With red pom poms in hand, three little girls cheered and danced as they watched the South Schenectady Fire Department battle it out on the Rotterdam Babe Ruth fields against team Town Board during one game of the Battle of the Badges tournament.
The annual tournament, established in 2018 with just the fire and police departments squaring off, began Saturday afternoon and continued into the evening.
“It began as a way to raise money and celebrate our first responders,” said Dan DeMarco, who does marketing and fundraising for the Rotterdam Babe Ruth youth organization.
He also designed the shirts and hats everyone wore on Saturday.
The money raised from the tournament goes back into field maintenance and offsetting costs for youth players, said Dennis Clute, the organization’s president.
“If we didn’t get donations and stuff, we’d have to charge them $500,” Clute said. “Playing is expensive.”
Each team was comprised of 12 players who paid $30 each to participate, said Stephen Signore, a town board member and captain of the mixed Town Board team. That team included Signore, town board member Joseph Guidarelli, county legislator Randy Pascarella and Assemblyman Angelo Santabarara along with other Rotterdam residents who have played with Signore in other softball leagues.
Money was also raised through the sale of concessions and a 50/50 raffle. Clute said the goal every year is to raise $5,000.
Signore said when the event expanded to four teams in 2019, he was “adopted” by the Department of Public Works team to play with them.
He said he was excited to get back out this year to have fun after the event was canceled in 2020 due to COVID.
“It’s a lot of fun — just the comradery and the banter that goes on,” he said.
The banter was also one of the reasons Jay Pollard, the captain of the South Schenectady Fire Department team and assistant chief at the station, liked participating in the event.
That and he said “everybody is itching to get out” and participate in activities as the pandemic continues on.
The umpires were also enjoying themselves.
Umpire Richard Melnyk said it was a cool way to give back to the field he used to play on as a kid.
DeMarco said he wants to expand even more next year.
“Maybe get the EMS involved,” he said.
Contributions are still being accepted for the Rotterdam Babe Ruth youth organization. Those who wish to make a donation may do so by visiting its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Rotterdam-Babe-Ruth-1490826227844294/