TEMPLE TERRACE, Fla. — Russ Oberbroeckling smiled through the glare as the sunrise brightened the new baseball field behind him.
This view was worth the wait.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he said with a smile, “but now we have children with special needs who have mobility issues can play on a safer, easier surface to play on.”
Oberbroeckling is the executive director of the Buddy Baseball League. For 11 years, he’s been helping kids with special needs find the fun of a team sport. Buddy Baseball is a non-competitive recreational league for boys and girls ages 8 to 22 with special needs. Each player is paired with an able-bodied “buddy” to assist the athlete on field and in the dugout.
“We’re getting more and more players because of the word getting around the kids with special needs can play baseball just like any other kid can play,” said Oberbroeckling -- just after a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 7:50 a.m. “This is going to a dream come true. We’ve been waiting for this for quite a while, but now that it’s actually here, it’s just so fantastic.”
The field is located at the Temple Terrace Parks & Recreation Family Recreation Complex (6700 Whiteway Drive). The new field was the idea of the city and is outfitted with a synthetic surface. That turf will help the kids who come to play baseball in the league navigate the field much easier.
“We’re just ready to roll,” said Oberbroeckling.
Buddy Baseball's inaugural season began October 2009 through a dedicated group of volunteers, attracting 36 players and 38 buddies to form six teams. At the start of the 21st season in September 2019, the league has grown to 20 teams with more than 100 different schools participating. A small game christened the field Monday morning, shortly after the ribbon cutting.
We’re just giving kids with special needs and buddies an opportunity to come out and play baseball,” said Oberbroeckling. “The kids are loving it.”
The league is always looking for more buddies as volunteers. Connect with Buddy Baseball here:
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