Special Olympics teams to hold softball scrimmage

Published 7:36 pm Friday, October 6, 2017

Next weekend, Special Olympics teams from Troup County will give it their all in the State Fall Games for Georgia Special Olympics in Gainesville.

They still have one more scrimmage in LaGrange at Shufford Fields before the big game though, and organizers hope that the community can come out and support these local athletes before the state competition because of the impact that the competition has on the Special Olympic athletes.

“One, it gives them a sense of independence,” said J.J. Kuerzi, the facilities manager at Troup County Parks and Recreation who is also over the local Special Olympics program. “Number two, it gives them a sense of acceptance because they are actually competing against individuals with disabilities similar to their, own which they don’t always get just staying in Troup County. By taking them to state games, we are giving them an opportunity to compete at a level with athletes that are just like them.”

The unified team, the Troup County Sprockets, has played against several regular teams in the county.

However, this will be the first time that some of the players from Troup County’s teams have been able to play against another Special Olympics team.

“We have two different divisions,” Kuerzi said. “We have what is called a unified division, which is our adult league where we have Special Olympic athletes that play with members of our community which are called partners, and they have actually played in our adult softball league through the recreation department. They’ve been playing since the spring. Our youth division has been practicing since August in preparation.”

The traditional team, the Troup County Sprocket Juniors, has not played in any games so far this year due to the lack of comparable teams in the area, but they have played several scrimmage games like the one that will take place on Monday. The Troup County Dingers, a coach pitch team, and Softball Skills also plan to compete.

“It means pizza parties,” Kuerzi said. “It means playing softball and spending the night in a hotel. This is just an all-around fun time for them.”

Only a small percentage of the athletes on Troup teams are able to travel to another part of the state to compete due to logistical concerns, making the competition even more significant to the athletes.

“This is an opportunity for us to teach them life skills as well as an athletic sport,” Kuerzi said.

The athletes are not the only ones who get something out of the program though.

“We are actually on the team with the athletes that are older, and it is just very rewarding to see the sportsmanship,” Partner Alan Meacham said.

“They love it. That is what they live for — Being there and competing, and it is very rewarding.”

Another partner echoed those thoughts.

“The rewarding thing for me is the fact that no matter how bad a day I have, I go out there, and it is just pure gratitude from them in us being out there,” Partner Brian Maradick said. “It is pure love.”

Troup County Special Olympics teams plan to participate in unified softball, traditional softball, modified softball, softball skills and unified golf at the State Fall Games this year.

The competition does also have a section for cyclists, but Troup County will not be competing in that field this year.

“It is really rewarding to have the community behind us,” Maradick said.

The scrimmage game will take place on Monday at 5 p.m. at Shufford Fields.

The community is encouraged to come out and support the team’s last scrimmage before the State Fall Games for the Georgia Special Olympics.