Jay Paris: Miracle League baseball is in a league of its own

 

The kid charging up the hill said it all: “Go Padres!”

Not the local nine at Petco Park, mind you. Instead we’re awaiting the first pitch from the Miracle League tykes sharing the same name.

And a likewise affection for a sport which is getting into the swing of things.

A peak at a hollering Josh Bigelow scrambling from the parking lot to the San Dieguito Regional Park diamond brings a sparkle to anyone’s eyes. His joy for baseball this Saturday morning has built all offseason. His favorite time of the year is finally here, and if you’re smart, you’ll share in this unconditional love for baseball.

“This is such a feel-good,’’ said Josh’s mother, Julie, and how did she notice my goose bumps? “Life is good.’’

Yes it is. Especially to the nearly 300 players with various physical obstacles often forcing them into organized sports’ shadows. For reasons difficult to explain and hard to imagine, these athletes are challenged in ways that would deter many.

But not Josh — excuse me, I’ve been corrected.

That’s Big Josh, a precious 11-year-old with his Padres hat resting crooked on his red-headed noggin’ which rises above an adorable mug loaded with freckles.

“He’s always been Big Josh,’’ Julie said. “And now he finally is.’’

Big Josh dons his No. 2 Padres jersey with the pride of any pro. He’s at the Miracle League’s opening day, just like every spring since 2007 when the curtain lifted on this true San Diego sports treasure.

The Miracle League is a gift which arrives each March, featuring engaged players marching to their own beat.

Some lean on walkers to reach the bases; some use wheelchairs to speed around the bags.

All have “buddies” which assist them on the field, but also form friendships with them off it.

Big Josh has Annika, 15, and don’t we all wish someone was so thoughtful in looking out for us.

“She’s unbelievable,’’ Julie said.

So is Big Josh,and he’s about to demonstrate it. In a move many his age aren’t keen with, he shows a visitor how he fake bunts, then pulls his bat back in order to get a hit.

He absorbed the technique from watching his sister participate in competitive softball. It’s at those games that Big Josh would often sneak into her dugout, proclaiming that he got to play, too.

Now Big Josh has his own dugout, even if Julie recalls doctors telling her his limitations meant a life as a spectator.

“They said he would never get to play the game,’’ she said. “Now he gets to play.’’

And Julie gets to watch, a three-inning break from tracking her son, 24/7. Not only do those dealt a tough hand in life get a breather, but ditto their dedicated parents.

“It gives us a respite,’’ Julie said.

But there’s no rest in keeping up with Big Josh or his Miracle League counterparts.

While chatting with Big Josh, we hear from Ernie Martinez, the noted San Diego sports talk radio show host, that the Diamondbacks’ Steven Dixon just smacked a two-run homer.

Martinez, like countless others, donates his time as the public-address announcer, introducing each batter with style and substance.

The games always end in a tie, as having a loser anywhere near this weekly sun-splashed event just wouldn’t be right.

“It looks like they really have a good time,’’ said Ian Broadbooks, 11, a Miracle League buddy. “And it just makes you feel good to help out.’’

Right on, Ian, and here’s where you can assist.

The Miracle League is having a fundraiser to let more kids like Big Josh wrap their arms around baseball, and really, so much more.

Those with big hearts and loose wallets can purchase an inscribed brick at miracleleagueofsandiego.org.

It’ll be placed at the Miracle League’s customized Engel Family Field, the one so graciously built by the Padres.

That’s the real Padres, or are you like me, more inclined to think they reside on Big Josh’s squad?

“When I watch my daughter’s games, they are always chasing the trophy,’’ Julie said. “At the Miracle League games, we already have it.’’

Big Josh’s grin proves it.

Go Padres!

Contact Jay Paris at jparis8@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter at jparis_sports

 

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