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Special Olympics Article
Friday, August 15, 2008
Cory Jennerjohn: Special Olympics game a hit with softball players
World Tournament takes a break for a good cause
Their smiles said it all. "I'm extremely excited," said 34-year-old Menasha resident Bill Froehlich, who suffers from an intellectual disability. "I thought, 'Wow, that's incredible.' To be able to play in the ISC World Tournament."
While many players have been busy striving for a world championship, various top International Softball Congress players took time out to play a friendly game of softball with Blazing Stars, an adult Special Olympics softball team from the Fox Valley.
What makes this game even more exciting is that it's the first exhibition in an ISC World Tournament.
None of it would have been possible if it hadn't been for a certain Midland Explorers first baseman.
"I run a tournament in Midland, Michigan, where we had a local (Special Olympics) team come out and play the Explorers," Kyle Beane said. "The team that we played had so much fun I thought why not take it to a little bigger stage? And I'm fortunate enough that I've got a lot of connections within the ISC and I started sending out e-mails to guys if they wanted to be part of it and they all said yes."
Bean, 38, was overjoyed at the response he received from not only the players, but the umpires, who donated their time and even provided ample comic relief. It was a stark contrast to the tight games they've seen since the world tournament kicked off Sunday.
As I listened to ISC players give words of encouragement and fist pumps to their Special Olympics teammates, the game reciprocated and became just as fulfilling for the burly, metal-spiked players.
"I think these guys like to see the excitement in these kids' faces and the fun they have from the game," said 30-year-old Oshkosh resident Rick Thompson, who plays second base for The Bar of Green Bay. "You can see it, they're smiling, they're hopping up and down. I wish our guys would do that a quarter of the time."
And, it was enjoyable for the players, even if they weren't too keen on the sport.
"It's an opportunity of a lifetime," said 48-year-old Appleton resident Geralyn Hoffmann, who suffers from an intellectual disability. "I don't usually play baseball but it means a lot."
It's amazing that a simple one-hour game of softball can create that much joy.
Cory Jennerjohn: 920-993-1000, ext. 230, or firstname.lastname@example.org
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