It was last season. The stands were packed and the crowd was going wild as “Life Is a Highway” blared over the speakers. The announcer called out “Hollywoooooood Scott Bailey!” and 11-year-old Scott, decked out in sunglasses and orange shoelaces to match his jersey—and accompanied by his favorite buddy, Miss Val—pushed his walker out to the home plate at the Langham Creek YMCA’s Mabee Adaptive Sports Complex in Cypress. After hitting the ball, he made it around all the bases with the help of his walker.
“Nobody had seen him do that before,” his mom, Tina, says with tears in her eyes. When Scott was 22 months old, he got brain cancer, and went from walking to not being able to stand up. His cancer cleared, but the tumor caused neurological problems and Scott needs a wheelchair most of the time. But the boy had set a goal for himself: He wanted to walk the bases at his Miracle League baseball game, and he’d worked diligently in physical therapy to get there.
“When you have a child that’s physically disabled, you don’t think they’ll ever have an opportunity to do things like play sports,” Tina says. “This gives him an opportunity to play ball.”
Miracle League operates 300 such leagues for kids with special needs around the country, and the one Scott plays in stands out as a success, hosting 200 kids each spring and fall since opening in the second half of 2012. This, the eleventh season, wraps up this month.
Mabee, which includes two special-sized fields—one donated by the Astros Foundation—is outfitted with turf that’s easy for wheelchairs and walkers to move around on, plus a special playground that’s accessible for kids with disabilities. The setup works so well, Humble ISD has just built its own, matching complex in partnership with the Lake Houston YMCA.
The Langham Creek Y’s adaptive sports program—which also includes soccer, basketball, flag football and swim lessons—is open to kids with a wide range of physical and cognitive disabilities, and it isn’t just about playing sports. “We could stay in that silo and say these kids are getting to play and have fun and be physically active,” says Matt Thompson, the Langham Creek Y’s executive director. “That’s a very important piece to it, but what we’re really doing, from a therapeutic standpoint, is helping those kids, in the future, to be able to be more self-sufficient, to be able to take care of themselves, to be able to hopefully do things on their own outside of just playing sports.”
For Scott, who says his favorite thing about the league is “winning the trophies,” it’s about playing with a group of kids who’ve become good friends, and pushing himself toward his ultimate goal of walking again. For the Baileys, it’s a chance to watch him play—the league’s buddy system allows parents to enjoy games without having to be in charge of their children for a couple hours. “It gives us the opportunity to cheer for him, and for all the kids,” says Tina. “We’ve made it a point to learn each and every child’s name and cheer for them by name.”
Thompson’s eyes light up remembering Scott’s miracle lap around the bases. “He’d watched his friends and his teammates playing,” he recalls, “and he told us that he wanted to eventually run around the bases. So for Scotty, being able to come out here and hit the ball—he had his walker—and walk all around the bases, that’s a huge accomplishment.”