The Miracle Man Behind Miracle Field
Written by Jodie Tweed | Photographed by Jeff Collins
ON SEPTEMBER 4, 1952, DARLYS EVERY WOKE UP WITH FLU-LIKE SYMPTOMS. It was the last day that he would ever walk again.
He was 12.
Every contracted polio. It was every parent’s worst nightmare during the height of the polio outbreak in the United States. For four months, he laid entombed by an iron lung machine, which kept him alive by breathing for him. He then spent about fifteen months in rehabilitation at the Sister Kenny Institute in Minneapolis in an effort to strengthen his weakened muscles and regain his ability to use them.
Before polio, Every loved playing sports, especially baseball. He was never able to play the game again.
Today, a new group of children and adults with mental and physical challenges are able to experience summer ball in their own special league, thanks in part to Every.
Every, 75, a retired Brainerd insurance agent, helped the City of Brainerd raise about $210,000 to build the Brainerd Lakes Miracle League Field at Bane Park in Brainerd three years ago. The field was built specifically for baseball players with special needs. It features a smooth artificial turf that allows players to play ball on a safe, level playing field. Players who use wheelchairs or walkers are able to easily move around the field.
Players are split between three teams: Cubs, for boys and girls ages 5-11; Bears, for boys and girls ages 12-19; and Grizzlies, for adults over 20. The league would like to start a team for disabled veterans and is actively recruiting players.
Tony Sailer, Brainerd Parks and Recreation director, said the field was built through all donations and grants. The Brainerd VFW and Harmon Killebrew Foundation each donated $10,000 for the field. The Otto Bremer Foundation donated $50,000. About twenty to thirty youth and adults are members of the league, which is open to individuals with special needs throughout Lake Country. The youngest players have been about 7-8 years old; the oldest have been in their 60s.
Sailer explained that the rules for Miracle Field games are basic.
“Everybody gets a base hit, everybody scores, and at the end, both teams win,” Sailer said. “What we’ve heard from some of the parents is that this is really the first time where their disabled child had got to participate in a sport and their family members are cheering for them. They love to hear the crowd roar. They’re just having a blast.”
Each player is matched with a buddy, a volunteer who helps the player bat and run bases. Many of the buddies are members of other youth baseball teams.