Having a ball: Special Olympics softball team takes the field

Published 8:15 am Saturday, July 7, 2018

When the summer heat begins to kick in, the excitement levels rise at the Arc Mower County. The warm weather means its time for the Arc’s Special Olympics softball team to take the field and it’s a time of the year that members of the team cherish.

Arc program director Jamey Helgson said the softball season is something the team anticipates for much of the year.

“They start talking about it after Christmas time. A lot of them start asking ‘when is softball practice starting?’” Helgson said. “A lot of them growing up maybe weren’t included on a team in school and this gives them something they can be part of and they can be proud of, whether they win at the tournament or not.”

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Helgson has been a part of the softball program for 18 years and he thinks that Mower County has fielded a team for the at least the past 30 years. The team spends much of its regular season practicing with each other and honing its skills and it will play in tournaments against other teams in August and September.

Members of the Arc of Mower County Special Olympics softball team go through practice at Todd Park on Thursday. Rocky Hulne/sports@austindailyherald.com

Heidi Jensen, an assistant coach for the team, said the experience players gain throughout the summer is invaluable.

“They each have their own strengths and weaknesses and from the beginning of the year to the end of the year, you can see them change and do better,” Jensen said. “There’s a lot of them that actually come out of their shell and out of their comfort zone and that can be hard for them. We’re able to find their strengths and help them succeed with it.”

The softball team began its season two weeks ago and the team still has room on its roster for at least four more players. Helgson said new players are welcome and he pointed out that the team makes sure it is having a lot of fun when it takes the field.

“You’ve got to have a fun attitude while trying to teach them stuff. If you don’t interact with them at all, there’s absolutely no way they’re going to learn anything,” Helgson said. “Some teams are all about winning, but we’re mostly out here to have fun. if we win, it’s fine and if we lose it’s fine.”

The Arc of Mower County is holding a fundraiser entitled ‘A mile of quarters’ where donators can provide $3.25 for a ‘foot’ in the campaign. The money raised in the campaign will help out Special Olympics in Mower County, which have more than 100 athletes competing in basketball, bowling, softball and track and field.

For every donation, the Arc will put a decal of a foot on the buildings’ windows. Donations can be sent to Arc Mower County at 401 2nd Ave NE, Austin, Minnesota, 55912.