Miracle Field renovation in Rochester shows the power of community

ROCHESTER — Earlier this summer, Laurie Brownell received a call from a Zumbrota number. On the other end of the line was an athlete who had been playing baseball at Miracle Field for years.

“I’m just calling to tell you that I turned 83,” the caller said, “and you better work on that pitch because I’m playing ball this summer.”

Miracle Field is the result of a community vision to create an inclusive baseball field that is accessible to youth and adults with disabilities who want to play baseball. Brownell, chairman of the estate’s board of directors and volunteer coordinator, joined the board in 2008, the year the estate opened.

The Rochester community again supported the land earlier this summer when the land’s board of directors, led by Brownell, began fundraising to resurface.

The original field lasted 14 years. However, last summer it was clear that the special rubberized surface, which provided a cushioned and even surface for athletes, was no longer safe for athletes. Cracks were scattered all over the surface of the infield.

“We practically held our breath,” Brownell said. “People went around third base and there was a gaping crack in the field.”

The board promised the athletes at the end of last season that they would work to renovate the pitch. It was then that Brownell and the board set a goal to raise approximately $200,000 to resurface the field, lower the outfield fence, replace the netting atop the fence, renovate and add canoe canopies.

Brownell said more than 30 corporate sponsors and more than 65 private donors helped raise funds, underscoring the community partnership needed to make Miracle Field work.

The first phase of the renovation – replacing the surface – cost $120,000 and was completed in June, in time for the start of the summer season. Now, the second phase of fundraising is underway to fund the remaining projects to update Miracle Field.

Miracle Field, newly resurfaced, makes the field easier for athletes to use, more comfortable and less likely to scratch knees and elbows at Watson Sports Complex in Rochester on Wednesday, July 20, 2022.

Tucker Allen Covey / Publish Bulletin

“We are still working. We’re not completely done,” Brownell said. “We are over 65% of our target, but we still have other aspects of the pitch that are very important and that we need to update.”

Community is the most important aspect of Miracle Field: The field was a community vision, meant to bring people together. And now the community has come together again to ensure that the field continues this mission for years to come.

“The biggest part of our story is that the community has helped. We are so grateful for the kindness of the community,” Brownell said. “We were so happy that the community rallied around us so athletes could play ball this summer. It would have just left a huge gaping hole in their hearts and lives had they not played ball this summer.

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Rochester Police Department Officer Greg Jeardeau sends a runner around first base at Miracle Field at the Watson Sports Complex in Rochester on Wednesday, July 20, 2022.

Tucker Allen Covey / Publish Bulletin

Miracle Field
Rochester Police Department Officer James Ratelle speaks to a player as the next batter prepares on Miracle Field at the Watson Sports Complex in Rochester on Wednesday, July 20, 2022.

Tucker Allen Covey / Publish Bulletin

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Rochester Police Department Officer Greg Jeardeau cheers on a player as he catches a ground fly ball at the recently resurfaced Miracle Field at the Watson Sports Complex in Rochester on Wednesday, July 20, 2022.

Tucker Allen Covey / Publish Bulletin

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Miracle Field is seen Thursday, July 21, 2022 in Rochester.

Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

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Everything needed to play baseball sits in a cart before the game at Miracle Field, part of the Watson Sports Complex in Rochester, Wednesday, July 20, 2022.

Tucker Allen Covey / Publish Bulletin

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The recently resurfaced Miracle Field at Watson Sports Complex in Rochester on Wednesday, July 20, 2022.

Tucker Allen Covey / Publish Bulletin

Miracle Field
A glove ready to be used by the pitcher at Miracle Field at Watson Sports Complex in Rochester on Wednesday, July 20, 2022.

Tucker Allen Covey / Publish Bulletin

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