Faculty Challenge softball game brings Viera community together


The Faculty Challenge softball game is back for its 14th year. Pictured are Mike Newman of Ralph Williams Elementary School, left; Todd Zgonc of Manatee; Tom Armstrong from Viera Charter; and Josh Allen from Quest. Last year's game wasn't played in part due to the work being done at the USSSA Space Coast Complex.



It’s the kind of event that brings the entire Viera community together for a night of fun … and softball.

And after a year’s hiatus, it’s back.

The 14th annual Faculty Softball Challenge will return May 22 at the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) Space Coast Complex with a pair of new matchups and a whole lot of excitement.

It all kicks off at 6 p.m. when Ralph Williams Elementary plays Viera Charter, followed at 7:15 by Manatee vs. Quest.

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.

“There were thoughts it might be dead, but I think it’s going to be as alive and kicking as it’s ever been,” said Todd Zgonc of Manatee Elementary School, and the game’s organizer.

“We have new opponents this year … USSSA has done a phenomenal job working out the details, getting us in here and supporting this event.”

Viera Charter School athletic director Tom Armstrong praised Zgonc for helping to bring the game back and is excited about the prospect of playing a different opponent.

“We’re excited that it’s started back up,” Armstrong said. “The last time we had it, it brought a lot of spirit to the school. And we’re excited about playing Ralph Williams, somebody different than Manatee.”

Josh Allen of Quest has played a role in previous games, but this will be his first chance to get to participate.

“I’ve witnessed it a couple of times,” he said. “I’ve umpired it. Now, I’m actually going to be a part of it. I can’t wait.”

All presale tickets sold at the school will come with a coupon for a free breakfast entrée at Chick-fil-A. The first 800 Manatee fans who show up at the game will receive a rally towel from Cruisin’ Gold.

Other game sponsors include Perry Fiberglass Products, Inc. and Ellingson Properties.

As usual, all four schools will be doing something special to help promote the game. Manatee and Viera Charter will have baseball cards with the teacher’s pictures on them. Quest will be selling pom-poms and foam fingers. There will also be T-shirts for sale to build excitement for the game.

“We talk it up. At least I talk it up, because I see all the kids,” said Mike Newman of Ralph Williams. “I’ll say, ‘Are you going to come tonight? What do you want me to do? Hit a home run? OK, I’ll do it for you.’

“I’ll usually see them in the stands and I’ll point them out, ‘All right, this one’s for you.’ They get really excited. Especially when we do something good, they go crazy. It’s fun.”

Zgonc is expecting a big crowd.

“I anticipate every bit of 3,200, 3,500 (fans) because we don’t have a lot of things we have to compete against that day,” he said. “People are going to want to come out and see what this is all about again.”