a team and build special friendships. It provides an opportunity for our whole family to do something together and truly enjoy ourselves.”

Just like the Somerville family, there are a variety of ways to get involved in the League as a volunteer, buddy, coach or assistant, team parent, sponsor or donor. “I’ve grown through my experiences with MML,” Sandy said. “I’m not the shy person I was when I first moved here. The kids open me up. You can’t put into words how you feel when you see one of them accomplish a goal.”

Each year, MML takes players on annual trips to the Greenville Pickens Speedway and the Greenville Drive, and even participates in the Mauldin Christmas Parade. On one trip to the Speedway, Sandy was particularly touched by the reaction of one of the players who doesn’t speak at all. “He had the biggest smile on his face when the planes flew over the tracks,” she said. “In that moment, we could see how happy he was and how much this trip meant to him.”

For more information on MML, visit Mauldin Miracle League or call 864-505-5417.

Debbie Nelson

Debbie Nelson is the president and founder of DNA Creative Communications, a woman-owned public relations and inspirational marketing firm for nonprofit organizations. Under Debbie’s leadership, in 2010 DNA founded Shine the Light Nonprofit Forums, an annual training program for Greenville nonprofits in partnership with the Community Foundation of Greenville County, the United Way of Greenville County and the Hollingsworth Funds. To support other nonprofits across the state, she also manages education programs for the South Carolina Association of Nonprofit Organization. As an a advocate for the nonprofit community, each month Debbie shares nonprofit stories in her Shine the Light columns in the Greenville Business Magazine and the Columbia Business Monthly. In addition she teaches nonprofit marketing at Clemson University to inspire and develop future nonprofit leaders. Debbie is a graduate of Leadership Greenville, Leadership South Carolina and the Riley Institute’s Diversity Leadership Initiative. She currently serves on the boards of the Greenville Area Development Corporation, the South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, the United Way of Greenville County and the United Way Association of South Carolina.

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