Special Olympics Exhibition Softball Game | VideoJoel Porter | 6/24/2012
However, more than a dozen Special Olympics athletes had more than just a prize on their minds. They simply wanted to show what they could do on the field.
On the final day of the McQuade Softball Tournament, as players from all divisions are swinging for the fences, few games drew a crowd quite like the activity at Diamond 8.
"It`s the world series to them. And a half hour before the game, they start grabbing their batting gloves and their gloves and start taking some swings," radio personality Jack Michaels said.
Once the field has been prepped and the coin is flipped, Jack Michaels digs in on the mound.
"My ERA grows every single year," Michaels said.
He`s volunteered to pitch for both sides of the Special Olympics exhibition game. Around 20 athletes from Bismarck and Mandan square off in a friendly competition.
"These guys want to play as hard as everybody else and they want to have the same chance as everybody else. And this just gives them that opportunity to play and for people to watch them play," said North Dakota Special Olympics Area 10 Board Member Deb Thompson.
Despite having a full team of umpires working the game, there are no walks and no strike-outs handed out.
"It`s a nice day. It`s not raining. Just do my best, smack the ball hard and do my best," Bismarck athlete Shaun Kaufman said.
With each swing of the bat, more athletes round third and touch home plate, yet the scoreboard in right field sits idle.
"We don`t keep an actual score. So at the end, everybody wins. It`s a good time," Thompson said.
With players from Team USA providing encouragement and in some cases, a friendly push around the basepaths, fans are treated to a grand spectacle on the diamond.
"And someone throws it into second. The ball goes into left field. Someone runs it into the shortstop, he bare-hands it and tries to get a guy out at home. Expect everything is what I`d say would be the moniker of this one," Michaels said.
Smiles are not hard to find on the faces of both athletes and fans. A game that`ll go down in the books as, lots of runs, lots of hits, lots of memories.
Next year, the Bismarck chapter hopes to bring in athletes from Dickinson for a rivalry match-up.