They may not always hit the ball out of the park or hit a grand slam, but their spirit and love of the game might just be unmatched.
They are the Dreamcatchers, a baseball team for children with physical and mental disabilities, and they will soon have a field of their own at the South Hill Complex.
During the summer, the Dreamcatchers play on Thursday nights, said Michelle Bliven, the founder of the Dreamcatcher idea. They start at 6 p.m. and play four games. Kids from Garrison, Bottineau, Stanley and Towner all come on Thursday nights to play baseball on the Dreamcatcher team, she added, and was thinking they might have to go to two nights instead of just one for their games.
Harvey Herslip, project manager and volunteer for the Dreamcatchers, left, and Michelle Bliven, founder of the Dreamcatchers, right, are shown talking about the baseball field for their team that is almost complete. They hope to play a game and have a ribbon-cutting ceremony this fall.
There's also social time after the games, Bliven said. Some of the children and families get to network with people after the games, she noted, and it gives parents a time to bounce ideas around with other parents and gives them a chance to just watch and be free.
"We try to make it a nice night for kids and families," Bliven added. "The last person to bat in the game automatically gets a home run and every kid gets a trophy at the end of the season."
Harvey Herslip, project manager and volunteer for the Dreamcatchers and a key player behind the building of their baseball field, said the field is not full-sized and measures 125 feet to the center and 120 feet to the sides. The bases will be 45 feet apart, too, he noted, but the bases are 60 feet apart on a regular field, and the dugout will be 9 feet by 30 feet, which will be a good size. The location of the field has also been moved three times, Herslip added.
There is still some work needing to be done on the field to get it finished and ready for use, though. Herslip said the surface still needs to be done and the field will be green around the baselines and outfield and will have a rubberized surface, but it will be laid out like a baseball field. They also need bleachers and want to build a storage shelter, he added, as well as a bench for inside the dugout. The field is at a standstill right now, however, because they have to wait for the asphalt to be ready for covering with the rubberized surface.
Dakota Fence put up the fencing, Herslip noted, and Minot Lumber donated the metal to put on top of the metal piping on the fence. The Minot Recreation Commission said they'll take care of mowing around the edges, too, he said.
Herslip said they've had donations from people both in-kind and cash. They have enough money to finish the fencing and the dugout, he added, but not enough to put the finishing touches on. The hope is to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the fall and play a game before the summer ends, Bliven noted.
"I just picture the kids out here running around with their walkers and braces. It's the 10th anniversary of the Dreamcatchers and it would be nice to finish the season with this field."
There are fields similar to the one being built here, Herslip said, and they're advertised as "miracle fields," with the closest one in Moorhead, Minn. He wasn't aware of them, he said, until he looked up "baseball fields for children with disabilities" on the Internet and found many results.
"It started very simple, but bloomed and kept getting encouragement and support. We've had large contributions that got us started and our supporters and contributors will have signs all over the ballpark," he said.
The support from the community has been overwhelming and amazing, Herslip noted, with people pitching in money and supplies.
The Dreamcatchers started with 13 players; this year there are 81, said Bliven.
"It'd be a real bonus for the kids to have a field to call their own," Bliven added. "A field like this would take away the obstacles like the dirt."
There isn't any special equipment needed for the players on the Dreamcatchers team, although some use different colored balls if they're visually impaired and they have a machine that gives off a sound for the person to run to a base, Bliven explained. Each player has a buddy who helps them bat and run the bases, she added, and the buddies usually come from the Minot Metros and the Minot State University football team. People from the Minot Air Force Base, IRET, and Target also have been buddies to Dreamcatcher players, Bliven noted.
"The kids make good friends with their buddies and the buddies are surprised when they find out what a great time they have. It's a win-win situation for everyone," she said.
It's not easy to get buddies when there are four games played in a night, though, and some of the buddies play more than one game, Bliven noted. If organizations are interested in being buddies, they can call Bliven at 852-1983 or people can join as buddies individually, she said.
The most rewarding part to come from the Dreamcatchers field, would be for "the kids to have a field they can call their own that has no limitations," Bliven said.
"This is a field of dreams," Herslip added.