Battle of the Badges

Charlottesville Fire Department member Clifton Dooms rounds third to score a run during the annual Battle of the Badges softball game at Monticello High School on Sunday.

Their badges remained untarnished, even if their pants were dirty and grass stained from lunging after liners and falling for flys.

The Albemarle County Police Department’s pickup softball team hosed the Charlottesville Fire Department, 16-4, in Sunday’s Battle of the Badges softball tournament, sponsored by the Charlottesville Tom Sox.

The event also was supported by Mission BBQ and Firehouse Subs. The tournament is part of the team’s and the restaurants’ efforts to show their gratitude for first responders in the region.

The county police team cuffed the Charlottesville police squad earlier in the day by what players called “a lot” to “not much” and what scorekeepers said was 17 to 4.

The city firefighters got to the finals by pulling a come-from-behind 19-17 win over the Albemarle County Fire & Rescue team.

“The tournament was rained out last year but we’ve had pretty good response to them,” said Joby Giacalone, vice president and director of promotions for the Tom Sox, Charlottesville’s representation in the Valley League collegiate baseball summer team.

“It’s something we love doing and a part of our being in the community. We try to create community partnerships over the year, and what better way than through the first responders who support us all?” Giacalone said.

Held at Monticello High School’s baseball diamond, Sunday’s tournament was played in the great tradition of sandlot baseball with some plays eliciting laud and some laughs.

Marked by playful banter, self-deprecating humor and good-natured ribbing, the game featured inning after inning of verbal sparring with participants going for the jocular.

In the final game, players and announcers pulled Smothers Brothers-like riffs on twin brothers Matthew and Stephen McCall, of the Albemarle County police, and city Fire Chief Andrew Baxter caught flak for being about the only contestant wearing jeans.

Many of the players turned the jokes on themselves.

“A lot of those guys out there are in good shape. I am a shape,” joked Chandler Lee, a Charlottesville police officer who scored several runs in his effort to bolster the county fire squad, which came to the tournament a bit shorthanded.

Baxter noted that firefighters make natural teammates.

“We do everything as a team,” he said. “We even buy groceries as a team.”

For the tournament sponsors, the games provide a way to give back to the community.

“We celebrate the military, veterans and first responders and we want to be involved in promoting community togetherness and honoring those who keep us safe,” said Jeremy Vaughan, general manager of Mission BBQ in the Shops at Stonefield in Albemarle County.

“I can’t think of a better way to bring people together than to do it over barbecue,” he said.

Ed Price, owner of the Firehouse Subs shop in Albemarle’s 29thPlace, said he works with the Tom Sox on special promotions and supports first responders whenever possible. The franchise even has grants it gives to police, fire and rescue agencies to purchase life-saving gear.

“It’s a great thing for the community and the county,” he said. “It’s part of our mission as a company to support first responders, and we’ve been successful in helping local agencies get life-saving equipment.”

In a moment of unguarded dugout seriousness, the city’s fire chief said the tournament helps to bring firefighters and police together for fun, much the way their jobs bring them together in crisis.

“We have a lot of mutual respect for each other because we see firsthand what they go through on the job and they see what we go through,” Baxter said. “We have a lot of respect for each other and when we get out here, we can have fun together. That just helps bring us closer.”

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Bryan McKenzie is a reporter for The Daily Progress. Contact him at (434) 978-7271, or @BK_McKenzie on Twitter.

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