Former baseball stars, celebrities team up to raise firefighting money in softball game

by BRENT W. NEW sports@gazette.com - Published: June 22, 2013 | 10:10 pm 0

For a day, a relaxed Security Service Field filled with more than 2,500 festive Coloradans had a much-needed celebration.

A year after the Waldo Canyon fire, days after the Black Forest fire, local celebrities and former major leagueers joined up with policemen and firefighters to help raise money for firefighting efforts in the Heroes Classic softball game. It was put on by the Major League Players Alumni Association and the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.

By the end, the firefighters along with MLB greats like Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers, Colorado Rockie Vinny Castilla and four-time World Series champion Mike Timlin bested the police, who featured former Rockies manager Jim Tracy and former MLB pitcher Larkspur resident Turk Wendell, 10-0.

In the win, crowd-favorite Castilla hit two singles and closed out a triple play that ended the top of fifth inning.

But no, that's not what he was caught up in afterward. Instead he said the night belonged to those who serve and giving back to this community.

"I didn't hesitate when I was asked to do this," the 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 a while. In the past 12 months they've been smoldered in some of the state's worst wildfires. Waldo and the Black Forest fires have stolen homes and taken lives while leaving behind millions of dollars in damage.

"It's tough to see that happen to people," Timlin said. "It's eye-opening to see how hard and long these guys have been fighting."

Of those still fighting it is Jerri Marr, who managed the firefighters Saturday. While staring into the crowd, the forest supervisor for Pike and San Isabel National, and Comanche National Grasslands, put things the event into perspective in the same calm manner she's portrayed as the area's spokeswoman fir the fires.

"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 of this community," said Marr, who has received awards and commendations for her work. "This area has always been united, but it's events like these that reinforce it. Today was a good day."

Before the game, former big leaguers took part in a baseball clinic for youngsters followed by signing autographs for nearly an hour.

At 57, Tracy, who singled twice in the loss, went down the row of fans waiting for an autograph and shook and talked to nearly every one of them.

By the end, he said he couldn't have been happier about the event that donated $5 from every ticket and all proceeds from the auctioned off game-worn autographed jerseys to the Pikes Peak Community Foundation.

"The people here have always been amazing to my family and myself. When I managed the Rockies they were there for the memorable times - and the not-so memorable times. Do I have a personal connection to someone affected by this? No. But do I deeply care about people here? You bet," said Tracy, who had to evacuate in the early 2000s in Southern California due to a wildfire. "And helping each other out in times of need is what it's all about."

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