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Fritz playing for 'Team Minnesota'

By John George sports@eot.com Five years of practice and travel and playing games has finally paid off for Jeff Fritz. A little luck on his side has helped a little too. Fritz, 20, will be leaving this weekend for Ames, Iowa to take part in the 2...

By John George

sports@eot.com

Five years of practice and travel and playing games has finally paid off for Jeff Fritz. A little luck on his side has helped a little too.

Fritz, 20, will be leaving this weekend for Ames, Iowa to take part in the 2006 Special Olympics USA National Games, which will take place July 2-7 on the campus of Iowa State University. Of the 10 athletes on the 'Team Minnesota' basketball squad, Fritz is the only one on the team from outside the Twin Cities metro area.

"It's pretty cool," Fritz said of being on the team. "It's been a lot of driving for practice, but the games will be great."

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Fritz filled out the paper work to apply for one of the positions on the team last fall. He received word in January that he was on the team.

"I just filled out the application and sat back and waited." Fritz said. There was no try-outs. Once he was selected by his application, he was on the team.

Jeff's been in Special Olympics for five years. He began as a student at Perham High School, where he also served as team manager for both the football and basketball teams. He's won numerous SO awards in basketball and golf, and last year, he was part of the Perham team that finished seventh at State in basketball.

Practice began immediately after he received word last winter. Every other week in the Twin Cities. His mom, Rose, goes with.

"We have fun driving down," Jeff said. "We stay at friends and relatives. We do some other things down there other than practice."

One of those things last month was a trip to see the Twins after practice. As every good fan should, Jeff brought his "Circle Me Bert" sign for Twins TV commentator and former player, Bert "Be Home" Blyleven.

If you don't know, Blyleven circles fans between innings on his telestrator. Once a game, the lucky fan who gets circled wins 100 Minnesota State Lottery scratch-offs. Well, guess who won.

"That was pretty cool," Fritz said. "They put me up on the big screen and everything."

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By the way, he won $38 from the 100 tickets. He didn't say if he reinvested in more tickets, or took the cash and ran.

Fritz said he feels pretty good about how well the team can do. But what really matters, is the journey, not the destination.

"I've met so many different people (because of Special Olympics)," Jeff said. "I just want to have fun and try my best and meet some new friends."

Jeff won't be alone from the Lakes area. Amanda Wothe will be competing in Rhythmic Gymnastics, which breaks down into Rhythmic Ball, Rhythmic Hoop, Rhythmic Ribbon and Rhythmic Rope. Area coach Corinne Schattschneider will also make the trip.

Since graduating from high school, Jeff's started his own lawn service. He's always open to new business, so call him at 346-4107. Just wait until he gets home from the SO National Games after July 8.

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