ANDREA BALL

The Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Calvy Schoen stands on the pitcher's mound in his Austin Express uniform, sweating in the still-sweltering evening sun.

Marbridge is winning the softball game, leading the Express 5-0 in the second inning. Calvy's pitches are unpredictable - sometimes wild, sometimes precise - and the 21-year-old H-E-B bagger is frustrated.

Last year, Calvy was the Express' relief pitcher. Now he's the starter.

"I blew it so far," he says a few minutes later in the dugout. "Look at the score."

The game last week was the first of the season for the Express, one of five adult softball teams organized by Special Olympics Texas and the Austin Parks and Recreation Department. The program, which has been around for nearly two decades, caters to players with intellectual disabilities.

Special Olympics is mostly associated with its statewide and national competitions that lure accomplished athletes in sports such as powerlifting, swimming, track and basketball. But the nonprofit also offers year-round programs in more than 20 sports.

"There's literally something going on every weekend," said Andi Baca Kelly, spokeswoman for Special Olympics Texas, which serves 32,000 people across the state.

Calvy hooked up with the organization three years ago after hearing about it from a friend. The Austin man had always loved sports, but participating was difficult.

Calvy was born with hydrocephalus, an abnormal buildup of water in the brain that caused his intellectual disabilities. He also was flat-footed, and in eighth grade he had surgery that left his legs in casts for months.

In high school, he couldn't play because of his shunt - which drains the excess water from his brain -and leg braces. He satisfied himself by watching University of Texas baseball on television.

Calvy has wanted to pitch since he joined the softball program. He's worked with his coaches. He's practiced at home with his mother's boyfriend, Steve McBride.

But when the first game of the season arrives, Calvy is jittery. He tries to soothe his nerves before the game by listening to Nickelback.

At 6:30 p.m., Calvy and his teammates gather in a dugout on the Krieg Fields in southeast Austin. Two coaches go over the basics: Hit, catch, throw, run, have fun.

Calvy wants to pitch well against the team from Marbridge, a 170-acre South Austin campus for people with disabilities. The last time the two met, Marbridge won 14-2, and Calvy doesn't want a repeat.

It's hot out there on the sunny field, with temperatures pushing 100 degrees. Calvy's palms are sweating, and the ball slips from his hand.

McBride and Calvy's mother, Ellen, sit near the field in lawn chairs, shouting encouragement and advice.

"Throw it a little harder," McBride says. "Follow through."

More pitches come, some strikes, some balls. Another wild throw flies over a batter's head. Calvy lets out an irritated grunt.

"It's OK," a man yells from the sidelines. "Shake it off. Don't get mad at yourself."

But Calvy is mad at himself. Marbridge is winning. He thinks it's his fault.

Then comes the third inning -and something clicks.

Calvy is in his zone. His aim is sharper and the batters are swinging, but they can't hit Calvy's pitches. The inning ends without Marbridge scoring another run.

And for a moment, Calvy is a superstar. His teammates cheer, slapping Calvy's back and giving him high fives as he returns to the dugout. For the first time since the game began, Calvy laughs.

The game ends; Marbridge wins 7-0.

But Calvy is still beaming. He finished the game with nine strikeouts.

Calvy is packing up to leave when a friend approaches.

"That was some good pitching, some really good pitching," the friend says.

Calvy grins. He can't wait for the next game.