Miracle Mashers: Derby's a chance to swing for fences and 'Miracles'

Salem grad sparks fundraiser for Miracle League of Plymouth BY TIM SMITH • OBSERVER STAFF WRITER • July 19, 2010

http://www.hometownlife.com/article/20100719/SPORTS15/100719007

Baseball players from “The Park” are taking a serious swing at community service — and baseballs — thanks to a unique fundraising event Saturday at Salem’s varsity field. From 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., the first annual Plymouth-Canton Educational Park Home Run Derby will give current and recent varsity players from Salem, Canton and Plymouth the opportunity to mimic big-league power hitters while raising money for a worthy cause.

That would be the Miracle League of Plymouth’s baseball field for special needs children, a $1.1 million project that is slated to open in late April, 2011 on Theodore Street between Main and Farmer streets. “When I first caught wind of it (the project), I was floored,” said 2010 Salem graduate and event co-chairperson Chris Kordick, “because I didn’t even think anything like this organization around the country was even available. “The fact we can give kids who have disabilities — both physically and mentally — the ability to play baseball and that I’m going to have the ability to share my love of the game and my passion with those kids, it’s amazing.”

It was Kordick who got in touch with the right people about doing a home run derby. He contacted Debra Madonna (Miracle League of Plymouth co-chairperson) and the project-backing Rotary Club of Plymouth A.M. and the wheels were in motion. “For me, I want to see as many people down there as possible just to watch and cheer on and make it so the kids can really benefit from this,” Kordick continued. “It’s going to be a great day and a great event and we look forward to it for the years after, also.”

Each hitter will pay $25 to give it a go on Saturday, with spectators invited to watch for free. All concessions proceeds are being donated by the Salem Dugout Club baseball boosters while a silent auction (including premium Detroit Tigers tickets) also is expected to help generate cash.

GREAT IDEA
Kordick, who will go to Benedictine University near Chicago, caught wind of the fledgling field project and caught the ear of Ted Barker — a member of the Plymouth A.M. Rotary Club and construction manager for the local effort. Salem alum Barker (another event co-chairperson) noted how Kordick, a pitcher and first baseman for the Rocks, put aside personal pursuits to approach the Rotary. “Here’s a kid in his senior year of high school looking to start college soon,” Barker said. “It’s a pretty selfish time in your life and a lot of fun, “(But) here he comes, approaching us in the late spring about wanting to do a home run derby to raise money. How can you argue with that?”

Kordick said he had discussed doing a home run derby with other PCEP players and subsequently received the green light to host one by Salem varsity coach Dale Rumberger. Here it is a few months later. More than a dozen participants are lined up to swing for the fences, looking to slam as many balls over the fence as they can before recording 10 outs. Other 2010 PCEP grads to compete include Canton’s Joe Galanty and Cody Blakita, Salem’s Ken Novak and Plymouth’s Erik Lee. Meanwhile, Kordick is hopeful that current college players from PCEP will be on hand, with Canton head varsity coach Mark Blomshield also expected to join in on the fun.

IN THE MONEY
Each participant will don prep colors and bring his own batting practice pitcher. A “money ball” kicks in after each hitter’s ninth out, with local donors lined up. No matter how the derby turns out, Shaw Construction president Barker said it will succeed in helping a community tune in to the effort. “This is our first year, so our expectations are modest,” Barker stressed. “We’d love to raise money, but it’s also (about raising) community awareness and this has been great.” The project itself will feature a rubberized playing surface with 50-foot baselines and a distance of 125 feet from home plate to the center-field fence.

What has Kordick most excited is knowing that young girls and boys with handicaps will get to live the Miracle League’s motto: “Every Child Deserves A Chance to Play Baseball.” According to the 2000 U.S. census, there are about 5.2 million youngsters between ages 5-19 with disabilities. “I take my ability to walk on the field for granted every day,” Kordick said. “I can pick up my glove and my bat and go play, and I can go play four more years in college. “But these kids didn’t have it (a chance to play) before and now they do.”

Barker, like millions of Americans, knows first-hand why the Miracle League is like a dream come true. He has a 3-year-old godson with Down syndrome. “Mr. Barker said a while ago that he has a relative who has a son with a disability and he (the father) wondered about sports,” Kordick said. “He just looked at (Barker) one day and said ‘You know, I wonder if my son’s ever going to play baseball.’ “And now, he can. That’s what inspired me the most.” tsmith@hometownlife.com