Saturday was a home run for Special Olympics Forsyth County, which held its ninth annual Battle of the Bats softball invitational at north Forsyth’s Central Park.
The event on Sept. 16 brought together athletes, coaches and families from South Carolina to Illinois to celebrate the athletes’ abilities, said Linda Fitzpatrick, Special Olympics Forsyth County family outreach chair.
“This is fun — capital F-U-N,” she said. “Not only is the day fun for us, but it’s about fellowship and it’s about the athletes having an opportunity to compete. We have winners and we have losers, but it’s just a great opportunity for families to come together.”
This year, the tournament featured 34 teams from three states: Georgia, South Carolina and Illinois.
More than 500 players and coaches crowded Central Park, with about 1,500 spectators present throughout the day, Fitzpatrick estimated.
At least 75 volunteers also helped with the event, as well as umpires from the Chattahoochee Officials Association.
“The parents, fans and officials have just as much fun as athletes do, and it’s just a glorious day,” she said. “This [event] also creates a platform for our athletes to come together as a team, [which] prepares them for state games; we participate in Special Olympics of Georgia state games and this is preparation for the fall games.
“Without this opportunity, they just kind of scrimmage between themselves, but this brings everyone together so they can truly have a competitive opportunity and it’s a great day.”
Fitzpatrick added the event is important because it emphasizes what the Special Olympics athletes can do, rather than what their disabilities are.
“I think it’s the awareness and the focus on athletes’ abilities versus their disabilities and community exposure to that [which is] so important,” she said. “It’s about comradery, and oftentimes when you think of Special Olympics, you immediately think of a disabled person.
“Yes, they have those disabilities, but the emphasis is on ability and my favorite part is that there’s always an element of surprise in what they can do.”
Next year’s tournament is already scheduled for Sept. 8, and Fitzpatrick said anyone interested can visit Special Olympics Forsyth County’s website at soforsyth.com.