David Shonis and Kyle Lynch
Located in the small town of Lawrenceville, NJ, the New Jersey Special Olympic facility is the home to many athletes that are granted opportunities to play the sports that they love. Over the years, the Special Olympics have taken place across the nation in every state providing adults and kids the resources to allow them to play sports.
A few years ago, Special Olympics in New Jersey established the first-ever baseball team for their facility and many adults and kids are currently participating to live their dreams of playing our nation’s pastime.
Tony Vlahovic is the one who organized the sport for the athletes and is continuing to promote the game of baseball to Special Olympic athletes so they too can be a part of a great team. Vlahovic is the current head baseball coach for our school, and he and his baseball team have put in endless hours of help and support to make these athletes enjoy baseball and to instruct them to develop a great knowledge about the game. Special Olympics in New Jersey teamed up recently with New Hope-Solebury High School and Solebury School to have a unified baseball game in which the Special Olympic athletes could play a short 4-inning baseball game alongside both high school baseball teams and also against the teams too. This is the second straight year that this event has taken place and it has been a tremendous success. The opportunity for these athletes to play baseball with high school players and to learn off of them is something that they will cherish for a long time.
When speaking with head coach Tony Vlahovic about why he loves being involved with Special Olympics, he said: “I love their passion for the game. They have rejuvenated my love for the game being around them.”
Special Olympics Baseball in New Jersey has been growing the past few years and in fact, they took home gold a few years ago in the USA Games.
There are many companies and organizations that are proud partners of Special Olympics New Jersey and some include: Wawa, Shoprite, United Airlines, TD Bank and the New York Giants. With the help of people volunteering and working with these athletes to teach them the game of baseball, anything is possible for them.
The Princeton University baseball team also trains the athletes too and holds clinics at their complex to work with the individuals and teach them more about baseball. The Somerset Patriots tried out an athlete from the Special Olympics baseball team recently and gave the individual the chance to fulfill his dream of playing baseball for a semi-pro baseball club.
Without all the contributions from high school baseball teams, colleges, organizations, parents, kids and coaches, none of this would be possible.
Coach Vlahovic explained what sparked his interest in coaching and he said, “The reason why I got involved in coaching Special Olympics Baseball was I felt that these people can play baseball, but; we’re never given the opportunity to play.”This baseball team that has been put together by Special Olympics in New Jersey deserves recognition for the effort and hardwork that they put in to make these athletes happy and to open more doors for opportunities to play baseball.