August, 2006 • By Leslee Jaquette of Senior Messenger
Sixty-year-old Art Liss is passionate about baseball, kids and volunteerism.
The self described “baseball fanatic” combines these passions in his effort to help build a Miracle League baseball field at Harmony Sports Complex in east Vancouver. The Camas Wash., resident has already devoted untold hours toward the project that aims to fund and construct a special facility that allows youth with disabilities and seniors with limited mobility to play the game safely.
“Art is extra high-energy and focused on putting all the people and resources together to make the Miracle League baseball field a reality,” said Pete Capell, public works director/county engineer for Clark County. “Art has enlisted lots of help, but he is the project’s heart and soul.”
Liss, president of the Board of Directors of the Miracle League of Southwest Washington, was introduced to the program several years ago. A longtime player, coach and even former president of the Cascade Little League, Liss now champions the project by capitalizing on six decades loaded with leadership and community giving.
“I have gone from sharing baseball with kids with abilities, to giving baseball to those with no abilities,” explained Liss. “Why not help the disabled enjoy the total experience of baseball? I want to bring baseball to their lives.”
Baseball to Energizer
Growing up in Philadelphia in the 1950s, Liss remembers attending an A’s game as far back as 1954. Ever since, the semi-retired life insurance agent has played ball, coached Little League or served in volunteer administrative positions to promote the all-American game.
While raising a family, pursuing his career and serving as president of several insurance associations, Liss continued to play and coach. Throughout the 1990s and until recently he coached 11 and 12-year-olds. In addition, from 1998 to 2000 he served as the president of the Cascade Little League. In this capacity Liss oversaw the organizational and fundraising requirements of the 700-family league for children ages 5 to 19. Participating in what Liss calls “pure volunteerism,” he set up a 28-member board as well as managed field maintenance and sponsorship.
Several years ago, Liss found himself in an interesting “betweener” situation. His kids were grown and he was no longer enlisted as often to help with the hands-on coaching duties typical of young dads. A lean, fit guy with enviable blood pressure, Liss accepted the fact that he was getting older, but he rejected the idea of becoming “old.”
“Part of the fun of baseball is getting out, feeling young and thinking young,” recalled Liss, who wanted to continue his active involvement in baseball but didn’t quite see the path. “I enjoy being around vibrant people.”
Then, two years ago a bit of serendipity brought it all together for Art Liss. While attending a professional baseball in his hometown, Liss was introduced to the Miracle League. Ever since, his path has been defined.
“My feeling is to take the lead and start branching out,” said Liss. “The idea is to build the field and open it up to youth with disabilities and others such as seniors, who would benefit from a well-lit, easy to maneuver playing field.”
The miracle Art Liss envisions
If all goes as Liss envisions, by the fall of 2007 a Miracle League field will be built at the Harmony Sports Complex. The parking lot will be paved and ADA accessible restrooms will be open. Hundreds of disabled people from all over the region will participate in regularly scheduled league play. Players will be assisted by a “buddy,” many of who will come from of volunteer pool of seniors.
“Art is a ball of energy, he’s tenacious and he doesn’t get stuck on just one idea,” observed Brad Applegate, Retired Colonel U.S. National Guard, who Liss has recruited to help with community relations. “Art has a million ideas, vast experience in sales and tremendous motivation, which all translate into an energy that attracts all sorts of people to the project.”
Build it and they will play
But first the Miracle League field must get built. Liss works every angle and looks for connections to raise the necessary $1.5 million. He works tirelessly to attract experts such as architects and contractors to donate time and materials. He recently admitted that his passion has grown into an obsession, “The problem is that given the vision, it’s too big of a job for one person.”
Liss explained that he hopes other seniors will dig out their cleats and go to bat for the Miracle League. He sees seniors as a huge resource for jobs that range from serving on the board to consulting and volunteering at the concession stand or as a “buddy”.
“I need some generals to help make the Miracle League happen,” said Liss. “I need individuals who are looking to help build opportunities for kids that will also benefit the senior community.”