Sam Blake is an imposing, hulking figure when he steps into the batter’s box, and the Special Olympics San Diego County athlete is as friendly as they come, too.
When he’s not clubbing softballs for his team, the 40-year-old watches the rest of the competition and encourages the other teams from the stands. Sam gets that attitude from his coaches.
“Even if we’re down, they lift us up and say, ‘You’re trying your best. That’s good enough for us,'” Sam said between games Saturday at San Diego County’s Regional Fall Games.
“It’s like a big family. Even if it’s someone having trouble swinging (the bat), we’re still cheering them on. We’re a team and it means something.
Rodney Hurn, an assistant coach on the team, said softball “is pretty natural” for Sam and he’s always looking to help out and provide any type of support. In fact, he assists with the younger athletes like he’s an additional coach.
“He’s a really good guy,” Hurn said. “He helps mentor the up-and-coming athletes.”
All in the Family
The Games also marked a brother-sister moment for volunteer soccer official Vaso Vasich and his sister, Vesna, an athlete in San Diego County for the past five years.
Vaso and Vesna got to share the field together during one of a handful of matches as part of his shift.
“There was no family collusion, don’t worry about,” he joked.
“I saw the smile on her face just being out there, seeing me on the field.”
The pride goes both ways, too.
“That’s my brother! That’s my brother!” he recalled Vesna saying.
Putting his officiating duties aside, Vaso gushed about the level of competition he witnessed.
“A lot of these athletes know how to play,” he said. “Some of them are better than people I’ve played with… they have talent.”
Nearly 500 athletes and coaches were on hand for soccer, softball and tennis competitions, as well as individual skills competition in each sport, at the Rancho Bernardo Recreation Center.
Ten softball teams were split into three divisions (blue, green and red), 13 soccer teams filled four divisions (blue, green, red and yellow), and tennis players competed in singles and doubles action.
The Laguna Hills Hawks, San Carlos Aztecs and Western San Bernardino Inland Eagles accounted for gold medals in softball.
Note: Soccer and tennis results were not readily available at the time of publishing.
Inside the SOSC is a blog written by staff member Tracy McDannald. It is a more feature-style approach to looking inside what makes Special Olympics Southern California so unique, so special. It is meant to explore the people and their stories. One word at a time.