St. George • Glenn Fitzgerald, donning a red baseball cap and grasping a maroon flag, was wheeled around the track in the opening ceremony of the 31st Huntsman World Senior Games.
In what would have been his 15th Games, Fitzgerald was awarded a commemorative ring — which he wore proudly on his left pinkie — wheelchair-bound and unable to participate in his beloved slow-pitch softball and horseshoe events after suffering a major stroke last November.
His four children, hoping to realize their father’s dream to be awarded the ring, raised money and brought him from Fresno, Calif., to collect his well-earned prize.
“My dad is getting what he deserves, and for us, it means everything to do this for him for all he’s done for us,” his daughter Janna Jensen said.
The Huntsman World Senior Games opened Tuesday night with an honoring of the 10,800 athletes over age 50 participating from all 50 states and over 30 countries — none honored more so than Fitzgerald — who was seated at the front of the crowd during the ceremonies.
Jensen said the volunteers and organizers at the Games have gone out of their way to accommodate her father.
“It was easy for us to want to do it, but to have these strangers who’ve never met him embrace him and accept it and have as much joy and pride in it as we have, it’s unbelievable,” she said.
Charley Fitzgerald, Glenn’s son, said the family used the ring as a “carrot” through hours of rehabilitation and treatment.
“He’s got a great attitude,” Charley Fitzgerald said. “Spirits up and I’m so glad that we were able to bring him.”
The siblings said they “grew up” on softball fields while watching their father excel all over the ballpark, but mainly as a center fielder.
Brenda Forth has been playing softball with Fitzgerald for 17 years and when he suffered the stroke, helped organize a benefit game with the Fresno Senior Softball League to get him to Utah.
“I’m so happy to see Glenn laughing and smiling and emotional,” Forth said. “It’s an up and a down, but it’s awesome.”
While the national anthem played at the ceremony, Charley and Janna helped their father stand and steadied him — a dream realized even if he wouldn’t be playing in the Games.
“He can’t really talk very well and he can’t move the right side of his body, but his face is saying it all,” Charley Fitzgerald said.