Miracle League in the News
Channel 27 WKOW
‘A dream come true’: The Dane County organization making baseball accessible
COTTAGE GROVE (WKOW) — On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights this summer, you can find Bill Schultz at Bakken Park in Cottage Grove. The park is home to the Miracle League of Dane County baseball field.
Schultz launched the league last summer to make baseball accessible for kids with physical and cognitive disabilities.
“It’s not just about baseball, but it’s about the opportunity to feel included and accepted, experience joy and laughter and just to build their self confidence,” he said.
Playing in the league is wildly popular. While 96 children played on a team in 2021, the league has more than doubled in size this year.
Namine Eiche is one of the nearly 200 players. She said her motivation while at bat is pretty simple.
“Doing baseball’s fun,” she said. “I guess there’s nothing more to it than it’s fun and I like doing it.”
Her father, Paul Eiche, said he enjoys sitting in the stands to watch his daughter on the diamond. He said seeing the joy it brings her is nearly indescribable.
“She’s always got a smile on her face, and that’s great to see, especially when she connects the bat to the ball,” he said. “Just watching her wheel down, making her way around the bases is, to see that joy on her face is, there’s nothing like it.”
Part of what makes the field at Bakken Park different is its surface. Unlike typical baseball diamonds, the Miracle League field is a special rubberized surface that Schutlz said helps with mobility.
“Unlike a dirt field or a grass field where wheelchairs, particularly, would have difficulty, this allows kids to move around with the help of volunteers,” he said.
Schultz said, over the course of the season, he’s seen kids gain confidence, come of out their shells and experience true joy.
“I don’t cry, but every night I come here, there’s a little mist around my eyes because I look at the field and see so many kids out here,” Schultz said. “I mean, this is a dream come true.”
Schultz said he’s hopeful the number of kids playing in the league will continue to grow in future summers, and he said his next dream is to start an adult league so even more people can get back in the game.
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.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.”
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
“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.
As a nine-year-old baseball fan growing up in New York state, Bill Schultz couldn’t play the game at the Little League level. His right leg was amputated at birth and his left arm and hand had deformities.
“Instead of being inside the fence with my friends, I was outside the fence watching my friends,” Schultz said. “The Little League felt I was going to hurt myself.”
Decades later, while watching television, Schultz learned of a group called the Miracle League that builds baseball diamonds equipped for children with mental and physical disabilities. He went to the organization’s office in Atlanta, and from there, the idea to construct a facility for children with disabilities took off. The baseball diamond could open at Bakken Park in Cottage Grove in the late spring or early summer of 2021.
An October 14 groundbreaking ceremony provided village residents with information on the project and how it will benefit Dane County children who have not been able to play sports.
Schultz, now the executive director of the Miracle League of Dane County, said he expects 80 to 100 children to participate in the first year with the second year having better than 150 kids.
“We have had tremendous response from groups such as the Autism Society, Down Syndrome Society and other Dane County youth services,” Schultz said.
Greg Sweeney, a retired contractor from the Findorff Corporation who is donating his time on the project, said a four-inch concrete slab will be laid out at the construction site and on top of that, a rubberized surface will be installed that will make it easier for children in walkers and wheelchairs to navigate the playing surface.
After that, a fence will be put up around the perimeter of the field along with a backstop, and then work will begin on the dugouts and bleachers. To prevent players from tripping, the bases, baselines, pitching mound and home plate will be installed at the playing surface level and not protrude above ground.
The Miracle League has raised $360,000 with the fundraising effort boosted by an anonymous donor who recently provided a matching donation. The group hopes to raise another $60,000 to build a scoreboard and other amenities. Cottage Grove Village Council President John Wiliams said the project took a few months to go through certain committees before it was given the green light.
“The reaction has been super positive. Everyone is excited about this mission throughout Dane County,” Williams said. “Next spring is going to be an exciting time for players to come out to Cottage Grove and play on this field.”
The Miracle League has overseen the construction of 300 disability-friendly baseball fields in the country. Currently, Milwaukee has the closest facility to Madison.
The baseball players will be assigned volunteers who will help the children make their way around the bases, to the pitching mound and the batter’s box.
“There is really not a defined boundary for what these kids can do,” Schultz said. “Parents see kids smile, have joy in their faces, make friends and build self-confidence. This is a tremendous thing happening here.”
COTTAGE GROVE, Wis. – There’s a new, inclusive baseball diamond under construction in Cottage Grove.
The Miracle League of Dane County is creating the little-league size diamond at Bakken Park. It’s specifically designed for people with physical and cognitive disabilities. Volunteers will help players navigate it.
So far the groundwork for the field is complete, and there’s a second phase of construction planned for the spring.
“One of the things that’s great about this is it allows kids with disabilities to experience the game of baseball,” said Bill Schultz, Executive Director of the Miracle League of Dane County. “But it’s more than just baseball – it’s an opportunity for kids to be included in something, be encouraged and build their self-confidence.”
Schultz says it’s also an opportunity for volunteers to interact with children who inspire them, and for parents to see their children experience joy, laughter and fun.
Fundraising for the project has been going on for about a year, and the Miracle League has almost reached their goal. There’s a matching gift happening now for up to $120,000.
Opening day is scheduled for the beginning of June. Updates about how to register for the league will be posted online in the winter at danecountymiracleleague.org.
Miracle League coming to Dane County (by Neil Heinen, Editorial Director of WISC-TV & Channel 3000.com)
Miracle League coming to Dane County (by Neil Heinen, Editorial Director of WISC-TV & Channel 3000.com)
MADISON, Wis. — The Miracle League is coming to Dane County and we are looking forward to it.
The Miracle League is a national organization that helps communities build baseball fields and programs designed specifically for children with disabilities. There are over 300 Miracle Leagues in the country all locally managed and independently financed.
Bill Schultz is the executive director of the Miracle League of Dane County. Schultz gets it. Living with physical disabilities as a child he experienced first hand the barriers to playing baseball, a game he loves. The Miracle League removes those barriers enabling children with disabilities, both physical and cognitive, to play ball, feel included and accepted and build self-confidence.
Schultz is raising money to get the nonprofit up and running on a parcel of land that’s been donated in Cottage Grove. He’s got a good start but could use some help. It’s a great project. The website is www.Danecountymiracleleague.Org.
This week in the booth, Jonathon sits down with Bill Schultz, executive director of The Miracle League of Dane County, to talk about his mission to make baseball accessible to every child.
You can check out The Miracle League here: www.danecountymiracleleague.com/