League bringing baseball to kids with disabilities in Dane County continues growing

COTTAGE GROVE, Wis. — Baseball season is now in full swing across the Madison area, and so is a very special league for kids with disabilities.

The Miracle League of Dane County kicked off its 2022 season on June 7 at Bakken Park in Cottage Grove.

The Miracle League is a national organization that makes it possible for children with special needs to be given the same opportunities as everyone else. The organization helps communities build inclusive baseball fields for children with physical and/or cognitive disabilities.

The field features rubberized turf so children with wheelchairs, walkers or difficulty walking can experience the joy of the game. Each player has a “buddy” volunteer assigned to them for the season who helps them hit the ball and run the bases.

Founder and Executive Director Bill Schultz led the mission to bring the Miracle League to Dane County.

Schultz had a passion for baseball as a boy.

“I grew up with multiple physical disabilities, but my love was sports and specifically baseball,” Schultz said. “When we turned the ages of 8, we became eligible for little league… The commissioner came over to my parents and myself, kind of looked sadly and said, ‘Bill, we can’t let you play. You’re either going to hurt yourself or somebody else.’ I’m not a crier but, I cried that night.”

After seeing a story on the national news about the Miracle League in 2018, Schultz was inspired to create a miracle for kids just like him by bringing the league to Madison.

The village of Cottage Grove offered the land at Bakken Park as part of the village’s expansion plans.

RELATED: In the 608: Miracle League making a difference on the diamond

More than $500,000 was raised to build the fields. An anonymous donor helped get lights installed on the field so the kids can experience the games under the lights.

“I pinch myself every night that we’re here,” Schultz said. “I see myself in these kids. I see their joy, their laughter and how well they’re progressing. The parents feel good when they leave. It’s a success story for the kids, the community, the parents and the volunteers.”

FROM MADISON MAGAZINE: Miracle League of Dane County brings an adaptive baseball field and programming to Cottage Grove

Opening Day for the Miracle League was held in June of 2021 with 96 children participating. This year, the roster has nearly doubled. There are 195 children signed up to play on 15 teams.

Demand was so high this year that the league expanded to three nights a week. The games are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights at 5:45 and 7 pm at Bakken Park in Cottage Grove.

Click here to learn more about the group.