Sunday, October 05, 2008

Lakers meet law enforcement for goodwill game at Massucci Field

by Rod Ice
Special for Gazette Newspapers

ASHTABULA – Typically, police officers need to possess many different skills as part of their everyday routine. They must be physically agile and strong, with the stamina of a professional athlete. Additionally, their ability to observe and recall incidents is constantly tested on the job. Often, these public servants are called upon to calmly negotiate disputes. And they are required to make quick judgements based on limited amounts of information. All of this must be rendered with a polite demeanor that will inspire confidence in the public.

But in Ashtabula, officers were recently asked to demonstrate a new skill as part of their service to the community.

Familiarity with the game of - softball.

On Saturday October 4th, a personable posse of peace officers from the county met to compete with the Ashtabula County Special Olympics softball team at Massucci Field.
It was the new Battle of ‘Bula – Law enforcement versus The Lakers.

Mother Nature blessed the happening with comfortable fall weather that was nearly perfect for such an event. An aroma of grilling burgers provided by members of Truckers Helping Hands added to the festive atmosphere.

THH is a group of professional drivers that has enthusiastically supported the ACSO with many benefit events around northeastern Ohio.

The Special Olympics softball club was still fresh from winning a state title in Division III competition. So they took the field with lots of energy, and pride. Their ranks were rich in hardwood heroes. Players like David ‘Bubba’ Baker, Jake ‘The Earthquake’ Cardona, Jay ‘Longball’ Waterman, Willie ‘The Joker’ Jenner and William ‘Powerhouse’ Griswold had fans cheering from the first pitch.

Meanwhile, the local police officers were eager to demonstrate their own competitive nature on the field of play.

Bill Jenner, a coordinator of the county Special Olympics group, said that scheduling the event had been in the works for a long time. But he sidestepped taking any credit for planning the result. “I need no praise,” he reflected. “This is for them, for the athletes.”

Defense didn’t figure much in the goodwill contest. It was an afternoon for swinging sticks and big hits across the diamond. Adrenaline seemed to fill the air.

Think of the ‘Popcorn Season’ with a dose of Tabasco.

Marilyn Stoltz, mother of one of the ACSO players, said she felt excited to see her son, Jay, get the opportunity to face off with the team of local constables.

“This has been an incredible season,” she exclaimed. “I’m so proud of the team!”

There were fast pitches, high stepping base runs, unpredictable bounces, and dust-cloud slides into the plate, galore. If not for the colorful jerseys with familiar logos, a spectator might have blinked with the thought that they had stumbled upon a MLB playoff game between Cleveland and Boston.

Jenner said that they were pleased to finally see the contest happen on Columbus Avenue. “It came together through my coaches,” he observed. “They made the contact. Now, it looks like this will be an annual thing!”

A fifty/fifty raffle held during the game helped raise needed funds for the Special Olympics group. Additionally, most of the winnings netted by ticket holders were donated back to the organization.

Special mention was made of Bernie Roskovics, an Ashtabula City Councilman and a member of The East Ashtabula Sportsman’s Club. Because he was hospitalized at the time of the competition, this long-term supporter of the ACSO could not attend. But he sent a cheerful greeting to those who participated.

The first game ended with those in law enforcement besting The Lakers by a wildly prolific score of 19-12. A second match featured mixed teams comprised of both police officers and Special Olympics athletes.

After the meet had concluded, competitors from both sides looked happy, but exhausted.

Tim Hosken, an officer with the City of Ashtabula Police Department, was glad to have participated in the event. He and the other police officers had formed a genuine bond with The ACSO Lakers softball team. But as he left Massucci Field, there was a touch of fatigue in his voice.

“Now we’re all ready for a mineral bath,” he said with a smile.

Local police officers joined on Columbus Avenue to play athletes from the Special Olympics softball team.

Drivers from Truckers Helping Hands had hamburgers cooking on the grill at Massucci Field.

From left - Jay Waterman and Adam Henson showed lots of energy in the game at Massucci Field.

William ‘Powerhouse’ Griswold took every opportunity to hit the ball skyward at Massucci Field.

Adam Henson delivered the ball with confidence in the game at Massucci Field.

Members of the local law enforcement community enjoyed their game against the Special Olympics team.

From left - Jay Waterman with his mother Marilyn Stoltz

Manager Joe Allen tried out the pitcher's mound during the games at Massucci Field.

Local law enforcement officers found the ACSO team to be srtong competitors.

Massucci Field is provided by the ACSO by The East Ashtabula Sportsmen's Club


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