A Special Night at ARM & HAMMER ParkBaseball was included in the Special Olympics for the first time at the event
If you happened to be at ARM & HAMMER Park in Trenton, New Jersey on Thursday night, you witnessed a little bit of history.
For the first time, the sport of baseball was included in the Special Olympics USA Games. Four states participated: Delaware, Rhode Island, Alabama and, of course, New Jersey.
"It's great that these athletes are being afforded the opportunity, in their first year competing in baseball, to have their medal round at ARM & HAMMER Park," said Marc Edenzon, president of Special Olympics New Jersey. "The partnership with the Trenton Thunder has been just remarkable."
The event has been in the making for almost three years, and it took a few miracles for it to finally come together (including an off day for the Thunder themselves).
"It's perfect," said Thunder GM and COO Will Smith. "To be home this week so we could host all of these events…it eventually just came to be."
Two games took place, a bronze medal game in the afternoon, in which Delaware won against Alabama, and a gold medal game in the evening, which resulted in a New Jersey victory over Rhode Island. In attendance were New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, as well as both Aaron Dott and Tyler Austin of the Trenton Thunder, all of which helped present medals to the athletes.
"To see the joy and happiness that this brings them is amazing," Austin said. "I'm just so happy to be a part of it."
While the games were monumental, they weren't the only breakthrough for New Jersey's Special Olympians on Thursday. Earlier in the day, Governor Chris Christie signed a bill providing an equal opportunity for children with disabilities to participate in sports in New Jersey public schools.
"It's a very historic day," said Edenzon." This type of transparency will lead to acceptance in the community and really by the fraternity of sport."
To cap it all off, New Jersey's team won the gold medal in convincing fashion over Rhode Island, 6-2. And despite the success of this year's Games, the future is the most important thing.
"It's a great first step, and other people will follow," Edenzon said. "Hopefully all 50 states will all eventually be represented with baseball."