2015 World Games: Day 8 — Missouri Proud

This is the seventh blog post (find others on our blog homepage!) in a series from Special Olympics Missouri Public Relations Manager Brandon Schatsiek who is in Los Angeles  covering the 13 Missouri athletes competing for Special Olympics USA at the 2015 World Games.

Well, it’s been a long week here in Los Angeles for our Missouri guys competing in tennis and softball, but it’s been an even longer year-plus that these athletes have been training after being named to the team in July 2014. I think if you asked all of them they’d say that their goal was to win the gold, but I also believe that they would have been content with anything because the overall experience they’ve received this week would be better than any pretty medal.

DSC_0695 (Copy)Both Bobby and the softball team played really, REALLY hard today in their respective gold-medal matches, but both couldn’t quite beat their opponent who were both ridiculously good today.

Bobby played an athlete from Russia who was just a tad better than Bobby right now and Bobby admitted as much in his postgame interview. Bobby did have a brief lead in both sets, but I don’t think they were ever more than by one and even then, the Russian athlete’s serves were like a professional tennis player’s serves and that made it really difficult for Bobby to keep returning them and break his serve. The good serves that Bobby did get in were handled rather easily on the opposite side of the court. Bobby had quite the cheering section that included family members, tennis team members, SOMO staff and friends and more, which you could tell he appreciated in between points.

Both games were closer than it looked and Bobby certainly made all of us in attendance and those cheering from afar… Missouri Proud.

The softball team knew they had a tough game against Special Olympics USA — Arizona because AZ was a team that started in the top division after the first few games and somehow found their way into the second division with Canada, Mexico and USA — Missouri after just one game. While our guys knew they could certainly hold their own against them, they also realized they couldn’t afford to make any mistakes and really needed to make them pay for their own mistakes.

DSC_0824 (Copy)Unfortunately today, the USA-Arizona squad didn’t make any mistakes and USA-Missouri made too many to keep the game close and lost 22-5. After months of phenomenal defense, the Missouri defense made several mistakes per game, which cost the team runs and ultimately came back to bite them in the butt.

The team dug itself yet another huge hole to climb out of in the first inning, losing 10-0 after 1 and 20-0 after the second. The Arizona team truly should have been in the top division because they had hardly any weaknesses, while most of the teams in the second division had several trouble spots whether it was in the lineup or in the outfield.

Disappointed as they were (and this goes for Bobby too), they tried their best and that’s all we could ever ask of them. Personally, I’m so proud of each and every one of our guys for getting this far and competing on the world stage. They’ve overcome so much in their lives getting here and winning the silver medal shouldn’t be seen as a consolation prize as much as it is yet another success story in their lives already filled with them.

The World Games have come to a close for Sarah and me. We were so excited to spend our summer vacation traveling around LA and chronicling our Missouri boys competing this summer. We will not have a blog from Closing Ceremony as we’re leaving Sunday before the actual ceremony. It’s been a privilege to keep you all in the loop back home and we hope that this helped you feel like you were there watching and cheering them on.

As always, more photos are available on our Flickr album or our Facebook page and you can follow along during the day with live updates from the games by following our social media accounts (Facebook & Twitter).

2015 World Games: Day 6 — Bobby stays hot, Canada wins 2nd matchup

This is the fifth blog post (find others on our blog homepage!) in a series from Special Olympics Missouri Public Relations Manager Brandon Schatsiek who is in Los Angeles covering the 13 Missouri athletes competing for Special Olympics USA at the 2015 World Games.


Despite their appetite for revenge after losing to Canada just a few days ago, our softball team fell in a much closer match-up Thursday 15-13. In the afternoon, Bobby and his partner from California, Jeff Scott, received their gold medals for doubles competition and later that evening they had the opportunity to play Unified tennis with tennis legend Pete Sampras and other athletes and celebrities!

DSC_0935 DSC_0932 DSC_0874No surprise that the softball team got off to ANOTHER slow start with a morning game (10 a.m. local start time) as they worked a lead-off walk in the top of the 1st, but then went down in order with three weak ground balls. Canada would then put up 11 runs (yes, 11) in the bottom half of the inning, most of which were before the guys could even record an out. It certainly wasn’t how the team wanted to start the game and quite a few of them were hanging their heads as they came off the field to take their at-bats in the top of the 2nd. Coach Shaffer did everything she could to get the guys to forget about what happened and reiterate that the game was far from over. They donned their rally hats early and often Thursday and and it nearly worked.

