FARMINGTON — Seventeen-year-old Redelia Yazzie stepped up to the plate Saturday during the Special Olympics softball game at Ricketts Park.
The Bloomfield athlete hit the ball from the "T" that had been set up to assist her. The ball flew a few feet out and she raced toward first base as her mother, Loretta Yazzie, cheered.
The Special Olympics Four Corners Invitational is New Mexico's Special Olympics event, where coaches evaluate athletes who might be chosen to participate in the national and international games.
The Bloomfield coach, Cliff Drayton, said none of his players will go to the national or international game, but for most of the players, just being able to participate in Special Olympics is enough.
Loretta Yazzie said Special Olympics has helped her daughter, who is developmentally delayed. She has watched as her daughter learned communication skills and tuned her fine motor skills through athletic competition.
"I'm really proud of her," Loretta Yazzie said after the Bloomfield team beat Carlsbad 8-4.
Redelia Yazzie scored one of those eight runs.
"The bases were loaded," Loretta Yazzie said. "She was on third base, so she ran home."
Drayton said part of the Bloomfield team's strength is in its unified partners like Alexis Wright, 12, who learned about the program from her uncle. The unified partners are people without disabilities who practice and compete with the Special Olympic athletes.
"I just thought it was really cool because most kids who have special needs don't get to play sports," Wright said.
Drayton said Bloomfield is leading the state in its unified partner program, which was started to change the perception society has about people with disabilities.
"Disability is all in the mind," Drayton said.
Bayelee Threlkeld, 24, of Carlsbad, immediately made her way to the softball field following the swimming competition. Threlkeld and her teammates cheered for the softball team.
They wore their medals around their necks.
Threlkeld had competed in three events and received two gold medals.
However winning is not the most important part for Threlkeld, who joined the team as a way to get out of the house and have fun. She said she also enjoys traveling with her team.
"It gets us out of town to meet other people," she said.
Steve Rogge of Farmington sat near Threlkeld cheering on the Carlsbad team. He said when he and his wife had arrived, no one had been there to cheer on out-of-town teams like Carlsbad.
"I wish so many people could come out here and just see their faces," he said.
Rogge called some of his friends to join his family and cheer for the Special Olympians.
"I wish more people knew just how much of an impact this makes on these athletes," he said.