By Monte Lazarus
“Practice makes perfect” apparently is rooted in a proverb of the ancient Greeks. That’s not quite what happened on March 5 at Winterberry Park. The underdog Fire Rescue (Bravest) softball team burned the Police (Finest) team 22-9. The outcome was a surprise since the Police had hammered their way to a league championship in Naples and put in hours of practice. Meanwhile the Fire Rescue team avoided practice in favor of their usual workouts with heavy equipment.
Blazing to a seven run first inning the Fire Rescue team doused the flames of a short rally by the Police. Fire Rescue Shortstop Sergio Deleon blasted two home runs and climbed the ladder a couple of times to make sensational catches. He was in the company of other hitters including the chief himself (Mike Murphy) who had four bell-ringing solid hits. The Police outfielders, not to be outrun, also nabbed some drives with sparkling catches.
Puns and clichés aside, it was a great treat for all the fans who enjoyed hamburgers, bratwurst and hot dogs at well-below usual ballpark prices, accompanied by soft drinks, beer, cannoli and free popcorn provided by Lou Prigge. A crowd estimated to be about 300 enjoyed perhaps the balmiest day so far in 2011.
City Manager Jim Riviere threw out (lobbed) the first pitch – actually two pitches. He wore a Fire Rescue hat for one and a Police hat for the other, demonstrating his ultimate fairness and sense of sportsmanship yet again. City Council members Joe Batte, Chairman Frank Recker,Jerry Gibson and Wayne Waldack took time away from other duties to attend the game and share in the festivities.
Kids bounced all over the bounce house past right center field and enjoyed the hijinks. To choose the home team for this first annual game the umpires fittingly tossed a doughnut, and a sprightly young woman offered doughnuts to the Police infielders as they took their positions in the top of the first inning. Later, a firefighter (some said a“renegade”) misted the Police dugout. Cheerleaders in the stands (note: there’s no on-field cheerleading or crying in baseball) sported red (fire) and blue (police) pom-poms. Since this was a top-flight production the national anthem was a classical recording, not a Christine Aguilera version a la the Super Bowl. The play-by-play announcing by Bill Sharina, accompanied by Jack Patterson, was spot on, and the late Kate Smith sang (by recording of course) “God Bless America” after the game. Praise Radio (89.5) carried a play-by-play on its network.
In a superb show of sportsmanship the teams joined together after the game, for pictures and handshakes. The first annual trophy was handed over to Chief Murphy, and Police Chief Thom Carr will have a chance to get his handcuffs on the trophy in next year’s re-match.
The day was made possible by the Police and Fire Rescue Foundations – the women and men who volunteer many hours and much effort in assisting the superb police officers and fire rescue personnel who protect life and property on Marco Island. With fewer resources than comparable communities, Marco Island’s first responders have produced records that are models for the entire state. The two foundations devote themselves to providing otherwise unavailable resources to those first responders in gratitude for what Marco Islanders and visitors receive in service. Foundation members did the cooking, food and other ticket sales.
In addition to the foundations, generous sponsors contributed heavily. At the “Home Run” level ($500 or more) CJ’s On The Bay, Coastal Beverage, Coastal Breeze News, the John J. Fuchs Charitable Trust, Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort, Iberia Bank, Kriger Orthodontics, Marco Eagle, Mutual of Omaha Bank, and Sunshine Stitchers all participated. “Triple” ($250) contributors were The Arlington of Naples, Boar’s Head, Tom Cretella, Publix, Pyramid Janitorial Supply Company, Marco Movies and Raymond James & Associates. In the “Double” ($100) category were Kretch’s Restaurant, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, Teapot Café and Catering, and USA A/C LLC. A number of modest individuals, unnamed here, also contributed at the $100 level.
The day was a tribute, not only to the magnificent first responders, but to the Marco Island Community itself.