Play Ball: A look inside the new minor league baseball team in Elkhart County

Published: May. 30, 2023 at 6:17 PM EDT
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ELKHART, Ind. (WNDU) - Those who feel it is past time for America’s national pastime to again be played at a professional level in Elkhart County are set to reach a major milestone Wednesday.

The last pro team to play in Elkhart County was the Elkhart Blue Sox in 1910.

This year, the Elkhart County Miracle was created to fill the void.

The Elkhart County Miracle is a brand-new baseball team in the independent Northern League and is set to play its first game in a brand-new stadium at Northwood High School in Nappanee Wednesday night.

“My name is Jordan Batten; I’m from Parkerville, West Virginia, playing with the Elkhart County Miracle,” Batten told 16 News Now. Batten is a college player who came to Elkhart to continue to hone his craft in the off-season. “We’ve only known each other for four days now, I think we’ve really grown for only knowing each other for four days.”

Catcher Curtis Ball said he came to Elkhart to play under Manager Wilson Valera. “He coached for the Diamondbacks, he was a hitting coach for the Giants, and he played for the White Sox, so he’s got a pretty loaded resume.”

It’s a moment in time team President Craig Wallin has been trying to bring about for much of his players’ lives. “It’s humbling, you know, to think it’s been 16 years, it’s a little embarrassing as well that we haven’t been able to pull this off any sooner, but you know there’s a reason for everything, and every year I will say this, we made progress.”

Most of the players who will represent Elkhart County’s home team come from hometowns that are far away.

“We have guys from four countries: Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and obviously the U.S.,” said team Chaplain Josh Gleason. “About 25% of the players are from here, Elkhart County or close to it.”

The season that begins Wednesday night at 7 p.m. against the Lake County Corn Dogs calls for 55 games over the next 10 weeks.

The team has all the bases covered when it comes to being family-friendly.

“We’re going to have bounce houses, we’re going to have live music, it’s going to be a lot of fun out here, outstanding food, the concessions, we think are some of the best in the area,” Wallin said.

Wallin says the Miracle isn’t out to compete with the South Bend Cubs some 20 miles away. He feels the two entities could complement one another. “This is a strong baseball region, and this area is very blessed to have two minor league teams. It doesn’t happen like this in a lot of areas of the country, but We have it here.”

Reserved tickets to the Miracle are $10 for adults, and $5 for children, while kids three and under get in free.

Since the stadium only seats about 600 patrons, Wallin suggests that fans buy an $8 general admission ticket and bring a lawn chair.