Aloha outfielder ready to earn third gold medal with Special Olympics

by: TIMES PHOTO: LACEY JACOBY - Aloha resident Brandon Wynne is participating in softball competitions through Special Olympics Oregon. When appraising the relative sportsmanship of his fellow Special Olympics competitors, Brandon Wynne is directly honest, but fair.

“One team actually has a bad attitude,” the Aloha resident admits. “But most of the teams we do play are pretty friendly. They’re always nice. Always smiling.”

With two years of gold-medal successes with the softball team under his belt, Wynne hopes to remain in the latter category this weekend in the 2014 Special Olympics Oregon Summer State Games in Newberg.

Wynne, 28, who specializes as an outfielder, will compete with the Washington County Wildcats in three games on Saturday and one on Sunday at the Newberg High School and Darnell Wright Softball Complex.

The games serve as state championship competitions for sports including track and field, bocce, golf and softball for Special Olympics athletes in Oregon. Participants have trained in their hometowns for eight weeks before the games to qualify for the regional level competition.

The Oregon program serves 12,000 participants. It offers training and competition opportunities in 14 Olympic-style sports in three seasons of statewide competitions in winter, summer and fall.

Despite his imposing linebacker’s build, Wynne, a 2004 Westview High School graduate, chose basketball as his favored winter sport. It was the striped orange ball that led into Special Olympics competition when he was just a wee lad.

“There’s people from high school who always asked me and said I should try out for football,” he says. “But I really didn’t get into football in high school. I did go out and try out for my high school basketball team. I didn’t make the high school team, but I did for the Special Olympics team since first grade.”

A Beaverton-area native, Wynne, who has a learning disability, works in custodial services at Nike World Headquarters at Southwest Murray Boulevard and Jenkins Road, not far from his Aloha apartment and his parents and younger brother, who live in the Rock Creek area.

He credits his teammates’ dedication to practice and his coach, Laura Ngai, with the Wildcats’ success in recent years.

“It’s a lot of practice, then more teamwork and positive (interaction) with the players and the coaches,” he says. “It just connects to everything.”by: TIMES PHOTO: LACEY JACOBY - Aloha resident Brandon Wynne shows off some of the many awards he's accumulated over the years while participating in softball and baseball competitions through Special Olympics Oregon.

All for one, one for all

Ngai, who has coached Special Olympics Oregon teams for about 15 years, puts the emphasis on teamwork more than the individual.

“My first season, the team indicated that their rival, Multnomah County, had consistently beat them during head-to-head competition and they wanted to break the cycle,” she says. “My approach was to push and require that athletes play as a team, and would win or lose as a team.”

Taking the approach to heart, Wynne’s team won the 2012 “A” Division gold medal at the state competition for the first time in years and repeated the feat at last year’s events.

The Wildcats, who’ve scored 64 runs so far this season while giving up only 14 for an undefeated record, are well prepared to bring home another gold.

Wynne, Ngai says, is “integral” to the team’s success.

“Brandon is the type of player who epitomizes the value of being a part of a team,” she says. “His sense of humor, positive attitude and constant encouragement of his fellow teammates means he is one that the players’ coaches look to to lighten the mood.”

Positive message

Wynne is one of the team’s four Special Olympics Oregon “Global Messengers,” serving as an ambassador who, through public speaking and assisting at fundraising events, helps community members understand what Special Olympics does to enrich competitors’ lives.

As a coach, Wynne says, Ngai provides just the right balance.

“I really think she does an excellent job with the team. She really doesn’t, like, push us, but says really positive things that get us going.”

While Ngai calls Wynne a “power hitter,” the player considers himself a utility guy on the field.

“(Going to bat) is fun and all,” he says. “Then I like going on the field to try to stop the other opponent from scoring. I’m pretty decent.”

Wynne, whose well-organized apartment is liberally decorated with University of Oregon Ducks and Portland Trail Blazers miscellany as well as 50-some competition medals, is confident his team has the right attitude and level of finesse to pull off a third victory this weekend.

“If we just play our game and work hard at it, we probably have a good chance,” he says. “We just have to stay positive.”

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