Diamond gleams for disabled

By Mary Lou Pickel The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Amanda Roberts sailed across home plate in her electric wheelchair Sunday all smiles, and it's no surprise. Unlike last year, her wheelchair didn't sink into the sand by second base and require three people to pull her around the bases. The new Astroturf McMiracle Field in Conyers was also a huge hit for the other 133 disabled children who played on it Sunday during opening ceremonies.

"I think it's fantastic, it really is," said Versie Slay-Strong of Stockbridge. Her son, Robert Solomon, 16, is autistic and used to tire his parents out playing ball in the back yard. "We were at the first meeting when it got started" three years ago, she said of the Rockdale Miracle League. "It's amazing how big it's gotten. . . .

These people came all the way from Marietta," she said, pointing to parents behind her. Now the league has a field of its own. "There's no obstructions. The pitchers mound and the bases are flat," said Dean Alford, president of the Rotary Miracle League Fund, which raised $750,000 to build the special field and three surrounding dirt and grass fields. The Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charity gave $350,000. Everything at the complex is wheelchair-accessible, including the low-lying snack bar counter, Alford said.

An estimated 50,000 children in the Atlanta area could benefit from the type of field built in Conyers, he said. The group hopes other communities will use their field as a model. Andrea Mosley of Tucker wants the same opportunity for her son, Wesley, 8, who has Down syndrome, that the kids in the Rockdale league have.

"With as many baseball fields as there are in DeKalb County, why wouldn't we be able to get something through parks and recreation?" she asked. DeKalb recently formed a special needs league called DeKalb Challenger, but finding a home has been hard. A church has donated a field but limits play to two hours, she said. "Seeing this -- I stood up there and cried like a baby," said Wesley's grandmother, Linda Moss. "Kids with special needs are a treat.