The Elkhart County Miracle, Michiana's new minor league baseball team, begins its season
The Elkhart County Miracle have been a passion project for team president and owner Craig Wallin for more than a decade.
Originally, Wallin said he chose the name “Miracle” for the area’s faith-based community. But after multiple tries over the past 16 years of getting the team up and running, the fact the team is finally a reality is the real miracle.
“I’ve heard that and I feel that way – it’s a miracle honestly that we’re able to do this after 16 years of trying,” Wallin said.
On Wednesday, minor league baseball returned to Elkhart for the first time since 1910 as theMiracle squared off against the Lake County Corn Dogs.
Wallin was close to getting the Miracle underway at various points in the 2010s, but was unable to find a suitable stadium to play in. But as a former broadcaster for the South Bend White Sox and a resident of Elkhart for four decades, Wallin didn’t balk in his pursuit of bringing baseball to Elkhart.
The team’s break came last year when Northwood High School offered to lease its new baseball stadium to the Miracle for the summer months. Since then, Wallin said it’s been full steam ahead with signing players and getting the word out.
“It’s just a love for the game of baseball I think more than anything. And to try and do something that makes a positive impact in our community,” said Wallin. “It’s a great combination – baseball and community. It works together hand and glove.”
The Miracle will play in the Northern League – an independent group of teams from around the Chicagoland area. Teams in the Northern League are not affiliated with any major league organizations and players on the Miracle mostly come from local colleges, though the squad does feature a few players from different countries.
The players are not paid but are playing for the chance to showcase their skill to move up in the minor league system. The Miracle features athletes from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela, but around a quarter of the team hails from Elkhart area high schools.
The squad is managed by Wilson Valera, who’s spent time as an assistant coach with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Miracle will play at Northwood’s field for the immediate future, but Wallin’s goal is to build a separate field for the team in the near future.
“We’re like a bulldog on this project,” said Wallin. “We’re going to be able to put up our own facility in three to five years. Where, we’re not exactly sure, but that’s our next goal – to build our own facility that we can call our own.”
Wallin hopes the finally realized team will be a source of both entertainment and revenue for Elkhart County. Revenue for the team will come from ticket sales, concessions and sponsorships.
Speaking just hours before the Miracle’s first pitch, Wallin said he’s humbled to have finally realized his vision and hopes the team can stay around for years to come.
“I’m humbled. I’m extremely grateful and thankful too that our fans have been so patient and so kind,” Wallin said.
The Miracle are playing at home through this Sunday.