Approximately 10 years ago, the idea began to be tossed around about the idea of the City of Hattiesburg building a Miracle League baseball field to include individuals with special needs who wish to play that sport.
That idea came one step closer to fruition at a recent meeting of Hattiesburg City Council, when council members voted to approve a contract between the city and Albert & Robinson Architects to provide professional services related to the development of the field, which will be located at Tatum Park off of Veterans Memorial Highway.
“There’s about 200 (Miracle League fields) across the nation – there’s one in McComb, there’s one in Jackson, one in New Orleans – but there’s nothing here in the Pine Belt,” said Freddie Triplett, president of the local Miracle League Board of Directors and director of Hattiesburg Dixie Youth Baseball. “We just thought, ‘hey, we’ve got everybody playing ball and it’s really good, but what about the special needs kids and adults?’
“So we did some fundraising and partnered with the City of Hattiesburg … and we plan on building a special needs turf field there at Tatum Park. We have plans to have the whole shoot and kaboodle, and hopefully in the next couple of years we can finish raising that money.”
Plans for the field – which will be located across from the Larry Doleac Youth Baseball Complex at Tatum Park – include a main concession building, a restroom/storage building, covered dugout recreational structures, dugouts, an entrance gateway and a possible splash pad.
The fundraising efforts but forth by the Miracle League board were dampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, but officials hope to resume those measures by this coming spring season.
“I think that we still need to raise this money, and I think by next spring we should see some movement, if not before,” Triplett said. “Obviously, if (anyone) wants to write us a check for half a million (dollars), we’ll start next week.
“Once we go through a year-long fundraising campaign, we should be able to start this hopefully within the next year.”
As per the contract that was approved by city council, Albert & Robinson Architects – along with engineering firm Shows, Dearman & Waits – has produced a schematic concept plan for use in fundraising, as well as space determination and scope of work efforts.
The Miracle League project is being funded, in part, by the additional 1 percent tax at Hattiesburg hotels, motels and restaurants that was approved by voters in 2019. Half of those funds are earmarked for Parks and Recreation Department projects around the city, while the other half is slated for improvements at Reed Green Coliseum on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi.
So far, those monies have helped paved the way for an extension to the walking trail at Duncan Lake, batting cages at Vernon Dahmer Park, and the basketball/tennis courts on East 8th Street, among other projects.
The other part of the project will be paid for with private funds.
Triplett said so far, the response to the upcoming Miracle League field has been overwhelming because of the need for such a space. Studies show that there are between 12,000 and 15,000 special-needs individuals in the Pine Belt, and as such, officials hope to open the Miracle League with 12 or 15 teams of children and adults.
“Whether we do that in 2024 or 2025, I’m not sure,” Triplett said. “But McComb has like six teams, so if you just parallel that to the Hattiesburg/Pine Belt area, we think that we should open up with a couple of hundred people that would fit that need.
“We’re talking kids with walkers, on rollers – it’s hard to do that if it’s not on a turf field. And of course the playground there, even it’s an inclusive playground, it’ll be for everbody. It’ll be a great park for brother and sister that may not have special needs, but they’ll get to play along with their brother and sister that does have special needs.”