Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Special Olympics Baseball is on the rise

David Shonis and Kyle Lynch
Staff Writers

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 many participants, it is the first time they can live out their dreams of playing our nation’s pastime. 
  Tony Vlahovic organized the sport for the Special Olympic athletes and continues to promote the game. Vlahovic is the current head baseball coach for the New Hope-Solebury Lions team and many team members have put in endless hours to support these special athletes. Students not only help them develop a great knowledge about the game, but also want them to take great pride and joy.
  “I’ve become friends with many of the guys there and the entire program allows many of the New Hope players to give back,” Danny Doherty, senior Lion’s baseball player said.
  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. 
  “I love their passion for the game. They have rejuvenated my love for the game being around them.” Head Coach Tony Vlahovic explianed 
  Special Olympics Baseball in New Jersey has been growing the past few years. They even took home gold a few years ago in the USA Games. 
  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 and holds clinics at their complex to teach players more about baseball. The Somerset Patriots recently gave an athlete from the Special Olympics baseball team 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 hard work that they put in to make these athletes happy and to open more doors for opportunities to play baseball.

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