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Battle of the Bats delivers
Crowds savor Special Olympics softball tourney
The Mystic Batters team prepares to take the field Saturday during the Fifth Annual Battle of the Bats Invitational Softball Tournament. The event brings together Special Olympic athletes from around the state for a day of fun and competition. - photo by Alyssa LaRenzie

As James Hutchinson rounded third base and headed for home, cheers erupted from supporters in the stands and his teammates in the dugout.

His mother, Pam, said the Special Olympics Forsyth County athlete gets excited for the games and the family loves attending the sports events.

“He’ll be calling the game the whole time,” she said. “He’s like a sportscaster.”

The Fifth Annual Battle of the Bats Invitational Softball Tournament is a highlight of the year for many local Special Olympics athletes, including Hutchinson and his veteran team, the Mystic Batters.

The Forsyth County team has been playing together for three years, and the players and families have grown close through the spirited games.

The team was one of 26 playing in the bracket-style tournament Saturday at Central Park.

Attendees said the friendly competition, camaraderie and unifying support for the athletes all make the Battle of the Bats such a special day.

Luther Nix said he’s been enjoying Special Olympics for about 28 years.

The Walton County man got involved with the events by cheering on his son when he was 3.

On Saturday, he and his now 31-year-old son came to root for his future daughter-in-law in her softball game.

“The support out here,” Nix said, “that’s what it’s all about.”

The games provide an exciting and welcoming atmosphere for special needs children and adults, along with their friends and family, he said.

Teams traveled from across the state to attend the tournament, which kicked off the season.

The drive was well worth it, said Debbie Brooks, an assistant coach for a Douglas County team.

“Any time we’re playing ball,” she said, “we’re having fun.”