CHARLESTON – Channing Proctor has built his field of dreams – a place where any child, regardless of his or her abilities, can play baseball.
Proctor put his own dreams aside while he created the Charleston Miracle League, which opened in the fall of 2004.
He spearheaded the effort to start the baseball league after seeing a Miracle League game in Georgia. Watching children with disabilities get a chance to play baseball – a game he took for granted as a scholarship player at The Citadel – inspired Proctor. He was writing a book and put it aside for children he did not know.
“I had tears streaming down my face,” he said. “I put the book on hold because I really wanted to start up the Charleston Miracle League. I put all of my energy into that at first.”
The Charleston Miracle League is a satellite effort of the original Miracle League in Conyers, Ga.
“We invite all kids with mental and physical disabilities,” Proctor said. “What I tell parents is if their child is uncomfortable playing in a traditional baseball game, they are welcome to play with us.”
On April 8, the Charleston Miracle League opened its spring season with an opening ceremony and several games. In this league, no player strikes out, and every player gets a chance to play. Each child has a buddy, an adult or youth volunteer who helps him or her get around the bases or be there for support.
Adam Zerbst, 11, said he found the game exhilarating.
Adam, who belongs to Church of the Nativity, said it was a lot of fun, especially because his grandmother came to watch him. He has cerebral palsy and finds that the baseball game gives him a good workout.
“I have a lot of fun because normally after I go up and hit, I am the pitcher and I always throw the ball really good,” he said. “They always give me compliments.”
Adam’s mother, Julie Zerbst, said the league has given her son a tremendous boost in self-confidence.
“The kids get so excited,” she said. “Adam just loves it … This has been really good for him. It’s a great thing.”
Proctor’s journey to founding the Charleston Miracle League really began after a life-changing moment five years ago. He was enjoying a successful career in capital medical sales in Atlanta when a high school teacher who had inspired him died of breast cancer.
Proctor said he wondered why he was spending all of his time working and being away from his wife and daughter.
So, he said, he quit his job, moved his family to Charleston and began working on writing.
But he got sidetracked with the Miracle League, and thus began his effort to get that operational.
To come up with the funds, Proctor raffled off his 1965 Ford Thunderbird in 2003. After that, he started collecting donations – Joe Griffith, a realtor in Mount Pleasant, was the largest donor with a $100,000 gift – and he was able to build the special rubberized field that allows children in wheelchairs to easily maneuver the bases.
Proctor had been attending Mass at Church of the Nativity with his wife and two daughters while working on the league. A year ago – Easter 2005 – he became a Catholic.
He said his faith has inspired him to help others and offer compassion to the children that enjoy the game.
“It gives them so much confidence,” he said of the participants. “They have a really good time.”
After getting the league off the ground, Proctor’s dream of being an author was finally realized.
His book, “Seasoned Rookie,” a fictional novel based loosely on Proctor’s own boyhood growing up in Mississippi and set to a backdrop of baseball, is available at www.seasonedrookie.com.
Proctor, now a pharmaceutical sales representative, is going to donate some of the proceeds from sales of his book to not only help fund the Charleston Miracle League but hopefully to help start Miracle Leagues in other cities.
More information about the Charleston Miracle League can be obtained at its website, www.charlestonmiracleleague.org.