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Community Champions

There are so many organizations in the Dallas region that are enriching the lives of young people through education, sports, and health and wellness initiatives, along with many like-minded entities tied to sports properties and professional athletes that are making a positive impact. Each month the Dallas Sports Commission will recognize these Community Champions and shed a light on the great work they continue to do in our community.

Turning a Negative into a Lifetime of Memories

Buddy League. It's a real-life Field of Dreams in Garland.

Over the past 20 years, Buddy League has served hundreds of children with special needs through the game of baseball, attracting families from all over the Metroplex and providing opportunities for these special needs children to help develop active lifestyles, build social relationships, and learn the values of teamwork in an accepting, inclusive, and fun environment.

The need for such an organization came from an experience Heather and Curt Miller had in the fall of 2002 with their son, Ben. When the local little league would no longer make accommodations for their son, Heather and Curt dreamed up the idea for Buddy League.

"Ultimately parents complained so much that we received phone calls that Ben could no longer play," Heather said. "That call changed everything for our family."

So they founded Buddy League. What started with two, 5-player teams, Buddy League has grown to serving more than 750 players over the span of 20 years and attracting more than 10,000 volunteers to help make each Saturday during the league's fall and spring seasons a memorable one.

"It is about baseball and giving kids the opportunity to be successful and to have a good time," Heather continued. "I wanted the kids to be able to play in the dirt, get dirty, and be carefree. I wanted every child to score, every game to be tied – everybody wins. I wanted Buddy League to be for kids to be on the field instead of always watching from the outside. I wanted every child to have fun, feel accepted, and feel that they belong."

During more than 200 Saturdays worth of games, families from across the Metroplex have converged on Bradfield Park in Garland. Game play is as close to real as possible. Players swing for the fences, speed around the bases (either on foot with the assistance of their Buddies or in their wheelchairs), and put their medical needs aside, if just for an
hour. If nothing else, Buddy League offers a sense of belonging to special needs kids who, like any other kids, thrive on being active, learning from sports, and being able to participate in activities with their peers.

So each Saturday during the Buddy League season, families congregate in the stands and cheer on all of the participating kids, not just their own.

"There are miracles every Saturday in Garland, Texas, on this baseball field," Heather said. "Buddy League is a place where parents can watch their child round third base for the second time today when the doctor told them walking wasn't going to be possible."

An important aspect of Buddy League is the inclusion of non-disabled peer Buddy volunteers. Each player is paired with a Buddy to assist them on the field and in the dugout, often 8-17 year-old young members of the community, just like the players. This past fall marked 20 years for Buddy League, and it will soon begin the trek to 20 more. Like baseball throughout the state and the country, the 2023 spring season will soon begin, and it can't get here quick enough for all of the players, their families, and the volunteers who make this special organization so successful.

To learn more about how you can contribute to Buddy League – whether you have a player who would like to participate or if you would like to become a volunteer or donate financially -- visit BuddyLeague.org to get involved.