WATCH: Brevard Welcomes the Banditz With Police Escort, Won Softball Gold Medal at 2018 Special Olympics Games in Seattle
By Alan Zlotorzynski, Senior Editor // July 8, 2018
Banditz also won a Gold Medal in 2014 in New Jersey
WATCH: Space Coast Daily’s Alan Zlotorzynski was live from Rockledge as the Brevard Banditz arrive with a Rockledge Police and Fire Department escort after winning their second Gold medal at the Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle, Washington.
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – Ask any coach or player in any sport what the hardest thing to do is after winning a championship, title or in this case, a Gold medal, and they will tell you, “win another one.”
But that is exactly what the Brevard Banditz Unified softball team did, representing the state of Florida at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle, Washington last week.
In 2014 in New Jersey, the Banditz had to rally to win 19-18 to capture their first Gold, but this time around the outcome was never in doubt.
The Banditz knocked off the host team, Washington State, 14-5, to win their second straight Gold medal. The team has been playing together for nine years and has now won two Gold medals, but the victory was bittersweet for head coach Tonya Snodgrass and Unified partner Bob Rall.
Special Olympics Unified Sports brings together athletes with intellectual disabilities and athletes without intellectual disabilities to train and compete on the same team.
A primary goal of Unified Sports is to equalize the ability level of Special Olympics athletes with their partners and to promote inclusion through team practice and competition.
Snodgrass, a 2016 inductee into the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame, is retiring after 30 dedicated years of coaching, and Rall is also stepping aside to concentrate on coaching his track team.
After winning the Gold, Snodgrass and Rall took part in a tradition that many college senior softball players participate in after playing in their final game: they took off their cleats and left them on home plate.
“It’s been a pleasure coaching this team for the last nine years,” Snodgrass told Space Coast Daily. “I’ve never coached a team with so much heart.”
“Thank you Special Olympics Florida for giving us this amazing opportunity. I’d like to thank the families for all their support. Whatever was needed you guys made it happen.”
ABOVE VIDEO: After winning the Gold, coach Tonya Snodgrass and partner Bob Rall took part in a tradition that many college senior softball players participate after playing in their final game: they took off their cleats and left them on home plate.
Snodgrass also thanked her coaches and is extremely appreciative of USSSA in Viera for providing facilities so the Banditz could practice and play.
“To my assistant coaches Gina Howard Rall, Sam Swanson and Tabitha Lazear, a big thanks for your hard work and support this week,” said Snodgrass. “A special thanks to this amazing group of athletes and partners. All of you will always have a special place in my heart.”
Bob Rall said, “Being on the Brevard County Unified Softball team has allowed me to build some special relationships with some guys that I wouldn’t have otherwise had the chance to know.
“Over the last nine years, we’ve strengthened our friendships and created some lifelong memories for me, and hopefully for them. It’s also given me a chance to play on the same team as my son. We have two father-son groups on the team, and as one of the dads, there’s nothing like still being able to play catch with my son.”
The Banditz played five games in Seattle, posting a 4-1 record. Their only loss was by one run but they rebounded to defeat Indiana in the semifinals 14-11 to advance to the Gold medal game.
“The thing I like most about being on the Brevard Banditz is I love all my team members and most of all, I definitely love my coach,” said Athlete Tony Kimbrough.
The fourth edition of the Special Olympics USA Games featured more than 4,000 athletes and coaches from all 50 states and the District of Columbia and participated in 14 sports. Other sports included swimming, flag football and soccer.
More than 10,000 volunteers help to support the Games as 10,000 family members and friends help comprise the over 70,000 spectators that watched the five-day event. ESPN broadcast some of the events, including the opening ceremonies.
The Banditz will return to McClarty Park in Rockledge on Saturday and will be honored with an escort with lights and sirens by the Rockledge Police and Fire Departments, and Space Coast Daily will be on hand for the Banditz’s arrival.
ABOVE VIDEO: Space Coast supporters welcomed the Brevard Special Olympics softball team after they won the Gold medal in 2014.
Aside from coach Tonya Snodrgrass, the Special Olympics has several other Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame inductees. Joining Snodgrass in 2016 was Special Olympics volunteer Nancy Sigoloff Taback and Athlete Clayton Gage.
In 2017, volunteers Cindy Dropeski and Kathi Madden joined Athlete Chuck Conway on the stage at the Cocoa Beach Country Club as they were inducted into the Hall.
THE 2018 GOLD MEDAL WINNING BREVARD BANDITZ (FLORIDA)
• Adam Rall – Partner
• Antonio (Tony) Kimbrough – Athlete
• Austin Schlenker – Partner
• Bob Rall – Partner
• Chris Oliver – Athlete
• Chuck Conway – Athlete
• Clayton Gage – Athlete
• David Lazear – Partner
• Derrick Sweitzer – Athlete
• Dexter Williams – Athlete
• Gina Rall – Coach
• Jordan Episcopo – Track & Field – Athlete
• Katie Haggerty – Partner
• Lou Schlenker – Partner
• Richard Miller – Partner
• Roy Livermore – Athlete
• Samantha Swanson – Coach
• Tabitha Lazear – Coach
• Tonya Snodgrass – Head Coach
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