Marcia Brettschneider’s cheering could be heard from neighboring ballfields Saturday.
Her excitement was for daughter Brittany, but also for everyone on the Gwinnett Phoenix. When one player made it to the next base, all the parents cheered.
“It’s our group,” she said. “We all share in their joys and successes.”
The enthusiasm wasn’t limited to Brettschneider. It was part of every team playing at Central Park in the Fourth Annual Battle of the Bats softball tournament.
Organized by Special Olympics Forsyth, the tournament featured some 300 Special Olympic athletes on 25 teams from three states.
All the proceeds from the event went to the organization, which provides a range of sporting activities throughout the year for local students and adults with mental and physical challenges.
As Brettschneider’s team was winding down, an excited Andres Devia was waiting patiently his turn to take the field.
The aspiring pitcher said his favorite Special Olympics sport is basketball, but baseball’s still a lot of fun.
“I love it,” he said. “I have fun.”
Devia has also gotten a lot better at the sport through being part of the Forsyth County Mystic Batters team.
“He’s doing much better,” said his mom, Jackie. “He has a long way to go, but he’s doing really good.”
But Special Olympics isn’t about winning. It’s watching teammates cheer each other on, hold hands on their way to the outfield between innings and give a supportive hug to someone after a bad play.
It’s the friendships and team spirit that make it so exciting, said Jackie Devia.
“It means everything for us. Because if it weren’t for this, he wouldn’t have a chance to be part of a team,” she said. “It just gives him so much confidence.
“When he goes to school, he has something to tell his classmates … and they are all so amazed that he’s doing that, so he feels even more proud.”
It’s part of what drew Debbie Pike to have son Jordan play for the Cobb County Terminators. It’s his first year, but already “he’s met some great friends on his team so far,” she said.
“And a girlfriend,” Jordan Pike quickly added.
In addition to the various friendships, Pike said her son has also become more responsible since he started playing just a few weeks ago. It’s also quite competitive, she said.
“These athletes are really competitive and they take it really seriously and they have a lot of fun at the same time,” Debbie Pike said. “They practice twice a week and also they go to the batting cages, so his skills have improved a lot.”
Eric Meyer was cheering for son Jeffrey’s team and offering tips. As the Gwinnett Phoenix’s official scorekeeper, Meyer was just behind home plate as he watched the team have its ups and downs.
“This has always been a real well-run tournament and we just always enjoy coming out here,” he said.
Now in her fourth year with the team, Brittany Brettschneider has tried playing softball with her local church.
The team was supportive, said her mom, “but she still couldn’t quite compete at the same level.”
“This is why she competes in the Special Olympics,” she said. “These are her friends and everybody is supportive and all the parents support all the other athletes and all the athletes support each other. It builds their self-esteem … this is her group.”