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Rochester's Miracle Field renovation shows power of community

“We were so happy that the community rallied around us so that the athletes could play ball this summer," Laurie Brownell said. "It would have just left a huge, gaping hole in their hearts and their life if they didn't play ball this summer.”

Miracle Field
Miracle field is seen on Thursday, July 21, 2022, in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — Earlier this summer, Laurie Brownell received a call from a Zumbrota number. On the other end of the line was an athlete who has played baseball at the Miracle Field for years.

“I'm just calling to tell you I turned 83,” the caller said, “and you better get working on that field because I'm playing ball this summer.”

Miracle Field was the outcome of a community vision to create an inclusive baseball field, accessible to youth and adults with disabilities who want to play baseball. Brownell, the field’s board president and volunteer coordinator, joined the board in 2008, the year the field opened.

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

The original field lasted 14 years. However, by last summer, it was clear that the special rubberized surface, which provided a cushioned, even surface for athletes, was no longer safe for athletes to play on. Cracks were scattered throughout the infield surface.

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“We pretty much held our breath,” Brownell said. “Folks rounded third base and there was a gaping crack in the field.”

The board promised athletes at the end of last season that they’d work to renovate the field. That’s when Brownell and the board set a goal to raise about $200,000 to resurface the field, lower the outfield fence, replace the netting at the top of the fence, and renovate and add awnings to the dugouts.

Brownell said more than 30 corporate sponsors and over 65 private donors contributed to the fundraiser, highlighting the community partnership needed to keep Miracle Field going.

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

Miracle Field
Miracle Field, newly resurfaced, makes the field easier for the athletes to use, more comfortable and less likely to scrape up knees and elbows at the Watson Sports Complex in Rochester on Wednesday, July 20, 2022.
Tucker Allen Covey / Post Bulletin

“We're still working. We're not completely done,” Brownell said. “We're at over 65% of our goal, but we still have other aspects of the field that are very important 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 came together again to ensure that the field continues this mission for years to come.

“The biggest part of our story is that the community helped out. We are so grateful to the kindness of the community,” Brownell said. “We were so happy that the community rallied around us so that the athletes could play ball this summer. It would have just left a huge, gaping hole in their hearts and their life if they didn't play ball this summer.”

Miracle Field
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 / Post Bulletin
Miracle Field
Rochester Police Department Officer James Ratelle talks to a player while the next batter gets ready on Miracle Field at the Watson Sports Complex in Rochester on Wednesday, July 20, 2022.
Tucker Allen Covey / Post Bulletin
Miracle Field
Rochester Police Department Officer Greg Jeardeau cheers on a player as they catch a ground ball at the newly resurfaced Miracle Field at the Watson Sports Complex in Rochester on Wednesday, July 20, 2022.
Tucker Allen Covey / Post Bulletin
Miracle Field
Miracle field is seen on Thursday, July 21, 2022, in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
Miracle Field
All the necessities to play baseball sit in a cart ahead of the game at the Miracle Field part of Watson Sports Complex in Rochester on Wednesday, July 20, 2022.
Tucker Allen Covey / Post Bulletin
Miracle Field
The newly resurface Miracle Field at the Watson Sports Complex in Rochester on Wednesday, July 20, 2022.
Tucker Allen Covey / Post Bulletin
Miracle Field
A glove ready to be used by the pitcher at Miracle Field at the Watson Sports Complex in Rochester on Wednesday, July 20, 2022.
Tucker Allen Covey / Post Bulletin

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Related Topics: BASEBALLNONPROFITS
Abby Sharpe joined the Post Bulletin in February 2022 after graduating from Arizona State University with a sports journalism degree. While at ASU, she created short- and long-form stories for audio and digital. Readers can reach Abby at 507-285-7723 or asharpe@postbulletin.com.
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