Story and photos by Larry Austin
Law enforcement came out in numbers Sunday to go to bat for children with special needs.
The Miracle League of Grand Island and Western New York hosted Law Enforcement Day at the Veterans Park diamond. The game featured volunteer "Superstar Buddies" from police agencies, who supplemented the regular buddies of the Miracle League to help the ballplayers on the basepaths and in the field.
"It was a great day for the Miracle League and a great day for everybody that attended," said event organizer Mike Hilliker, who covered the Island for many years as a member of county law enforcement. Among the law enforcement personnel who were buddies for the game were members of the Grand Island Police, U.S. Border Patrol, Amherst Police, Town of Tonawanda Police, New York State Troopers, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, State Parks Police, Erie County District Attorney's Office and New York State Court system.
"This was phenomenal. We put this together in about a month's time and the response from the law enforcement agencies was great," Hilliker said.
The adaptive ball diamond built at the town's Bedell Road park allows children with disabilities an opportunity to play baseball.
"All the participants had a great time," Hilliker said. "I saw some tears in the eyes of some of the police officers, who are supposed to be tough guys, but when they saw what they were dealing with today I could see that it was opening their hearts and putting big smiles on their faces. To me, it was a day well worth it."
This was the first-ever Law Enforcement Day, but not the last.
"It's definitely going to be an annual thing," Hilliker said. "We hope to increase the number of ballplayers and the number of law enforcement agencies that come and participate."
The Miracle League will host superstar buddies from the Buffalo Bisons Saturday, Aug. 4, at 2 p.m., and from the Buffalo Sabres Alumni on Wednesday, Sept. 12, at 7 p.m.