Photo courtesy of Buddy Baseball. The league has grown to 20 teams with more than 100 different schools participating.

On January 6, the first-ever wheelchair-accessible baseball fields in Hillsborough County were unveiled in a ribbon-cutting ceremony in conjunction with the City of Temple Terrace and Buddy Baseball. Buddy Baseball is a non-competitive recreational league for boys and girls ages 8 to 22 with special needs. Each player is paired with a buddy to assist on the field and in the dugout.

Players and buddies joined the celebration to play the first game on the new fields.

“The need for these fields is evident by the growth of our league, which has grown to 20 teams for each of our spring and fall seasons,” said Russ Oberbroeckling, Buddy Baseball founder and executive director.

The State of Florida and Hillsborough County funded the project, located at the Temple Terrace Parks & Recreation – Family Recreation Complex at 6700 Whiteway Dr. in Temple Terrace.

Since the league’s inception in 2009, the players had been playing on traditional clay and sod softball fields, which can be challenging for children with mobility issues. Currently there are no other synthetic turf baseball fields in Hillsborough County for children with special needs.

According to the website, Buddy Baseball began through a dedicated group of volunteers, attracting 36 players and 38 buddies to form six teams in 2009. Since then, Buddy Baseball has accomplished more than they thought possible on and off the field. At the start of the 21st season in September 2019, the league has grown to 20 teams with more than 100 different schools participating.

Buddy Baseball is seeking additional donations and sponsorships to support the growing league, and all donations are tax-deductible. Donations can be made online at buddybaseball.org or by contacting Oberbroeckling at russ@buddybaseball.org.

“We’re overwhelmed by the support provided by our elected officials and the City of Temple Terrace to this much-needed project to create an even better setting where children with unique needs are understood and embraced,” said Oberbroeckling.