Softball challenge could draw record crowd


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Representing their schools in this year’s 13th annual Softball Challenge are Christine Ferrer of Ralph Williams, left, Lori Kessel of Quest, Todd Zgonc of Manatee, Katie Caruso of Quest and Damian Germain of Viera Charter School.

photo by carl kotala

If you thought last year’s introduction of the Viera Charter School was a big hit for the annual Faculty Softball Challenge, this year could be even better.

“We printed more tickets this year than we ever have,” said game organizer Todd Zgonc, a sixth-grade teacher at Manatee Elementary.

This year’s game is set for May 20. Just like last year, Ralph Williams and Quest will play at 6 p.m., followed by the Manatee-Viera Charter School game at 7:15 p.m.

Tickets are $2 at each school and $3 at the gate on the day of the game. Though the event is not designated as a fundraiser, proceeds will benefit all four schools.

Brevard County Manatees mascot Manny the Manatee will be on hand along with the Chick-fil-A Cow. The main sponsors are Perry Fiberglass, Ellingson Properties and Chick-fil-A.

Last year’s game drew a record crowd of 3,222 to Space Coast Stadium in matchups featuring the same four schools.

Given that Viera Charter School’s fifth and eighth grade classes were on a field trip — plus the fact that the Panthers had so much fun — an even bigger crowd is expected for this year’s contest.

Damian Germain, who teaches physical education at Viera Charter, said last year’s game — the Panthers’ first in the series — was definitely a big hit at the school.

“The returning veterans are very hungry to play again,” he said. ‘They thought it was absolutely great.”

The games have been popular at all the participating schools through the years. Not only do families pack the stands, but the children can often be seen running around after the games to get autographs.

“This is a big deal,” said Christine Ferrer, a sixth-grade teacher at Ralph Williams. “This is something the kids and the families always look forward to. Sometimes, we have kids who have graduated who come back and watch the games.”

Lori Kessel and Katie Caruso of Quest said they were pleasantly surprised by last year’s victory given that they were outnumbered by Ralph Williams.

That should be different this year.

“We have some new additions this year, so that will be good,” Kessel said. “We’re excited about that.”

Zgonc said he expects Viera Charter School to be a much tougher opponent.

“It should be a better game,” he said. “Last year, it was 15-5 and this year, I would suspect it’s going to be even closer than that. I couldn’t be happier if it’s a tight game.

“Obviously, I’d love to win, but win or lose, if it is a close game and it’s fun for the fans to watch and the players to play, then that’s a victory for me. It’s a victory for this event.”