They scored 8 runs in the top of the inning and had a chance with the bases loaded and two outs to tie the game or take the lead in the inning, but Canada finally stopped the bleeding and headed to the bottom half of the 2nd with a four run lead. They would get four runs back in the bottom of the inning to extend their lead and while our guys would eventually pull within two runs, the time limit was running out on them after they couldn’t tie the game in the top of the 3rd. The game ended 15-13, but what was most impressive was the guys didn’t give up despite being down by such a large amount after only the 1st inning.DSC_0939 (Copy)

Arthur Murphy and James Johnson continued their hot streaks at the plate as Arthur hit a homerun down the left-field line and James barely missed one off the top of the wall in right. Arthur just BARELY missed a HR off the top of the wall the day before, so it was cool to see him deposit one over the fence on Thursday.

Immediately after the softball team’s game, we rushed over just in time to catch the majority of Bobby’s singles match vs. Italy. As usual, Bobby was just amazing. Having the media credential allows me to be on the outside of the court during the game and it also allows me to really see up close and appreciate how great he is at tennis. I’ve played him a handful of times at Sports Camp in the past and he kills me every time. That’s not saying much because I’m not good at tennis, but he just has this way of picking his spots on when to be aggressive and when to let his opponent make the mistake rather than force the issue himself. He was superb today and won a closer match than the final score of 6-2, 6-4 indicates.

Bobby and Jeff pose for a photo with tennis legend Pete Sampras

Bobby and Jeff pose for a photo with tennis legend Pete Sampras

Bobby high-five Sampras

Bobby high-five Sampras

Bobby and Jeff celebrate their gold medal

Bobby and Jeff celebrate their gold medal

DSC_0941 (Copy)Earlier this week, three of our softball guys were able to take part in a Unified softball experience with professional ball players and celebrities and on Thursday night Bobby had that same opportunity for tennis. Originally it was only supposed to be two USA athletes, but four more spots opened up and Bobby was selected. Going in we had no idea who would be there and/or who he’d end up playing with, but lucky for Bobby he was able to play with tennis legend Pete Sampras! They did these Unified Sports experiences in New Jersey for the 2014 USA Games and I think they’re one of the best aspects of a World Games or USA Games. They allow our athletes to just relax and play the sport they love with people they look up to, many of which probably don’t have much experience interacting with people with intellectual disabilities. It was so awesome to watch Bobby smile ear to ear the whole time he was playing with Sampras. All thirteen of our Missouri boys have been spoiled this week with special experiences like this and I’m sure none will forget anytime soon.

Schedule
Friday, July 31:
1 p.m. softball vs. Canada with a berth in the gold medal game on the line #ThirdTimeIsTheCharm 
Saturday, Aug. 1:
10 a.m. Bobby’s singles match vs. Russia for the gold medal; softball TBD

As always, more photos are available on our Flickr album or our Facebook page and you can follow along during the day with live updates from the games by following our social media accounts (Facebook & Twitter).

2015 World Games: Day 5 — Missouri’s first medal!

This is the fifth blog post (find others on our blog homepage!) in a series from Special Olympics Missouri Public Relations Manager Brandon Schatsiek who is in Los Angeles covering the 13 Missouri athletes competing for Special Olympics USA at the 2015 World Games.

While Sarah and I were enjoying a day off at the museums, stores and beaches around southern California, our good ole’ Missouri boys were busy kicking butt at UCLA.

Bobby Williams, second from left, poses for a photo with his coaches and his doubles partner Jeff Scott from California. Thanks to Bobby's mom for the photo!

Bobby Williams, second from left, poses for a photo with his coaches and his doubles partner Jeff Scott from California. Thanks to Bobby’s mom for the photo!

First up was Bobby Williams who took to the court with Jeff Scott from California vs. Switzerland early this morning and dominated them winning 6-1, 6-1 and were in command the whole way. Their gold-medal match came in the afternoon against Belgium and Bobby’s mom said it was a great one. After falling behind in the first set 4-0, they came all the way back to win 6-4. They dropped the second set 4-6, but won in a close tiebreak 10-8 for the gold medal! Bobby’s mom said he and Jeff, despite not playing together in doubles before World Games, played really well together and Bobby had some really great shots. The guys will receive their gold medals at 2 p.m. on Thursday. We’re so proud of you, Bobby!

Bobby’s singles match will begin at 11 a.m. Thursday.

The softball team played Mexico again for the second time in two days and while this game was closer than the first, our guys still won 16-13. Coach Shaffer said the team started much better today than in past games and led 5-4 after the 1st. The game was a tense one with the US leading after three innings 14-7, but they failed to shut the door on Mexico and scored 0 runs in the 4th, while Mexico plated 6, bringing it to 14-13 US after four innings. Robin Anderson said she was nearly having a heart attack in the stands, the game was so close, but in the end, our guys added two runs in the top of the 5th and held Mexico to 0 in the bottom to end the game 16-13.

Coach Shaffer said James Johnson continued his hot streak at the plate with two hits in the game, while the defense overall was pretty good. What mistakes did happen weren’t followed by other mistakes and that was key. The team was able to put the errors behind them quickly and move on.

They look for revenge against the only team to beat them so far this week: Canada. The game is at 10 a.m. at UCLA.

