Michael Long at bat for the South Hills Pirates Miracle League team.
By Mike Long
Sometimes something so menial can be so huge.
Something like a young man hitting a ball over a fence. I mean, this happens all of the time, all summer long. Not that big of a deal. Well, that depends on who hit it and who cares about that person.
When Michael was born, we had no clue he was going to have Down syndrome. We didn't even know for about two hours after delivery. Then we had the rudest doctor come and tell us very bluntly; "Your son has Down syndrome. Any questions?”
We went into shock. My head was spinning. My mind raced from what his life would be like in the next few weeks to, "What happens when we're gone?" and back. I thought things like; "he'll never drive, he'll never have friends, he'll get teased, he'll never have a girlfriend, he'll never play sports" and things like that.
I was devastated.
Most of the things I worried about have never really been an issue. including the sports stuff, thanks to the Miracle League of South Hills (MLSH). The first day, he stepped onto the MLSH field, hit his first pitch, and then proceeded to high-five everyone standing in the dugouts and along the fences as he rounded the bases for an inside-the-park homer. This had me in tears.
This is life-changing.
Now every mom and dad wants their kids to hit a home run, and he had his first under his belt. He had many more inside the park ones, but never one out. He'd come close a few times but never out. I couldn't wait for that day.
Well, that day came this weekend in the middle of a historic road trip to the Miracle League of Mercer County New Jersey. I was pitching. He used a bat that I didn't want him to use. I put the pitch right in his sweet spot and there it went. I knew almost instantly it had a chance. Angle, speed, height, wind were all there. I watched it go and my excitement grew the farther it flew.
Someone said I actually jumped in the air. I don't believe it, but I definitely had the energy to. Screams, high-fives, hugs, tears, and almost a heart attack (me) happened in the next few moments. I was on a cloud. He was so excited.
"I DID IT, DAD"!
"Yes, you did bud, yes, you did."
This is life-changing.
This was one of the worries I had long ago being erased in the greatest way possible. GONE. All of this "life-changing" stuff happens because of other people. Selfless people. People with the biggest hearts you can ever imagine.
People like Timothy Gebhart, Miranda Klein, Kayla Frattini, Eric Jankoski, the other coaches, volunteers and the Mayor, Sean Casey. You people change lives. You changed our lives.
I'm ultra proud to be a small part of this organization and to do this with all of you. Thank you for helping us cast aside some of our worries while making us better people in the process.
Every kid deserves the chance to play baseball. Every parent deserves the chance to watch their kid play ball.
Author Mike Long is a native of Preston in Stowe Township. His son Michael Long is a 2022 graduate of Chartiers Valley High School.