Field for wheelchair softball opens in Brooklyn Park

  • Article by: KRISTIAN HERNANDEZ , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 14, 2012 - 12:52 PM

With the support of fans and others, the Minnesota Rolling Twins wheelchair softball team has a permanent field of its own.

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Jerry Anderson pitched a softball in the rain at the inauguration of Todd Anderson Field.

Photo: Marisa Wojcik, Special to the Star Tribune

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Some call it a bizarre irony, remembering that day when one of their brightest stars was extinguished while a grant made their wish come true.

On Aug. 18, 2010, Todd Anderson, a top amputee athlete, died of a heart attack while biking with his dog. The same day the Pepsi Refresh Project announced the winner of a $200,000 grant that would help build Minnesota's first softball field for competitive wheelchair play. It's a field that now commemorates Anderson's legacy.

Todd Anderson Field was inaugurated last week in Brooklyn Park at a ceremony attended by more than 300 people, including Minnesota Twins president Dave St. Peter, Mayor Jeff Lunde, members of the Rolling Twins wheelchair softball teams and staff from Courage Center, who call this their Field of Dreams.

"Todd Anderson Field is a very fitting tribute to the life he lived with engagement and passion, and we are very pleased his memory is being honored in such a lasting way," said Brad Ruhl, president of Otto Bock U.S. Health Care, where Anderson served as vice president.

As part of the Pepsi Refresh Project, the Minnesota Twins and other baseball teams promoted ideas to benefit a community; people then voted online and by text and the idea getting the most votes won a grant.

Two million people voted for the Brooklyn Park wheelchair softball field, enough to make it a winner. The Courage Center, the Hennepin Youth Sports Program, Otto Bock and the city of Brooklyn Park, which donated a space in Northwoods Park, turned the field into a reality.

Now it will be the home of the Rolling Twins, who won the 2011 National Wheelchair Softball Tournament.

About the field's namesake

Todd Anderson lost his right foot after a motorcycle accident along the Gunflint Trail in 1981. The date was Aug. 9, exactly 31 years from the day the new field would be named for him.

Anderson was a strong advocate for competitive sports and excelled himself.

He set a world record in the 200-meter run in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 1986, and was a member of the United States Volleyball team from 1993-94.

He was a member of the Minnesota Rolling Gophers, a pioneering wheelchair softball team in the state, and was their most valuable player eight times.

Anderson was inducted into the National Wheelchair Softball Association hall of fame in 1992. He also won many awards in archery and coached his two children's baseball and basketball teams.

Bern Knutson, former coach of the Rolling Gophers, was at the opening ceremony last week for Todd Anderson Field. He said: "This is the greatest thing that could have ever happened."

Knutson noted that 22 out of 35 national wheelchair softball titles have been won by teams from the Twin Cities and that this is one of the places that gave birth to the sport.

Since their start in 1977, wheelchair softball teams had to practice in parking lots. The Rolling Twins hope the field brings more awareness and participants to the sport. They are currently in Chicago, defending their 2011 national title, but hope to host the next championship in their new field.

St. Peter, the Twins president, said at last week's ceremony: "Today is long overdue. They deserve a field of this quality."

Kristian Hernandez • 612-673-4217

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