Article and Photos by Karen Carr Keefe
Senior Contributing Writer
The Miracle League lived up to its name once again on Monday night with a special treat for players. It was Buffalo Sabres Miracle League Night at the baseball diamond in Veterans Park.
Excitement grew as the young players and their families awaited the arrival of their newest buddies. The stars from the world of hockey came to partner with and help Miracle League team members successfully round the bases.
Home runs were plentiful, and so were new friendships.
The Sabres were equally eager to trade hockey for baseball and the chance to meet their new young teammates. Participating current players were Dylan Cozens, Henri Jokiharju, Peyton Krebs, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Casey Mittelstadt.
Sabres alumni on the field Monday evening included Marty Biron, Larry Playfair, Don Luce and Darryl Shannon.
Nathan Sandonato from Niagara Falls has been with Miracle League for 12 years, since it started.
“Now I’m an old-timer,” he quipped. Nathan said he was looking forward to Sabres Night.
Mikayla Forsey, 24, said she was excited to see the Sabres. She said she saw them on Grand Island last year and it was good. What does she like best about being in the Miracle League? “It’s fun!”
Gail Sander Podsiadlo of the Miracle League said the Sabres work closely with the Miracle League and it always brings in “the new kids,” hockey team members who haven’t attended the baseball game in previous years.
Baseball player Patrick Bickel enjoys Sabres Night at the Miracle League with his mom, Carrie, and his brother, Tyler. (Submitted by the Miracle League)
Sabres player Casey Mittelstadt autographs a player’s jersey.
Mittelstadt said this was his first time at the Miracle League.
“I’m learning on the fly right now,” he said. “I’ve played some baseball in my life, but not too much, so they’re going to have to teach me a little bit.”
Before the game, Mittelstadt said, “I think we’re just going to kind of hang out and be buddies with all the players.”
There were hugs, grins, autographs and bonding in sportsmanship as the evening began.
The ball diamond at Veterans Park on Bedell Road is an adaptive field that meets the special needs of youngsters and young adults who might otherwise not be able to play baseball. These young players regularly overcome challenges throughout the year and look forward to their triumphs during the baseball season
They cheer each other on – loudly – in the best tradition of America’s pastime. They share team spirit and the feeling of winning. It’s a level playing field that gives them the joy of being athletes.
This is Patrick Bickel’s second year with the Miracle League. He joined soon after his family moved to Buffalo, his mother, Carrie, explained. Patrick will be 13 in November. His brother, Tyler, is in his first year as a buddy, helping his brother on to success.
Tyler, 10, likes his role as a buddy.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “I’m happy that I get to be with my brother on the field – and it’s going to be a heck of a year!”
Player Charley Nave and her buddy, Sabres player Ukko-Pekka Lukkonnen.
Dylan Cozens autographs Nathan Sandonato's jersey.
A young Miracle League team member smiles as she meets the Buffalo Sabres mascot, Sabretooth.
Mikayla Forsey is excited to meet Sabretooth.
Patrick Bickel raises his arms in triumph during the Sabres Night game at the ball diamond. He is with his mother, Carrie. (Submitted by the Miracle League)
Players get ready to connect with the ball at Buffalo Sabres Miracle League Night on Monday.