Miracle League of Dane County brings an adaptive baseball field and programming to Cottage Grove

On June 4, 2021, 96 kids took the field for their first at-bats.
little kid hitting a ball on a bat
Photo courtesy of The Miracle League

Bill Schultz grew up playing baseball in a corner lot with his friends. At 8, he tried out for Little League but was turned away because organizers thought he could further injure himself or others — his right leg had been amputated shortly after birth and his left arm was not fully developed.

Despite the Little League setback, Schultz’s parents encouraged him to pursue his sports dreams. He learned how to golf, bowl and swim. “That allowed me to do so many things in my life,” Schultz says. “[Playing sports] built my self-confidence to interact with other kids, to overcome snickering and build resilience.”

One day while watching TV with his wife in 2018, Schultz learned of the Miracle League, a national organization supported by MLB that gets kids with a wide range of disabilities involved in baseball. The organization already had leagues in Appleton, Milwaukee, Kenosha, Eau Claire, La Crosse and Green Bay, but not Madison. Schultz told Miracle League he might be the guy to bring adaptive baseball to the area. The next step — and what he was told would be the hardest — was finding land in Dane County.

miracle league field

Photo courtesy of The Miracle League

Miracle League of Dane County ended up finding space in Cottage Grove’s Bakken Park. Fundraising was slow during the pandemic until an anonymous couple provided a matching donation of $120,000 and another $120,000 for operating expenses. The organization ultimately raised more than $500,000 to build a rubberized field for wheelchairs and walkers with ground-level dugouts, bleachers and fencing.

They broke ground in fall 2020, and on June 4, 2021, 96 kids took the field for their first at-bats.

little kid throwing a ball with adult in the background

Photo courtesy of The Miracle League

Games took place twice a week with fans in the stands — by the fifth week of the inaugural season, each game had 200 to 300 spectators. A video scoreboard displays the batter’s number and photo and plays their favorite song as they approach the plate. Because of the affiliation with the MLB, the players get to wear official Brewers, Yankees and other team jerseys and caps.

Players, who range in age from 5 to 18, come from all over Dane County and beyond. Each player gets to bat each inning and there are two innings per game. They use a hard foam ball and bat. Volunteers, who are called buddies, are always on the field with players to assist with whatever a player may need — which benefits them, too. “There’s a bond that’s built, a friendship that’s built with these kids,” Schultz says.

According to Schultz, the transformation for players, their families and the communities is immediate.

two kids playing on the field

Photo courtesy of The Miracle League

“I saw kids play this summer with autism that didn’t know how to hold a bat,” Schultz says. “By the end of the summer they were swinging and feeling comfortable.”

Miracle League of Dane County is gearing up for a new season and working to raise funds to add field lights that will allow for more youth and night games.

Read about more adaptive sports in the Madison area here.

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