Heroes Classic softball game aids wildfire efforts
With help of former players and local celebrities, firefighters top police, 10-0
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- On a night where a smoke-smeared skyline reminded its residents of the horrors of the past 12 months, there was joy and laughter in Colorado Springs.
Jerri Marr, the face of will and perseverance in these times of wildfires, looked into the stands at Security Service Field -- home of the Minor League team for the Colorado Rockies -- and let out a gusty sigh.
Then, she smiled.
The 46-year-old forest supervisor for Comanche National Grasslands and Pike and San Isabel National couldn't believe the unity she saw Saturday night. A year after the Waldo Canyon fire and days following the Black Forest fire, she joined local celebrities and former Major League players as well as Colorado Springs police and firefighters to help raise money for firefighting efforts by playing in the Heroes Classic softball game.
Sure, she knows there's a lot of anguish and work still to be done in her hometown. But she said it's days like these that make recovery seem that much closer.
"If there is one thing that comes good you can take away from these fires, it is things like this -- I mean look at the camaraderie," said Marr, who has received awards and commendations for her work with the fires. "It means so much to see people come out here and support this cause like this."
By game time, more than 2,500 spectators had filled in to watch the firefighters play alongside former MLB greats like Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers, former Rockies third baseman Vinny Castilla and four-time World Series champion Mike Timlin. They eventually bested the police, who featured former Rockies manager Jim Tracy, former All-Star Dave Henderson and former pitcher Turk Wendell, 10-0, in a game that featured players wearing dresses and bases being jokingly moved closer together.
In the win, crowd-favorite Castilla hit two singles and put the finishing touches on a triple play that went from second to first to third to end the top of the fifth inning.
(Yeah, it was that kind of game.)
Castilla was ecstatic about the play, but more ecstatic for the opportunity to give back to the community.
"I didn't hesitate when I was asked to do this," the two-time All-Star third basemen said. "I love the people in this state. I will do anything to try and help. These [firemen and policemen] are heroes. They needed a night where they could just enjoy."
It's been awhile. In the past 12 months, they've been smoldered in history-breaking wildfires that have stolen homes and taken lives, while leaving behind millions of dollars in damage. They've been fighting against the Waldo and Black Forest fires that still managed to burn a near 33,000 square acres along with about 900 homes.
"There's a lot of fires here. It's dry and we just don't get the moisture," said Marr. "It's been a fight for all of us here. I look at all these people here today, and they are my heroes. The out-pour of love and support is incredible."
Before the main event on Saturday, the former big leaguers took part in a baseball clinic for youngsters followed by signing autographs for nearly an hour.
The Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association and the Sky Sox -- who collaborated to put on the event -- donated all the proceeds gained from auctioned game-worn autographed jerseys and $5 from every ticket to the Pikes Peak Community Foundation to help assist victims of the fires.
It is times like these that you'll see so many people from all backgrounds working so close together. Tracy, who still lives in Colorado with his wife after resigning from the Rockies last October, summed it up best:
"Do I have a personal connection to someone affected by this? No. But do I deeply care about people here? You bet," Tracy said. "And helping each other out in times of need is what it's all about."