A Field of Their Own
Minnesota Wheelchair Softball Teams Open First Field in Honor of the Late Todd Anderson
- By Elisha Bury
- Aug 01, 2012
Todd Anderson is the namesake for Minnesota’s first competitive wheelchair softball field.
After 8 years of playing ball in a library parking lot and dodging cars, the Courage Center’s Rolling Twins and Junior Rolling Twins wheelchair softball teams now have a field of their own. All they needed was a little help from Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Minnesota Twins.
In 2010, the Minnesota Twins participated with 14 other MLB teams in the Pepsi Refresh Project, which awards funds to communities with refreshing ideas. The Twins chose Courage Center as its charity partner, and 2 million votes were cast in the contest that determined which charity would get the $200,000 grant.
Funding a Dream
Fortunately for Courage Center, the Minnesota Twins won.
“Minnesota has a very giving community—and also very many nonprofits seeking those donations. Our need for a field was not a priority for most donors,” explains Sharon Van Winkel, Courage Center’s director of sports and recreation. “Most people do not understand the value of sports for people with disabilities. They look at it as fluff on the cake when, in fact, sports teach important skills that are even more impactful for kids with disabilities who don’t often get the opportunities other kids get to play sports.”
Once the money was secured, the city of Brooklyn Park, Minn., stepped forward to offer a portion of Northwoods Park as a location for the field. And then other sponsors joined the effort, including Ottobock, a manufacturer of orthotics, prosthetics and other rehabilitation products.
What’s in a Name?
Ottobock also contributed an important part of the new field, its name.
The Todd Anderson Field takes its name from a former Ottobock employee who passed 2 years ago. Anderson was inspired to become a certified prosthetist after a motorcycle accident that resulted in a below-the-knee amputation. He worked hard to make a name for himself as an expert, innovator and author in the field.
But Anderson’s influence was much wider than the prosthetics field. He also had an impact on adaptive sports.
“Todd was involved with competitive sports throughout his life, before and after his limb loss. As a prosthetist, amputee and educator, one of his goals was to help others live active lives, to take on whatever they wanted to attempt,” says Karen Lundquist, director of communications for Ottobock, North America.
In fact, as part of the St. Paul Rolling Thunder, Anderson was inducted into the National Wheelchair Softball Association Hall of Fame in 1992. He also was named National Tournament Most Valuable Player eight times. In addition, Anderson was a member of the U.S. Disabled Volleyball Team and won many awards for archery.
At Home Plate
The celebration for Todd Anderson Field, Minnesota’s first competitive wheelchair softball field, is set for Aug. 9. The field will be home to the Rolling Twins and Junior Rolling Twins and will also serve as the competition grounds for players throughout the state, region and country.
“The field is specifically designed for wheelchair softball or baseball,” says Lundquist. “It is asphalt with different distances for the fence, for example. It will be the home team for several adult and children’s teams.”
But the most important purpose of the field will be to change the lives of children with disabilities.
“Our athletes find a community that does not judge by their inabilities but by their abilities. It sounds corny but these programs change lives,” says Van Winkel. “Many of our graduating seniors in our sports are awarded college scholarships for their sports (and) also for academics—full scholarships to major universities. Every one of our athletes will tell you how these programs have impacted who they are and how successful their lives have been.”
Don’t miss the ribbon cutting and inaugural game on Thursday, Aug. 9!
5:30 p.m. Home Run Derby, with Minnesota Twins mascot T.C. and the Courage Center’s Rolling Twins
6:00 p.m. Ribbon Cutting Program and Demo Softball Game
Todd Anderson Field is located at 7600 107th Avenue North.
Elisha Bury is the editor of The Mobility Project. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.