Record crowd attends annual Faculty Challenge softball games


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Members of the Manatee Elementary softball team celebrate after beating Viera Charter School 15-5 in the 12th annual Faculty Challenge game last month at Space Coast Stadium.

photo by Carl Kotala

The 12th annual Faculty Softball Challenge was a big hit in more ways than one.

Not only did the game draw a record crowd of 3,222 — which included 422 walk-ups — but the addition of Viera Charter School to a lineup that already included Manatee Elementary, Ralph Williams Elementary and Quest Elementary created quite an electric buzz around Space Coast Stadium.

After Quest upset Ralph Williams 6-2 in the first game, Manatee defeated Viera Charter School 15-5 in the second game. It was Manatee’s ninth consecutive victory in the event.

While it’s not considered a fundraiser, proceeds from the event went to all four participating schools.

Although Viera Charter did not come out on top, the Panthers certainly made their presence known. Not only did their fans help pack the stadium, but they even brought their own cheerleaders.

Students held up signs and there were even some students and parents walking around with their faces painted.

“It was awesome,” said Damian Germain, a physical education teacher and the manager for Viera Charter. “Couldn’t have asked for a better game, better hosts ... the only thing that could have gone better is we could have won. That’s it.”

In addition to Germain’s play, Viera Charter also got a great effort from Kristen Cook, who reached base every time she got up, and Zulay Yon Perdomo and Natasha Ward, who also played well. 

“We just wanted our kids to have fun and see their teachers out there, and they definitely saw their teachers,” Germain said. “We played every single teacher, and I think every teacher got at least two at-bats. It was great.”

Manatee got a couple of home runs each from Todd Zgonc and Rob D’Andrea and some strong play from Shannon Daly and Kelly Coffin.

Quest, meanwhile, held Williams to four hits thanks to the pitching of Arlene Ferguson and Dan Hicks. Jen McMahan and Lori Kessel were standouts defensively and the Quest crowd certainly showed its support with fans waving pom-poms and ringing their Quest cowbells.

Having students and families from four Viera-area schools all mingling and having fun for the night was just what game organizer Zgonc had in mind when he first started the event.

“I’m in heaven,” Zgonc said. “It’s great that we won, but this is what it’s all about. You’ve got the Viera Charter (families) mingling with the Manatee (families). They’re having a good time. They’re going to leave the game thinking, ‘That was a fun night. Can’t wait for it to happen again.’ That’s what we wanted it to be. Nothing else but that. It was a great night. I can’t wait until next year. ”

Because this year’s game was held two weeks prior to the end of school — not on the last day as has been the tradition — the kids will have plenty of time to celebrate the game.

At the Quest Fest, a carnival held at the school the day after the game, teachers were congratulated by parents and got high-fives from the kids.