Five years ago, resident and airline pilot Brian Roseen was out playing baseball with his son when they met a boy in a wheelchair and invited him to join them. Unfortunately, the field where they were playing wasn’t disability accessible.
Now, thanks to Roseen, who was voted Lakeville Patch’s 2011 Person of the Year, Lakeville is home to , a baseball field built specifically to accommodate disabled players.
“There was never any quit in Brian,” said Dan Brettschneider, program supervisor for the Lakeville Parks and Recreation Department, who served as city liaison for the project. “He always came in with just a positive attitude.”
Roseen called a meeting with the City of Lakeville, the Lakeville Baseball Association and the Miracle League of Minnesota, an organization dedicated to creating opportunities for disabled children to play baseball, in late 2006. Roseen’s proposal to build a Miracle League field in King Park was approved by the Lakeville City Council in 2007.
“He’s worked tirelessly,” said Kevin Thoresen, founder of the Miracle League of Minnesota. “Brian puts 100 percent effort in.”
Raising the necessary funds for the Miracle League field wasn't an easy task, especially at a time when many in Lakeville community faced economic difficulties. However, Roseen took on the challenge of funding the $400,000 project with determination and enthusiasm.
For the first of many fundraisers, Roseen, a former ski jumper, briefly came out of retirement to execute a $5,000 sponsored ski jump, which he referred to as the “Miracle Leap.” From there, fundraising efforts snowballed, and the project received revenue from various grants and gifts in kind from local businesses.
With the help of a group of community supporters, Roseen and company participated in Kids Day America two years in a row, volunteered at tailgate parties and sold raffle tickets at Twins games and auctioned off donated items in the Lakeville Rotary Auction at the , among other fundraising endeavors.
“The fundraisers were really fun,” said Roseen.
The Miracle League fundraisers were not only fun, they were successful. After years of hard work and determination, Harmon Killebrew Field officially opened on June 26, 2011.
Thanks to Roseen, Lakeville is now home to the South Metro Miracle League. In its first year, 72 children between the ages of 3 and 19 made up the league’s six teams. Next year, Roseen estimates the league will have 120 players and ten teams.
The Miracle League teams play on a field designed specifically to meet the needs of players with mobility devices. The field’s surface is rubberized, the entrance gates are doublewide and the bases and lines are painted on.
“It was an incredible success,” said Roseen, reflecting on the league’s first season. “It couldn’t have gone better.”
The Miracle League is built on a foundation of understanding, tolerance and fun. It is impossible for a player to strike out or to be called out on base. Every player comes to bat each inning, every player scores each inning and every game ends in a tie. All games last two innings and typically run approximately one hour and fifteen minutes.
Non-disabled kids also have the opportunity to participate in the Miracle League through the league’s buddy program, in which non-disabled children assist disabled players. In 2011, over 500 youth volunteers took part in the buddy program.
“They’re out there to have a good time,” said Roseen, who now serves as the league's director. “That’s what this program is about.”
And for those good times, the Lakeville community has Brian Roseen, Lakeville Patch’s Person of the Year, to thank.