- The BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Foundation provided $300,000 to create a BlueCross Healthy Place in Kingsport.
- The BlueCross Healthy Place is an accessible playground located at the city’s Miracle League Complex, which is home to a baseball field for players with physical and mental disabilities.
When Jud Teague was young, he played baseball competitively. He loved the sport, and he wanted his son, Nicholas, to share those same experiences and his passion. Nicholas, 12, has Down syndrome, however, and that means he can’t safely enjoy baseball the same way his father did.
Jud, who serves as the executive director of Visit Kingsport, realized that creating a specialized sports facility for children like Nicholas would change that. And so, the dream for the Kingsport Miracle League Complex was born.
Baseball for all
The Miracle League was established in Conyers, GA in 2000. The organization builds custom-designed baseball fields for children and adults with mental and physical disabilities. Each field has a flat, rubberized surface that makes it easy for players with limited mobility to participate in the game.
For the league’s players, baseball provides opportunities for safe, healthy activity, as well as the chance to make new friends and build confidence. Each Miracle League player is paired with a “buddy,” an able-bodied peer who helps them bat, round the bases and offers encouragement throughout each game.
Bringing a field to Kingsport
Jud’s dream led to a five-year campaign to secure funding and build the Miracle League field in Kingsport. His vision became a reality this year.
The new Kingsport Miracle League Complex was jointly sponsored by Eastman and Eastman Credit Union, and it’s adjacent to BrickYard Park, a local sports facility with traditional baseball fields.
On the Miracle League field, there’s an LED scoreboard that displays players’ photos as they come to bat. There’s also a dugout with fans to keep players cool, large entrances for easy access and showers. For families and spectators, the complex has a 65-seat covered grandstand with chairback seats and a covered pavilion.
“Our new Miracle League complex offers so much to our community,” Jud says.
“Athletes with special needs, wounded veterans and their families benefit from the space, and it can be used for everything from baseball and whiffle ball games to corporate picnics.”
Creating a BlueCross Healthy Place
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is a long-time supporter of the Miracle League. The BlueCross Foundation funded an accessible playground next to the Chattanooga Miracle League field. Our TeamBlue volunteers also served as buddies for the grand opening of the Chattanooga complex, and they have partnered with players for subsequent seasons – an experience that has always been mutually rewarding.
“When we found out about the Miracle League complex in Kingsport, we realized this was the perfect opportunity to expand our support of the league by creating another accessible play space,” says Chelsea Johnson, director of the BlueCross Foundation. “We are excited to see the league’s players and other residents enjoy these facilities.”
The BlueCross Healthy Place features a flat, rubberized safety surface, along with ramps, accessible play structures and multisensory playground components that make sound. Nicholas’s favorite feature is the Merry-Go-All, an accessible merry-go-round. “He likes spinning in a circle and getting dizzy,” Jud says.
He adds, “This new playground takes our complex from just a baseball field to a destination. When games aren’t being played but the playground is available, it will be used by other community members and increase awareness of the Miracle League.”
“Nicholas and other kids like him have a new, safe place to play, and it’s exciting. The city of Kingsport is proud to be the home of this BlueCross Healthy Place playground.”