Field of dreams: Children with disabilities get chance to play ball

Children with physical and mental disabilities got the chance to try out an accessible baseball diamond this weekend — the first of its kind in eastern Ontario.

Miracle League of Ottawa holds first game

"If you have a dream, if you say it out loud, it will usually come true. That's what I like to go by," said Bryce Desrochers with his dad Rolly. (CBC)

Children with physical and mental disabilities grabbed their gloves this weekend as the Miracle League of Ottawa played its first full game of the year.

The game took place Saturday in Notre-Dame des Champs park in Orléans, on a fully accessible baseball diamond with expanded dugouts and a non-slip rubberized surface — the first of its kind in eastern Ontario. 

"This facility [allows] kids with physical or mental disabilities to have a safe zone, a safe place for them to play so that they can play like their peers," said Rolly Desrochers, whose 13-year-old son Bryce has cerebral palsy and uses a motorized wheelchair to get around.

The accessible diamond was initially the brainchild of Bryce and his parents, who launched a fundraising campaign in 2013 and later received a donation of more than $200,000 from the Toronto Blue Jays.

"I can play with all my other friends, and there's no barriers," said Bryce on Saturday.

Innes Coun. Jody Mitic, who lost both legs below the knee after a landmine exploded in Afghanistan in 2007, also attended the opening game. 

"It's just a pleasure to know that this is in my area and the kids have a place to come," said Mitic. "It's the only one that we have in Ottawa right now and we're hoping to get more."

Coun. Jody Mitic says he'd like to see more accessible spaces for children in the city. (CBC)

David Gourlay, president of the Miracle League of Ottawa, recalled attending another game for children with disabilities four years ago, where players "were going to the bathroom in their parents' cars" because they lacked the necessary infrastructure.

"It's about dignity and it's about enjoying the game of baseball fully without fear of harm or injury," Gourlay said.

The new diamond is more than just a baseball field for kids and parents, he added.

"This is really a community meeting zone. More than anything else, [it's] for kids and young adults in our community with special needs and we want them to feel completely welcome and completely safe."