KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s arguably the funnest occasion the Kansas City Royals host all season.
Dozens of Special Olympians from the Kansas City metro flocked to Kauffman Stadium on Tuesday, as the Royals hosted their annual Special Olympics Softball game.
Athletes from Missouri teamed up to face competitors from Kansas. All of them live with some form of disability.
When those amazing ballplayers get together, style points take a backseat to smile points. Once per season, the K’s left field corner belongs to these inspiring softball players.
Some arrive in wheelchairs. Others can walk, but require assistance in doing so. Still, others have disabilities that can’t be immediately detected by the untrained eye.
“How many of you love the Royals and Special Olympics?” Royals Vice-President Toby Cook asked the crowd of cheering athletes and their families.
“It’s kind of like other things, but I like hitting the baseball in the stadium,” said Andy Martinez, a Special Olympian from Platte City. “It’s one of my favorite things.”
Several Royals players, including outfielder Brett Phillips and relief pitcher Tim Hill, suited up, too, playing softball and mingling with dozens of appreciative families.
None of them seemed starstruck by meeting their baseball heroes.
“They’re looking at me like a normal human being. Having great conversation,” Phillps said. “Being able to connect with them on a personal level is special.”
“It kind of reminds me of when we were kids. You go out and someone knocks on your door and asks, ‘Hey, can Tim come out and play?’ You go ask your mom if you can go play. That’s what it reminds me of. It takes you back to when things were a little more simple,” Hill said.
Royals Charities also used this special game for a sweet contribution, presenting Special Olympics in the KC Metro with a check for $45,000. That money will be used to keep the games going for these athletes.
The Royals are slated to host Detroit on Tuesday night. Counting that game, only 11 home games remain before the 2019 season ends.