Royals welcome local Special Olympics athletes for annual softball game at the K

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's a place where no one has a bad day.

In fact, it's the best day of the year for many of Kansas City's most inspirational athletes from Special Olympics Missouri and Special Olympics Kansas, as they steal the diamond from the Kansas City Royals.

Big smiles are everywhere around Kauffman Stadium, especially when the Royals host their annual Special Olympics softball game. This is the 12th year running that athletes with various disabilities play for the day at the K, as they`re joined by their baseball heroes.

Fifty Special Olympians are split into two teams -- half from Missouri and half from Kansas. Six Royals stars, including pitcher Jake Junis and infielder Whit Merrifield, fill in the empty spots.

"You're awesome at shortstop," Junis could be overheard saying while chatting with a Special Olympian.

The professional ballplayers spent over an hour playing ball and signing autographs for families associated with both Special Olympics chapters.

"I hit a ball," shouted William Tillman, an excited Special Olympian from Leavenworth. "I hit it really hard!"

Each athlete involved in Special Olympics lives with a disability of some kind, and players could barely contain the excitement. Virtually all of them patrolled the stadium's warning track with giant smiles on their faces, and Royals players grinned with the same delight.

"It's a lot of fun to come out here and just be around these athletes," Merrifield said. "Their faces, the energy. They're just thrilled to be out here on the field playing baseball. It's a trait that we sometimes lose playing as many games as we play."

"Anytime you can get in the community and do stuff, and do baseball-related stuff, it's awesome. These guys -- we had a blast out here today. It was awesome meeting these guys, and I think they had fun too," Junis told FOX4.

Junis also said this is fun because it gives players a chance to meet Royals fans they might not meet otherwise, and as for playing ball, the special game puts everyone on an equal stage.