As always, more photos are available on our Flickr album or our Facebook page and you can follow along during the day with live updates from the games by following our social media accounts (Facebook & Twitter).

2015 World Games: Day 3 — A tale of two halves

This is the third blog post (find others on our blog homepage!) in a series from Special Olympics Missouri Public Relations Manager Brandon Schatsiek who is in Los Angeles covering the 13 Missouri athletes competing for Special Olympics USA at the 2015 World Games.

Monday was a tale of two halves for our Missouri boys — there was the first half of the day where the softball team zombie-walked their way to a 9-15 loss vs. Canada and Bobby Williams lost two nail-biters 8-10 and 10-12 vs. Venezuela and Chile respectively. Then there was the second half of the day were the boys clobbered Mexico 13-5 and Bobby won both of his doubles match with his partner Jeff Scott from California 10-7 vs. Italy and 10-8 vs. another SO USA team.

Let’s just chalk these morning games up to them still being on Missouri time. Yeah, that sounds good.

Allen Cameron pitching vs. Canada

Allen Cameron pitching vs. Canada

It was an early start for the softball team vs. Canada at 9 a.m. at UCLA and it certainly showed. The bats were rather silent to begin the game and the defense was suspect throughout. It was close after one inning, but Canada was able to string together multiple hits, while our guys couldn’t answer. Personally, I think they can beat Canada if given another chance, but it just wasn’t their time this morning.

Arthur Murphy celebrates a double and asks for some applause from the crowd vs. Mexico

Arthur Murphy celebrates a double and asks for some applause from the crowd vs. Mexico

The second game vs. Mexico went a lot better as pitching, hitting and defense all showed up in front of a pretty big crowd. They won 13-5 and really, it wasn’t even that close. Every player had a hit (except for four players who had walks in their only at-bat) and while there weren’t many extra base hits, the team did exactly what coach Dana Griesinger has been preaching for months now — hit line drives! Another thing that I noticed was that our guys aren’t scared to get thrown out on the basepaths. They are always looking as to how they could take an extra base here or there and forced Mexico into several throwing errors. One final aspect that was good to see is how patient they were at the plate. They had multiple walks in the game (SEVEN total), a few of which forced in runs with the bases loaded. The coaches have done a great job of preaching patience and telling them not to let the moment get the best of them. It’s looking like that mindset is really paying off. We hope the momentum continues tomorrow as they’ll play against Bharat (India) at 1 p.m.

Players who went 3-3 on the day between both games:
– Nick Short
– Tyler Scott

DSC_0612Bobby’s singles matches early in the morning weren’t necessarily “shakey,” but something was just a little off about Bobby’s game. I love watching Bobby play tennis because he moves so gracefully around on the court and makes every shot look effortless. He was moving really well in both of his losses (to Venezuela and Chile), but his serves didn’t have his usual spark to them — he admitted as much in his postgame interview. He played pretty well in both matches, but it just wasn’t enough today.

Bobby guards the next during his doubles match with Jeff Scott from California

Bobby guards the next during his doubles match with Jeff Scott from California

The doubles matches with Jeff Scott from California, while they were close from beginning to end, were never in too much doubt because Bobby and Jeff never trailed in either match. Despite not knowing each other just a few months ago before meeting in Indianapolis for training camp, Bobby and Jeff do a great job of moving together as one on the court. They work really well together and I’m looking forward to see them progress throughout the week. Bobby and Jeff have more doubles divisioning at 10 a.m., but right now it’s not looking like he’ll have any singles matches Tuesday.

Some other fun things that happened today:

We're kind of a big deal!

We’re kind of a big deal!

– We went to the big festival area where we collected pins, visited sponsored tents, tried an Oculus virtual reality thing, looked at merch and MADE THE COVER OF ESPN THE MAGAZINE! 😉

– Michelle Kwan was spotted in the stands watching Bobby and other athletes compete on Court 3 at the UCLA Tennis Center

– Justin Turner of the Los Angeles Dodgers was at the afternoon softball game vs. Mexico and met with the team prior to the game for a pep talk. He stayed the whole game to cheer on the guys and then took a group photo at the end before letting them know the big surprise that they are going to attend the Dodgers/Athletics game Tuesday as special guests of Turner. They will be able to go down on the field for batting practice and everything. Despite being a team full of Royals and Cardinals fans, the guys are SO excited for this opportunity.

Coach Dana Griesinger, Justin Turner and Coach Susan Shaffer

Coach Dana Griesinger, Justin Turner and Coach Susan Shaffer

– Following the game vs. Mexico, the guys were greeted by adoring fans both young and old who wanted their autographs. It made for a really cute moment between fans and athletes.

As always, more photos are available on our Flickr album or our Facebook page and you can follow along during the day with live updates from the games by following our social media accounts (Facebook & Twitter).