Thursday night’s Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park spotlighted an avid fan from Florida: Special Olympics athlete Jared Stancil, 11, of Bradenton. The game was the annual Special Olympics Night.
Stancil and his family were there as invited guests along with athletes from Special Olympics Pennsylvania, who attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier in the month. They were recognized during pre-game festivities on the field.
At the Special Olympics USA Games, Jared and his father took home gold in the Unified 9-hole alternate shot golf competition. And Jared, who plays four sports, was the youngest participant to medal in the respective golf event.
However, it was more than his gold medal that got Jared and his family to the Pirates game in Pittsburgh. Jared is well known by the Bradenton Marauders, the Class A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. “Jared is like a brother to the team,” said the Marauders assistant coach Adam Godwin. “We’re like family.”
Jared is an avid fan of baseball and his love of the sport became mutual when the Marauders welcomed him in to their team. Godwin joined the Marauders in 2017 after being a former baseball player and a behavior specialist. He quickly noticed Jared as, “Our biggest fan who always sat close to the dugout. He does this thing where he imitates what the umpire does and it was easy to connect with him, not only myself but with the guys on the team. It was immediate. He’s a fan favorite.”
Jared and his family have been going to Marauders baseball games since 2013. “Every one of these players takes the time to stop and talk to Jared. It started with Marauder’s player Cole Tucker and Adam. They started to take him out on to the field and put him in the huddle – after that Jared would always get to the games early,” said Michele Stancil, Jared’s mom. “While we were in Seattle they would face time Jared just to see how he was doing in competition. It meant the world to him.”
The Marauders even helped the Stancil family get to Seattle for the USA Games. Godwin, along with Marauder staff and players, hosted a fundraiser for the Stancil Family on the opening night of the Marauders’ season that contributed to the family’s travel expenses.
”Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on earth,” said Godwin, quoting Roberto Clemente, deceased Pittsburgh Pirates player and Major League Baseball Hall of Famer. “We saw this as an opportunity to change the world through baseball.”
Jared was excited to attend the Pirates game on Thursday, not because of the recognition, but to see one of his favorite players, Josh Bell, who previously played with the Marauders.
“He was excited to see Josh and go to Pittsburgh. He’s very pure. There are no expectations, and he doesn’t expect anything from the players. He just loves these guys and baseball,” said Michele Stancil. “I was raised a Yankees fan, but now I’m officially a Pirates fan because of these amazing people.”