If you’re going
* What: Fifth Annual Battle of the Bats
* When: Opening ceremony at 8:30 a.m. Saturday; games from 9:45 a.m. until about 7 p.m.
* Where: Central Park, 2300 Keith Bridge Road
* Cost: Free; concessions and raffle tickets available for purchase
Special Olympics Forsyth County’s Fifth Annual Battle of the Bats Invitational Softball Tournament will draw hundreds of players, coaches and supporters from around the state on Saturday.
Linda Fitzpatrick, chairwoman of the event, said 28 teams from throughout Georgia are scheduled to take part.
“We’ll have more than 300 Special Olympics athletes and their families out at Central Park, so we’ll have over 1,000 people out there,” she said.
Of the teams competing, three will be from Forsyth County — the Golden Gloves, Loose Cannons and the Mystic Batters. Others will come from Gwinnett, Henry and Douglas counties, among others.
Dave Phillips, who coaches one of the local team, said the Forsyth athletes are looking forward to the event.
“They’re all very much excited about it,” he said. “This is their kickoff for their season where they’ll be traveling throughout north Georgia for games.
“They’ve been practicing now for the last 30 days or so getting ready for this. They’re all uniformed and ready to go.”
The opening ceremony is set for 8:30 a.m., with the first game beginning at 9:45 a.m.
“It’s an all-day event with the possibility of these games running until 7 or 8 o’clock at night,” Phillips said. “It’s a two-game elimination, so it gives everybody a chance to play and have a good time.”
The tournament is free to attend and open to the public, Fitzpatrick said.
“It just kind of brings everybody together from all over the community,” she said. “It’s great for our organization and we get the North Forsyth High JROTC and the South Forsyth band to play, and so much support from Forsyth Parks and Recreation … and many of the umpires donate their entire day to us. It’s a great day for everybody.”
In addition, about 200 volunteers will help throughout the day under the leadership of Gail Johnson, the event’s volunteer chairwoman.
Concessions and $5 raffle tickets will also be for sale, and all proceeds go back into the local Special Olympics program, which provides a range of year-round activities for children and adults with disabilities.
“We have an LCD television, two [tablet computers], and two round-trip airline tickets, so there are some great raffle prizes,” Fitzpatrick said.
She said that the event has grown a lot over the years.
“What started out as just a venue for our players [in Forsyth County] to learn how to compete and play against each other, has turned into just a magnificent day that everybody looks forward to.”
Fitzpatrick encouraged anyone who hasn’t been before to check it out.
“There are smiles everywhere,” she said. “There are always what I call defining moments of the event … the athletes surprise you when you least expect it.
“The day is all about the athletes and the coaches and the self-confidence and the camaraderie … they get to experience on this great day.”
Unlike some sporting events, Fitzpatrick added, the day is about much more than just getting first place.
“[The players are] just thrilled to participate and thrilled to be there,” she said. “It doesn’t matter where they place … I promise they do want to win, but that’s not what the day is all about for them. They’re a winner not matter where they place.”