TAVARES, Fla. – Miracle League of Lake County Executive Director Tony Ferris is this week's News 6 Getting Results Award winner.
Every Saturday morning, Miracle League Field at Lake Idamere Park in Tavares comes alive with the sound of Ferris announcing the start of another game between the Yankees and Red Sox.
"Yankees versus Red Sox in an epic battle every week," said Ferris, who has been volunteering with the league since 2007 and became director in 2011.
In week eight of the spring season, the Yankees, dressed in their traditional blue uniforms, will bat first. As Ferris puts it, the players range in age from 4 to 44 and they all have a disability.
"I call it a social activity loosely based around the rules of baseball," he said. "Sometimes, very loosely."
And that's the point. It's a way for families to get out, enjoy the outdoors and meet others in similar situations.
The field, which opened in 2016, is specially designed with a smooth soft surface, large dugouts and plenty of shade.
"My role is supporter in chief," Ferris said between announcements. "I like to pump up the kids, boost them up, make them feel good. I talk a little bit about how awesome they are."
The rules are simple. There are no strikes, no errors and everyone gets to score. Each player is teamed up with a buddy to help them navigate the field.
"Whether you hit the ball over the fence or you hit it 4 feet, it's a great success," Ferris said.
Darla Podliski attends games with her son, Cole, who is autistic.
"They get out here and they have fun. They're dancing. They're laughing. They're meeting friends, and it's amazing," Podliski said. "I've seen in our son, his self-esteem has grown. His confidence has grown, and he's gaining great friends."
Podliski nominated Ferris for the Getting Results Award. She said he's there every week to set things up and keep the games running smoothly.
"He was one of the main people to bring this here," she said. "Tony organizes everyone, and he brings so much fun to the group."
"I have a son with autism," Ferris said. "He hasn't played now in I think about five years, but, you know, it's so fulfilling and so enriching, I continue to do it."
Ferris said the league is always looking for volunteers to serve as buddies for the players and welcomes new players.
Miracle League of Lake County plays at Lake Idamere Park at 12335 C.R. 448 in Tavares.
Other area fields include:
- Miracle League of Central Florida: Trotters Park, 2701 Lee Road, Orlando, 32810
- Miracle league of Volusia County
- Miracle League at Eastmonte Park, 830 Magnolia Drive, Altamonte Springs, 32701
To find the closest Miracle League to your area or for more information, call the Miracle League Association at 843-448-7712.