Precious are the dreams that become reality. Even better is when reality rises up and exceeds the grandest vision in the mind's eye.

We'll never know how far-reaching Bill Wright's vision was for the Miracle League of Central Illinois. What he saw prior to his death in 2012 pleased him ... baseball games played at G.E. Park in Bloomington for children and adults with disabilities. Yet, did he envision this?

Could he have foreseen a top-notch facility with a state-of-the-art rubberized turf field, on-site restrooms and concessions, an energized game-day announcer and 100-plus players?

"I don't think Bill could have imagined how nice the facility has become and how well it serves our players with disabilities," said John Lutes, the organization's president. "The bottom line is they're having fun, they feel very happy and they're very proud of the experience. It's something that's very meaningful to everyone involved."

The Miracle League of Central Illinois celebrates its 10th anniversary Sunday at its field just north of the Corn Crib in Normal. It will be a festive event with music, free food and the regular weekly games at noon, 1, 2 and 3 p.m. The public is welcome.

Board chairman Mike Wright wishes his father was around to see it.

"But I'm sure he's looking down (from heaven)," he said.

Here's a thought for the celebration. At some point, along with a few impassioned words from announcer Tim Barnes, everyone in attendance raises their hands to the sky and gives Bill Wright a thumbs up.

"Ten years ... it's hard to believe it's been this long since it started," Mike Wright said. "The longer I'm in it, I'm like, 'Here's a guy in his 70s (Bill Wright) who said, 'I want to build a field for kids with disabilities' and there it is out there ... with the help of many, many people.

"Every once in a while I just go out to the field and look at it and think about all the help we had to get to this point."

The fully handicap accessible field was built in 2015. The next year, a building housing restrooms and concessions was added. 

The facility also now includes a shelter beyond the outfield fence to accommodate and protect Barnes' equipment. 

All of it has been done with the aid of unions in McLean County that have performed work "at a fraction of the cost for most of the things," Mike Wright said.

"I don't think we've been turned down," he added. "Every ask we've made it's, 'Yep, I can get out there and do it.'"

The generosity warms Wright's heart. 

He and Lutes will tell you it is a team effort, beyond the actual coaches and players on the field. 

Tracy Patkunas serves as game-day coordinator and is instrumental in working with businesses to secure "buddies" who volunteer and assist players before, during and after games. 

Barnes has livened up the atmosphere with his volunteer work as announcer and disc jockey.

"That guy shows up every Sunday and I think he kind of makes it go," Wright said. "He plays the music and the kids love to hear their names called out."

It brings a big-league feel, helping players with challenges smile inside and out. 

The league also provides a competitive outlet, particularly among the older participants. Wright relishes seeing "the joy on their faces at being competitive and just enjoying the baseball experience."

Many of us share that with the Miracle League players. We love the game and the excitement it can generate.

Sunday also is the 35th anniversary of "The Sandberg Game," the 1984 Wrigley Field contest between the Cubs and Cardinals in which Ryne Sandberg hit two game-tying home runs off of Bruce Sutter in an extra-inning victory.

During a Chicago radio interview Saturday, broadcaster Bob Costas said it remains the most exciting and memorable regular-season game of his Hall of Fame career.

Sunday's Miracle League action won't be nationally televised like "The Sandberg Game." There won't be 40,000 screaming fans. None of that will matter to the players, who'll be playing the game Sandberg played.

It's what Bill Wright wanted. Ten years in, it should be celebrated.

Here's to many more.

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Contact Randy Kindred at (309) 820-3402. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_kindred


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