CINCINNATI -- Kim Nuxhall feels like he's rounding third and headed for home. For years, Reds fans associated that phrase with Nuxhall's late father, Joe, a legendary Cincinnati pitcher and broadcaster. Now in baseball terms, Kim is 90 feet from reaching his goal: honoring his father with a baseball complex for local children and adults with physical disabilities. Nuxhall announced at a Friday press conference with former Reds first baseman Sean Casey, that the campaign committee was $500,000 away from building the Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Fields in Fairfield, Ohio, located about 20 miles north of Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park. Nuxhall is kicking off a $2 million fund drive to help build the complex and set up an endowment.
Hours earlier, Nuxhall had received $181,200 in donations during a fundraiser held at the Green Diamond Gallery, a local center housing historic baseball memorabilia. Casey served as the MC of the fundraiser. The Miracle League is a nationwide nonprofit organization allowing people with disabilities to play baseball while being assisted by able-bodied partners, something Kim says Joe was passionate about before his death in 2007. "Many of you in this room grew up running around playing Little League baseball, and I don't know about you, but I think it's important every once in a while to step back and say, 'Holy cow, how lucky we were,'" Kim said at the press conference. "I was just so blessed with wonderful memories from dad, and dad's spirit was certainly filled with baseball. But his true inner spirit and heart was giving back. He was so appreciative of this gift that he was given. ... When I look back on his career, reflect back almost four years on his passing, I think more and more about that -- his life was giving back and providing opportunities." The Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Fields will house two rubberized fields to accommodate tournaments. Kim introduced Casey to Miracle Fields by showing him an HBO special about the program five years ago. Casey did not have time to help during his playing career, but he has since assisted in fundraising for the complex in Fairfield. He also said he has helped raise more than $1 million to build a similar field in his hometown of Upper St. Clair, Pa. Casey went to the grand opening of a Miracle League field in Springboro, Ohio, where he got to watch children with disabilities play baseball for the first time. "This is what it's all about," Casey said. "This is really cool. This is what everyone should be doing. Everyone should be a part of these fields. The smiles on the kids' faces when they were out there hitting balls off the tee -- I just thought it was so awesome." At Friday's press conference, Casey presented an autographed jersey to Karlee Thomas, a Hamilton, Ohio, girl with disabilities who said Casey was her favorite player. Casey joked that he wanted to trick out Thomas' electric wheelchair to make her round the bases faster. But before Thomas can move as fast as Casey wants her to, before she can round third and head for home, Nuxhall needs to continue raising money. He received a $500,000 matching grant from the E. Kenneth and Esther Marie Hatton Foundation and expects to receive the rest of the money through donations. "The field is not even built, but you see people rallying around it, rallying around a cause, rallying around these kids," Casey said. "That really is a good thing. This is what it's all about. If this doesn't touch your heart, maybe you don't even have a pulse."
Tyler Jett is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.