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It’s fast, competitive and comprised of dedicated athletes. For the first time, the National Wheelchair Softball World Series will be held in Brooklyn Park August 14-16, 2014.

The 14-team – possibly 16-team if Japanese and Nigerian teams are able to show – double-elimination championship will feature teams from around the country, and hosts of the three-day event are looking to fill volunteer slots. They are also looking for spectators.

“If they have never seen wheelchair softball, this will be pretty amazing,” said Sue Nyberg, coordinator of volunteers for the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, which is hosting the tournament locally for the National Wheelchair Softball Association, the tournament head.

The institute is part of Allina Health and is the result of a merger that took place a year ago between the Courage Center and Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. Wheelchair softball teams associated with Courage Kenny have won 13 championships over the tournament’s 38-year history, said Sue Warner, a marketing and communications specialist for the rehabilitation center. The rehabilitation group helped form the National Wheelchair Association as well, she said.

“The Midwest has always kind of been a hotbed of the sport,” Warner said.

The tournament will be Thursday, Aug. 14, through Saturday, Aug. 16, with opening bracket play on three fields in Brooklyn Park. The championship game on Saturday, Aug. 16, will be played on the Todd Anderson Field in Northwoods Park, 7600 107th Ave., Brooklyn Park. Northwoods Park became the first fully accessible, competitive baseball park in the state about two years ago with the help of Minnesota Twins funding and the city of Brooklyn Park. Todd Anderson Field’s hard surface is similar to a tennis court, Nyberg said, but it has a little more of a “bouncy give to it,” she said. Players can back into little wooden slats when batting, which allows for a stable batting and a quicker jump to first-base.

For the tournament, Todd Anderson Field and the Brooklyn Park Library and Community Activity Center parking lots will comprise the three fields for Thursday and Friday games.

Courage Kenny sports coordinator Taavasa Mamea Jr. – who goes by “Junior” – said competition and play is as fast as any competitive slow-pitch game.

“If you love baseball, you’re going to love this game, especially a game that you’ve never seen played in a wheelchair,” he said. “It’s fast.”

The game has the same rules as softball, he said. Dead-center field is about 220 feet from home plate, he said. The softballs they use are a little softer and larger than a typical softball; otherwise, differences are negligible, he said.

The players have a varying range of injuries or physical disabilities, which is taken into account when the game rules are developed, organizers said.

Nyberg noted that the wheelchair is the “equalizer.” It takes strength, stamina and athleticism to be able to play the game using a lot of upper body strength and coordination. That goes for any wheelchair sport, she said.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean that because you’re more able-bodied that you’re going to be able to hit better,” she said. “In fact sometimes it doesn’t help you at all. Shooting a basket or hitting a ball is not as easy (in a wheelchair), so these are pretty amazing athletes when you think about it.”

With at least 14 teams playing on three fields over three days, nearly 500 volunteers will be needed for the event, organizers said. They currently have about 200 slots left to fill. The needs range from setup and take down to running scoreboards, keeping score books, selling T-shirts, taking registration and other roles. Volunteers must be at least 16 years old, Nyberg said, but they invite children, their families and area residents to check out the action.

“It’s really a game that’s fun to watch,” said Mamea. “It’s exciting. It’s really different.”

Volunteer information:

Visit to sign up. Tournament action can be followed on Twitter at #2014WSWS.

Contact Paul Groessel at or follow the Sun Post on Twitter @ECMSunPost

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