A Place to Play Ball for All
July 23, 2018
Baseball is part of the fabric of America. It's played on fields across our country by kids with dreams of hitting the winning home run or making the game-saving catch. In Parkersburg, a new sports complex is bringing the game to life for people of all abilities.
The All-Play Ballpark opened three little league fields for play this summer, three youth soccer fields will be in use this fall, and the crown jewel of the complex, the Miracle Field, will be ready for play in September. The Miracle Field is a baseball diamond that is built to give players of all abilities, including individuals who are wheelchair bound, a place to play baseball. It will be the first Miracle Field in northeast Iowa.
The vision for the complex was born from personal experience. Matt Waller's older brother was paralyzed in a car accident at age 14. His family's life changed forever, and he saw first-hand the challenges of finding facilities equipped to give people with disabilities the same opportunities as others. In 2012, Matt founded the nonprofit Diamonds and Fields and, with help from a dedicated board of community members, began turning the vision of an inclusive baseball facility into a reality.
The complex has had the support of the community from the beginning, including financial support from the Butler County Community Foundation and Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa, receiving over $50,000 in grants since 2016.
"Every dollar has mattered. It helps solidify we are part of the Cedar Valley. We're not just a small county or small communities away from Waterloo and Cedar Falls. We help make the Cedar Valley better," said Matt. "The fact we can offer something in Parkersburg that isn't offered anywhere else in the Cedar Valley, or anywhere else in northeast Iowa, is exciting, and it's important to me that Butler County is supporting it."
For Matt, the whole project from day one has been about the Miracle League of the Cedar Valley, which will have its inaugural season in the spring of 2019.
"The vision for this, and where or hearts are at, is offering the Cedar Valley a place for kids with disabilities to play side-by-side with other kids," said Matt. "It's the most amazing sight in baseball I've ever seen. The sheer joy these kids have because they've never had this opportunity and now here they are playing America's pastime and being part of a team, having people watching them and cheering them on, that's the part of the complex that I can't wait for people here in the Cedar Valley to experience."